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The Comic That Launched 1000 Angry Responses

A letter in today’s Columbus Dispatch:

While I am sometimes puzzled or not amused by the humor in the comics pages of The Dispatch, on Tuesday I was both shocked and offended by Bianca Xunise’s Six Chix cartoon. In her drawing, a white woman with a shopping cart is standing next to a woman of color who is wearing a T-shirt with the “I Can’t Breathe” slogan commemorating the horrific death of George Floyd.

The white woman says, “If you can’t breathe, then take that silly mask off!” This statement not only smears Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, but also stomps on the now well-established scientific fact that masks are not “silly” but important in slowing COVID-19 and saving lives.

Funny? I think not.

Imagine my surprise to discover cartoonist Xunise is a Black woman. Was she aiming at irony or a portrayal of an incident that actually happened to her?

Whatever her motive, it clearly and simply did not work as she perhaps intended.

Perhaps it should have appeared as an editorial cartoon, with an explanatory article accompanying it.

That objection made it into print.
These days multiply print response by hundreds to get the social media reaction.



Cartoonist Bianca Xunise got some feedback for her Tuesday Six Chix contribution.
So much so that Bianca took to Twitter to explain the cartoon:

Ok now to explain this comic because everyone has been getting it wrong. It’s easy to assume that the white woman talking to me is a racist, that may or may not be true but that is not the point. The point is how white people see issues that effect black peoples as trivial. (1/3)

The whole mask debate has been compared to oppression which I find incredibly offensive. The fact that white peoples want to claim oppression now for having to do their civic duty of protecting others is not the black struggle whatsoever. (2/3)

Yt ppl have assumed for generations that racism is simply about our sensitivity & not a systemic issue. Furthermore I want this comic to challenge liberal whites who assume that every white person they feel superior over is racist. This is just a random white woman, idk her (3/3)

Follow the thread on Bianca’s Twitter feed.

Bianca does not apologize for the cartoon, though at least one newspaper is asking for just that:

A newspaper that can’t even be bothered to run the right credits:
Bannerman, Xunise, Konar, Lawton, Patrinos & Piro

 

July 31 update

Many readers saw nothing funny in Tuesday’s Six Chix comic strip.

The public editor inbox started to fill with complaints that the single-frame comic was offensive on two critical issues of the day — the pandemic, and diversity and the fight against racism. There were questions how it ever saw the light of day in the Star and demands for an apology.

The Toronto Star relates their experience with Tuesday’s comic.

I’ll admit my first reaction to the comic was one of puzzlement and dismay too.

But what if we all missed the point? What if the ignorance and insensitivity of the woman not wearing the mask and her glib response was the artist’s intended message?

I reached out to Xunise via her agent hoping to chat. I was told she wasn’t available but Tea Fougner, the editorial director of comics for King Features, told me that Xunise meant the comic to be a “joke commenting on how Black issues are often disregarded as a personal problem and not a systemic issue.”

 

Editor Tea also took to social media to give what-for:

and

 

Community Comments

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#1 Brian Fies
July/31/2020
@ 8:44 am

Not surprised. “Obtusely missing the entire point” is a long tradition in comics criticism, particularly among people who don’t know anything about comics. Another long tradition: cowardly newspaper editors.

Still, these are strange days……

#2 Ben Carlsen
July/31/2020
@ 8:47 am

I imagine most of the outrage comes from the fact that people assume that the white woman is the “point of view” character and not the black woman. This is ironic given that this is the entire problem the comic is trying to point out.

#3 Theo Smith
August/5/2020
@ 10:12 am

You’d have to be pretty obtuse to miss the rather obvious set of meanings in this clever and devastating comic. Either that or, if yo got angry, it must have touched a nerve or two. Nicely done, Ms. Xunise.

#4 Janet Ober
August/5/2020
@ 12:54 pm

Theo Smith, I have been trying to figure out how to say what you.expressed perfectly. Thank you.

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