Scholastic Needs to Apologize for Publishing a Children's Book Filled with Racist Imagery
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(Note: This Petition was initially published on March 25, 2021 at approx. 3pm. I have since made several edits to this petition to better reflect the timeline and nature of my conversations with Scholastic and Mr. Pilkey and his team.)
I am a Korean-American father of two young children, ages 5 and 7. Both are huge fans of Dav Pilkey, author of wildly popular series Captain Underpants and Dogman, and recently borrowed "Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen From the Future" by the author from their local library.
Upon close inspection, I realized the book relied upon multiple instances of racist imagery and stereotypical tropes, including a "Kung Fu master" wearing what's purported to be a traditional-style Tang coat, dashes for eyes for the Asian characters, stereotypical Chinese proverbs, and a storyline that has the Kung Fu master rescued by the non-Asian protagonists using their Kung Fu skills (despite the fact that they were taught said skills from the supposed master).
I reached out Scholastic and had several conversations and correspondences with them regarding this book, and they have agreed to pull "Ook and Gluk" from retailers. However, Scholastic and Mr. Pilkey have refused to publicly acknowledge and apologize for the publishing of this book (Edit: 3.28.21 1:10pm EST - At the time I drafted this petition, I had emailed Scholastic with my requests and interpreted their delay in responding as a refusal to acknowledge same. I now believe this is inaccurate and misleading, as Mr. Pilkey made clear to me later on that he and Scholastics were in discussions behind-the-scenes to address these issues that I was not privy to). Said apology would put parents, schools and libraries on notice about this book and give them an opportunity to make an informed decision regarding same. They also declined to make any donations to AAPI community organizations, despite having profited from this book for 10 years (the book was published in 2011 and was on the NY Times Bestseller's List for 33 weeks)(Edit: 3.28.21 1:10pm EST - Per my conversations with Dav Pilkey, he and his family made donations to an AAPI-affiliated organization prior to his public apology, and there was no refusal on Mr. Pilkey's end to donate).
While it is appreciated that they are pulling the book from retailers, this is not enough. The damage has been done. Every child who has read this book has been conditioned to accept this racist imagery as "okay" or even funny. It is this type of passive racism that has contributed to the continued hate and prejudice experienced by Asian Americans on a daily basis.
Scholastic and Mr. Pilkey should be held accountable and publicly acknowledge their wrongdoing and vow to live up to Scholastic's 70+ year old credo and platform "to help build a society free of prejudice and hate."
Therefore, Scholastic and Dav Pilkey should do the following:
- Mr. Pilkey should issue a public apology, acknowledging that the imagery in his book was harmful and offensive (even if unintentional). His apology should not include the phrase "if I offended' which is a non-apology. The apology should be publicized so as to put as many schools, libraries, retailers and parents on notice about the harmful content in this book.
- Scholastic should issue a public apology for failing to properly edit the book and publishing and endorsing this book. The apology should be publicized so as to put as many schools, libraries, retailers and parents on notice about the harmful content in this book.
- Scholastic should also connect with all of the schools and/or libraries it works with and privately advise them of this issue regarding Ook and Gluk, so they may make an informed decision as to whether or not they continue circulating the book.
- Scholastic and/or Mr. Pilkey should make a public donation to an AAPI community organization. Seeing as how Scholastic is headquartered in downtown New York, it may make sense to donate to a local NYC Organization such as https://www.welcometochinatown.com/
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