The offending strip ran in The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers on Dec. 1.

Rafu Staff Report

Asian American readers have complained to The Los Angeles Times about a racial slur that appeared in one of its daily comic strips on Wednesday.

The newspaper has apologized and said it will suspend publication of the offending comic, “9 Chickweed Lane.”

Written and drawn by Brooke McEldowney for over 25 years, “9 Chickweed Lane” follows the women of three generations of the Burber family. In recent weeks, the strip has focused on Thorax, an elderly gentleman who also appears in McEldowney’s webcomic “Pibgorn.” It’s revealed that as a young man he was a pulp fiction writer, and the panel in question is from a spy/sci-fi novel set during World War II.

The Dec. 1 strip contained the following passage: “Pen emerged from the waves, her bathing suit barely clinging to her wet, pulsing substructure.

“A Jap Zero clove the sky and began strafing their little patch of peacetime. Pen drew her ray gun and blew the Zero out of the sky.

“‘Wow, you sure nailed that Zero!’ said Charge.

“’It was easy,’ she purred. ‘He was in the wrong hemisphere. He had it coming, if you get my drift.’ She raised one eyebrow and looked at him with heavy eyelids, easily twelve pounds all told.

“He got her drift. If he hadn’t gotten it, she might have floated out to sea.”

Many readers were incredulous that no one at the newspaper flagged the slur before it was published. Attorney Mia Frances Yamamoto posted on Facebook, “Publications like The Times would never allow the ‘N-word’ because the backlash would be immediate and widespread, but an anti-Asian epithet is prominently displayed, and a simple apology is issued. Just another example of callousness towards anti-Asian racism and widespread violence against Asians.”

Soji Kashiwagi of the Grateful Crane Ensemble was among those who submitted a complaint to ReadersRep@caltimes.onmicrosoft.com. He received the following reply from Readers’ Representative J.T. Cramer:

“Thank you for writing. The ‘9 Chickweed Lane’ comic that we published on Dec. 1 did not meet our standards. We regret that it was published and apologize.

“We have decided to suspend publication of ‘9 Chickweed Lane’ while we review it and all of the other syndicated comic strips we publish.

“The Comics pages should be a place where our readers can engage with societal issues, reflect on the human condition and enjoy a few laughs. We intend to maintain that tradition in a way that is welcoming to all readers.”

A similar apology and announcement ran in the newspaper’s Dec. 3 issue.

The use of the slur is somewhat surprising because “9 Chickweed Lane” has a number of Asian characters, including Xiulan Yuan, an acclaimed Hong Kong cellist from a wealthy family; Ginger Ouyang, a Canton Airways steward and Xiulan’s friend; and Nan-Lin Peel, a Korean American woman in her 30s and wife of composer Arthur Peel.

Some Times readers have criticized the strip for its frequent depictions of sex between the characters.

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  1. The strip depicted a complex time in US-Japan relations. We were, after all, at war in an unprovoked conflict started by the Japanese. It was quite common at the time to you that term in the media, and other entertainment media. While it should not have been done, it is also foolish to overreact.