Your childhood memories don’t matter
Ending the publication of Dr. Seuss’ racist books should be a given
Don’t show your children racist caricatures at bedtime.
When the Suess Estate announced their decision to pull six books from production, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo, due to the offensive way racial minorities were depicted, I immediately raced to Twitter to see the reactions.
I could already hear people rifling through boxes for a neglected book they hadn’t touched in years, just so they could post on Twitter about how they “stand with Dr Suess.” I wasn’t disappointed.
People seem upset at the idea that cancel culture is taking down yet another beloved figure (to be fair, I had no idea you could cancel dead people).
Twitter seems preoccupied with a few major points. The first being that the images just aren’t offensive. To that I say, yeah, they are.
The discontinued books include images of Asian people with long ponytails, pointed hats, and yellow skin. African people were colored completely black and wearing nothing but skirts. The illustrations mock Asian, African, and Arab people. The accompanying words reinforce stereotypes, with lines like “a Chinese boy who eats with sticks” and describing Asian characters as “wear[ing] their eyes at a slant.”
Caricatures of a race are offensive, and I don’t really get why this is even up for discussion.
I’ve also seen people argue that discontinuing the books is an attempt to erase history. Dr. Suess books are some of the most popular children’s books in the world, they aren’t going to disappear. There are millions of these books in circulation. If you need to get your hands on one, you can. This is simply the Suess Estate saying they can’t continue to print racist illustrations that they don’t want to stand by and endorse.
These books could be used as a teachable moment, but I don’t see many parents explaining the finer points of racism at bedtime.
While I understand that people believe they’re classics and a part of history, I think preventing children from being racist is more important. By incorporating offensive depictions into children’s stories, it’s being normalized from the get-go.
I would argue that we already alter so-called classics to protect children. There’s a reason children are told the Disney adaptations and not the original versions from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Children absorb everything around them, and I don’t want them taking in stereotypes when they’re too young to do anything but accept them.
I do think there’s a pretty major side effect to the Suess Estate’s decision. The fact that these discontinued books are now selling for up to $400 is concerning. The attempt to prevent more of these books from entering circulation may have made the ones already out there into collector’s items.
What flew in 1937 doesn’t fly now, especially when it has a direct impact on a child’s view of the world. There are plenty of amazing children’s books out there that have positive messages, so pick one of them to read to your kids.