Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey has apologized for “harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist images” in one of his graphic novels for children, which his publisher has withdrawn amid a surge in anti-Asian violence in the United States.
The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, first published in 2010, follows two cavemen who travel to the year 2222 and meet Master Wong, a martial arts instructor. Last week, publisher Scholastic announced that it would stop distributing the book and remove all mention of it from your website, saying it had “the full support” of Pilkey.
“Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism,” Scholastic said. “We deeply regret this serious mistake.”
In a letter shared on his YouTube channel, Pilkey said it was “intended to show diversity, equality and non-violent conflict resolution” in the graphic novel. “But this week it struck me that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist images,” he wrote. “I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and damaging to my Asian readers, friends and family, and to all Asians. “
“I hope that you, my readers, forgive me and learn from my mistake that even passive and unintentional stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone,” he wrote. “I apologize and promise to do better.”
The announcement was made shortly after Billy Kim, a Korean-American father of two started a Change.org petition demanding an apology from Scholastic, citing stereotypes and Pilkey’s portrayal of Wong in his illustrations.
After the announcement, Kim wrote that he had spoken to a senior Scholastic executive, later Pilkey, who apologized to him and his seven-year-old son.
While glad the book was being pulled, Kim wrote that “the damage has already been done.”
“Every child who has read this book has been conditioned to accept this racist image as ‘OK’ or even funny,” he wrote. “It is this type of passive racism that has contributed to the ongoing hatred and prejudice that Asian Americans experience on a daily basis.”
In his apology, Pilkey said he would donate the advance and all royalties from The Adventures of Ook and Gluk to various organizations dedicated to fighting racism against Asians and promoting diversity in publishing.
The decision came days later a man shot and killed eight people in three massage shops in and around Atlanta, including six Asian women. Stop the hatred of AAPI, a group formed to document abuse of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic, said in February that it had received reports of nearly 3,800 incidents in less than a year. Community leaders and several Democratic politicians have blamed former President Donald Trump and his record of racist rhetoric towards the Chinese people and the coronavirus for the increase in violence. Last week, the Anti-Defamation League found that Asian Americans had experienced the largest increase in severe online abuse year-over-year in 2020.
Pilkey is not the only author to withdraw his own work this month. On March 2, the estate of beloved child author Dr. Seuss announced that it would no longer allow the publication of six of his books, due to racial and ethnic descriptions that were “hurtful and mean.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism