Project Anti-Disguise
  September 22, 2004 01:59 PM
October 19, 2002
'Kung Fool' racist, activists say

Wal-Mart pulls mask, but other stores carry item

By Chris Golembiewski
Lansing State Journal

A controversial Halloween mask remained on local store shelves Friday after protests forced the California manufacturer to stop shipping it.

The rubber "Kung Fool'' caricature with slanty eyes and huge buck teeth depicts an inept kung fu fighter with a black eye and tight red headband with the Chinese character for "loser."

"I find it racist,'' said Noel Copiaco of Lansing, a leader of the Mid-Michigan Asian Pacific American Association, said.

"My question is, would they do this to a black face? One group's treated with respect and one isn't.''

Wal-Mart stores pulled the $8.99 mask Thursday, company spokesman Ian DeZalia said.

But it was still on other local store shelves Friday, including Meijer and Halloween USA stores, owned by Gags & Gifts Party stores.

It is also sold as a $25 costume that includes a white and black outfit.

Copiaco said the costume is "creating the same furor the Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirts did six months ago.''

The chain pulled shirts in April it said were meant to add "humor and levity to our fashion line.''

The shirts carried stereotypical cartoons such as two Asian males with a sign reading: "Wong Brothers Laundry Service - Two Wongs Can Make It White.''

About 1.8 percent of Michigan residents are of Asian descent, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. In Ingham County, about 3.8 percent - or 10,614 people - have Asian, native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander backgrounds.

A spokesman for the Grand Rapids-based Meijer said Friday the 156-store chain had received no complaints about the item and had no plans to pull it.

"We've received no word from our supplier on a mandatory recall,'' added spokesman John Zimmerman.

A manager at Halloween USA in Frandor Shopping Center who wouldn't give her name said that she hadn't heard about any controversy.

Frandor shopper Shaun Hinckley of Lansing hadn't heard about it either, but he didn't see why people should get upset over a cartoonish character.

"What about all the white cartoons and the black cartons?'' he said.

"They ought to get over it.''

But national Asian-American groups are demanding a full mask recall, after the manufacturer on Wednesday offered only to reimburse retailers who decided to return the costume.

An Internet political organization called said a coalition had collected thousands of petition signatures demanding that San Diego-area costume maker Disguise Inc. recall the mask by Friday or face legal action.

Yellowworld founder Elbert Oh called the mask more insidious than the T-shirts because it promotes racist thought among children.

Officials at Disguise Inc., which calls itself the world's largest costume company, did not return a call Friday.

"Disguise is a culturally sensitive company,'' a spokesman said in Wednesday's news release.

"We apologize to anyone who may be offended,'' the news release said.

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