Publishing company HarperCollins will remove a short story from a bestselling David Walliams book due to criticism from advocates that charged it with being “casual racism.”
The backlash: In February, British comedian and children’s author David Walliams — who was accused of “yellowface” after dressing up as Kim Jong-un for Halloween in 2017 — was accused of perpetuating racism with his short story about an Asian character, as NextShark previously reported.
- The short story “Brian Wong, Who Was Never, Ever Wrong” was featured in Walliams’ book “The World’s Worst Children.”
- Although the book was published in 2016, it began facing heavy criticism on social media in February after British Chinese podcaster Georgie Ma drew attention to it.
- She claimed that the story promotes “normalising casual racism from an early age.”
- “There are so many racist jokes on ESEA [East and Southeast Asian] community with the surname Wong and associating it with wrong,” Ma wrote in an Instagram story. “If David Walliams would have done his research, he would have known this.”
- The podcaster also told The Bookseller that “even just the way Brian has been illustrated” is an issue. “He wears glasses, he looks like a nerd, he’s got small eyes…they’re all harmful stereotypes … The overall character plays on the model minority myth where Chinese people are nerdy, swotty and good at maths, we’re not confrontational and we’re high achievers.”
The aftermath: “Brian Wong” will not appear in the next print run of Walliams’ highly successful anthology “The World’s Worst Children,” according to The Guardian.
- Ma and Anna Chan from the Asian Leadership Collective reportedly met with Walliams’ publisher HarperCollins, who eventually agreed to replace the story.
- “We were open and honest with HarperCollins,” Ma said. “We want fairer representation to the wider ESEA community and we feel books that educate kids on diversity should be done fairly, rather than joking about harmful stereotypes.”
- HarperCollins Children’s released a statement in response to the controversy, saying: “In consultation with our author and illustrator [Tony Ross] we can confirm that a new story will be written to replace ‘Brian Wong’ in future editions of ‘The World’s Worst Children.’”
- This is not the first time a publisher has come under fire for producing stereotypical content. Earlier this year, U.K. educator John Luk convinced Oxford University Press company to redo their flashcards that depicted Asians with slant-eyes.