A Mexican comic book containing a character that the White House once denounced as an offensive racial stereotype is again at the center of controversy after being sold at Houston-area Wal-Mart stores.
Shoppers are upset that the comics depicting Memin Pinguin, a black cartoon character drawn with exaggerated features, such as thick lips and wide-open eyes, are being sold near the African-American book section, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The cartoon character first made national headlines in 2005, when the Mexican government issued five stamps commemorating the character. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book.
Those postage stamps prompted then White House press secretary Scott McClellan to take the country to task.
"Racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what their origin," McClellan said in 2005. "The Mexican government needs to take this into account. Images like these have no place in today's world."
Houston shopper Shawnedria McGinty told the Chronicle that she asked a store manager to remove the comics when she saw them over the weekend. He complied.
"I said, wait a minute: Is this a monkey or a little black boy?" McGinty, 34, of Meyerland, Texas, told the paper. "I was so upset. This is 2008."
Another Houston resident, Quanell X, demanded Wal-Mart apologize for selling the books.
"Even Hispanics of conscious minds sense this is racist and that to sell this is totally unacceptable," he told the Chronicle. "It is a disgrace — it's an insult to all African-Americans."
A Wal-Mart spokesman told the paper that the comics were removed from one location, but wouldn't say if they'd be pulled from all stores.
"We will be evaluating the best course of action," said Phillip Keene, a company spokesman, told the paper.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.