The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has come under fire after publishing a controversial cover, which several social media users have slammed as racist and distasteful.
The cover shows the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth pressing her knee against Meghan Markle’s neck, with the caption reading: “Why Meghan left Buckingham.”
Markle, the Duchess of Sussex and the wife of Prince Harry is seen lying on the ground saying: “Because I couldn’t breathe any more.”
The cartoon mimics the scene when George Floyd, a Black American, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last May. Videos shared online at the time showed officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd pleaded for his life, telling him he could not breathe and then stopped moving.
Floyd’s killing sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the United States against police brutality and racial injustice, with demonstrators taking to the streets in cities around the world in solidarity. Minneapolis this week agreed to pay $27m to Floyd’s family to settle a lawsuit over this death.
Markle is biracial; her mother is Black and her father is white. After marrying in 2018, Markle and Prince Harry have stepped down from their royal duties are now living in California.
In an interview broadcast last week, Markle told Oprah Winfrey why she and Prince Harry stepped down from their royal duties. She accused an unnamed member of the royal family of making racist remarks, saying concerns were relayed to her husband about how dark her son Archie’s skin would be before his birth.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement this week the issues raised in the interview were “concerning” and that the royal family would deal with them privately.
Discussion of the cover was widespread on Twitter on Saturday, with several users saying it was offensive.
Dr Halima Begum, CEO of the Runnymede Trust, a UK-based racial equality think-tank, said the cover was “wrong on every level”.
#CharlieHebdo, this is wrong on every level. The Queen as #GeorgeFloyd’s murderer crushing Meghan’s neck? #Meghan saying she’s unable to breathe? This doesnt push boundaries, make anyone laugh or challenge #racism. It demeans the issues & causes offence, across the board.
— Dr Halima Begum (@Halima_Begum) March 13, 2021
Is this the free speech that Charlie Hebdo is so passionate about? Racism, disrespect and offence passed off as satire? I’m sorry but no Je suis for me. This is nothing but racist bigotry and inciting hate. Do better with your platform and grow up.
— Yasmeen (@yasminnoir) March 13, 2021
Aurelien Mondon, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Bath, said the magazine “is a racist rag and has been for a very long time”.
And according to Oz Katerji, “Without wading too much into this Charlie Hebdo debate again, if you have to continually explain that your “satire” isn’t racist & isn’t punching down, then it isn’t very good satire, it doesn’t matter which tradition it comes from, French or otherwise.”