The far reaches of racism

Nick Campbell, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Sept. 8, the U.S. Open gave us a historical match up. Serena Williams going for a record tying 24th Grand Slam title against Naomi Osaka who was vying to win her first Grand Slam title and be the first Japanese player to accomplish the feat. The controversy attached to this match became well known after umpires penalized Williams for a coaching violation. Her interactions with the umpire afterward exposed the ugly face of not only sexism in sports, but a racist history in how black women are portrayed in the media.

Normally, a player being penalized in a sport is not breaking news. However, Williams was furious and unleashed on the umpire, just as several men in her sport have in the past to little or no fanfare. This is the sordid history of sexism in sports. A man exploding at umpires is seen as passionate, a woman is seen as emotional.

Then, the racism came storming in.

An Australian newspaper ran an editorial with an image of Williams and Osaka. Williams was displayed in full racist caricatures while they transformed the half black-half Japanese Osaka into a white woman. The caricatures used to draw Williams are rooted in racist and stereotypical media portrayals older than Jim Crow. Australia, known for its mistreatment of its aboriginal people and people of color in general, didn’t start this trend but exacerbated it.

One who is curious about the origins of racist caricatures might research “Sarah Baartman,” you’ll find out why this editorial and political cartoon is offensive and indicative of how far white supremacy reaches. Sarah Baartman was a black woman from South Africa who was put on display in a circus type setting for the amusement of white tourists. Known for her large buttocks and other rich physical features associated with African women, her likeness birthed the trend known as Minstrel and blackface artistry here in America. It fueled racist stereotypes for decades and the Australian artist was deliberate in his depiction of Williams.

Here in America, as expected, many on the alt-right have rushed to defend the picture. Naturally, those with a sense of history, decency and opposition to racism have condemned it. Ironically, even in a simple tennis match, we are reminded of the global impacts and reach of white supremacy. Sarah Baartman and Serena Williams are inadvertently teaching us that.