Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series, has withdrawn one of his graphic novels after accusations of “harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery”.
Pilkey’s publishers at Scholastic decided to withdraw The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future after an increase in anti-Asian violence in the USA. The decision has “the full support” of Pilkey.
“Together, we recognise that this book perpetuates passive racism,” Scholastic said. “We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake.”
The decision to withdraw the book was prompted by the tragic events in Atlanta where a man shot and killed eight people at three massage businesses, including six Asian women. In February, Stop AAPI Hate reported 3,800 racist incidents targeting people of Asian descent in less than a year, blaming the increase in racist rhetoric towards Chinese people and the coronavirus.
The decision was prompted by a Change.org petition started by father of two Billy Kim, a Korean-American who challenged Scholastic on the harmful stereotypes and depiction of character Wong in his illustrations.
After the announcement, Kim wrote that he had spoken to a senior executive at Scholastic, then Pilkey, who apologised to him and his seven-year-old son, and although he was glad the book was withdrawn, Kim said that “the damage has been done”.
“Every child who has read this book has been conditioned to accept this racist imagery as ‘OK’ or even funny,” Kim wrote. “It is this type of passive racism that has contributed to the continued hate and prejudice experienced by Asian Americans on a daily basis.”
Pilkey said he had “intended to showcase diversity, equality and nonviolent conflict resolution” in the children’s book. “But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologise for this.”
“It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people.”
“I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone,” he wrote in an open letter on YouTube. “I apologise, and I pledge to do better.”
Pilkey said he would donate the advance and all royalties from The Adventures of Ook and Gluk to charities and organisations who fight racism against Asian people.