This morning, the Press Council ruled that Mark Knight’s cartoon of Serena Williams did not breach their guidelines. So, if they’re correct, was the international backlash a mistake?
Last year, the nation was split (not for the first time) over a cartoon. Out loud we wondered if Mark Knight’s depiction of Serena Williams was racist. This morning, at least according to the Press Council, the answer is a certain no.
Via a statement, the Press Council outlined that the cartoon did not breach their Standards of Practice, stating that: “The Council acknowledges that some readers found the cartoon offensive. However, the Council also accepts that there was sufficient public interest in commenting on behaviour and sportsmanship during a significant dispute between a tennis player with a globally high profile and an umpire at the US Open final. As such, the Council does not consider that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice, without sufficient justification in the public interest. Accordingly, the Council concludes that its Standards of Practice were not breached.”
At the time, the author of the piece denied that he was racist, stating that he had “absolutely no knowledge” of the Jim Crow-era depictions of African-Americans. “I’m not targeting Serena. I mean, Serena is a champion,” Knight said back in September.
Opinion was split here and abroad, particularly in the US, as the Washington Post believed that the cartoon reflected “the dehumanising Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centuries”
Personally, I believe this changes nothing. The official line walks a subjective one. Those who saw it as racist, will certainly still see it as that, and those who didn’t will see today as venerating their predispositions. As the Herald Sun noted in response to the backlash, “welcome to PC world”, Australia is certainly not that. We’re split down two disparates sides of opinion, and ne’er the twain shall meet.
Maybe that should be the discussion.