The increase in overt acts of violent and nonviolent hate crimes against Asians in the US led many to reckon with their own implicit biases, which they've left unchecked for a long time.
Informal conversations among friends and family, workplace initiatives, consciousness-raising efforts at schools and corporate statements of solidarity have abounded the past few weeks.
Most recently, the author of the beloved Captain Underpants young adult book series, along with Scholastic, who published the books, reflected and apologized for a 2010 installment in the series which, they acknowledged, featured "passive racism" against Asian people.
In a statement he published on YouTube, Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey apologized for the "unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism" included in his book, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future:
"...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 apologize for this."
"It was wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people."
Pilkey went on to share Scholastic planned to reckon with the mistake as well.
"My publisher, Scholastic, Inc., has stepped forward to share my responsibility, and together we are ceasing all further publication of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, and actively working to remove existing copies from retail and library shelves."
Scholastic also published its own statement on the company's website.
"We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake. Scholastic has removed the book from our websites, stopped fulfillment of any orders (domestically or abroad), contacted our retail partners to explain why this book is no longer available, and sought a return of all inventory."
"We will take steps to inform schools and libraries who may still have this title in circulation of our decision to withdraw it from publication."
Scholastic closed with a promise to change.
"Throughout our 100 year history, we have learned that trust must be won every day by total vigilance. It is our duty and privilege to publish books with powerful and positive representations of our diverse society, and we will continue to strengthen our review processes as we seek to support all young readers."
When the news made its way around social media, the common conservative refrains about free speech and cancel culture were all over the place.
@guy_phish @nypost They have the right to pull what they want and we have the right to bitch about it all we want— pillbobaggins (@pillbobaggins)1616941043.0
@nypost they crossed a line. this is war now— Andrew Stern (@Andrew Stern)1616938584.0
@nypost Cancel culture strikes again— Paul King - 5’10” (@Paul King - 5’10”)1616939272.0
But there were plenty of other Twitter users who were ready to lay some truth on those critics.
@nypost Boomers in comments this was a decision from schoolastic not the liberal establishment— fortnite (@fortnite)1616938518.0
@AP This isn't cancel culture or censorship. This is an example of an author realizing his mistake and correcting it. Good on him.— A. Guy (@A. Guy)1617026707.0
@AP This all cool by me but buckle up for a week or two of the right talking about how "The left have come to take… https://t.co/xqr6ahFj7j— Stugatz (@Stugatz)1617028289.0
@AP Oh goodie. Another week of manufactured outrage from the outrage machine that is Fox News about supposed cancel culture.— Hindsight and the plague are 2020 (@Hindsight and the plague are 2020)1617027071.0
Many people who heard about the story also predicted a sales spike following the recent decision and raised suspicions about Pilkey's and Scholastic's motivations behind the move.
But Pilkey's statement included a promise to donate all future royalties "to charities that provide free books, art supplies, and theater for children in underserved communities; organizations that promote diversity in children's books and publishing; and organizations designed to stop violence and hatred against Asians."
Those suspicions likely stemmed from the similar sales spike seen following Dr. Suess Enterprises' decision to pull six books from publication that included racist and/or racially insensitive imagery.
That decision to face accountability also infuriated conservatives far and wide.