Black cartoonist's work on race relations and coronavirus prompted newspapers to drop it: 'I am being silenced over white feelings'

Bianca Xunise created a comic about the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Bianca Xunise via Instagram)
Bianca Xunise created a comic about the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus pandemic. (Bianca Xunise via Instagram)

Some newspaper readers who saw artist Bianca Xunise’s comic commenting on both the Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus pandemic found it so offensive that they complained. As a result, some of the more than 120 publications around the U.S. that carry Six Chix, the strip that Xunise co-authors, decided to drop it altogether.

Xunise, the second Black woman in comics history to be nationally syndicated and the first Black woman in the collective, according to NBC News, used her July 28 contribution to broach the biggest issues of the day. She depicted two women at the grocery store: one is Black, wearing a mask and a shirt that says, “I can’t breathe,” while the one standing beside her is white with blue eyes and without a mask. She says to the Black woman, “If you can’t breathe, then take that silly mask off!”

That was enough for some of the newspapers that run Six Chix to cancel, and the editors of one publication even apologized to its readers. “We have notified the syndicate that provides the comic that we will no longer be running Six Chix in our newspaper as a result,” the unnamed newspaper wrote. “We’ve also requested an apology from them. Our apologies for a cartoon that reflected the exact opposite of what we stand for as a newspaper.”

Xunise said she doesn’t regret her art.

“I am not apologizing for this comic and this censorship,” she told NBC. “I am being silenced over white feelings from a gag comic. This is a complete step back in the wrong direction.”

She further explained the piece, which she said everyone is “getting wrong,” on social media.

Tea Fougner, the editorial director of comics at King Features, the company that syndicates the comic, wholeheartedly defended Xunise as well.

“Bianca created the July 28, 2020, Six Chix cartoon to be a joke commenting on how Black issues are often disregarded as a personal problem and not a systemic issue,” Fougner said. “She is shedding light on two pandemics right now: one on race and another on COVID-19, and both are not being taken seriously while they are destroying lives.”

Xunise offers more of her work on her website.

Related video: How U.S. system racism plays out in Black lives

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