Racist Seuss stories pulled by author’s estate
Conservatives throw tantrums
Six Dr. Seuss books are no longer being published due to inappropriate imagery that negatively depicts racialized groups. The beloved author, who died in 1991, has been called into question in recent years over his books portraying culturally-insensitive images and phrases towards different communities. His estate, Seussville, has responded positively to the charges, and have made moves of their own volition to remove harmful materials from circulation.
The statement released by Seussville on March 2 explains how they are dedicated to change: “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
Among the more well-known books that have been removed from sale are And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street, which depicts an Asian man with chopsticks running down the street, and If I ran a Zoo, which caricaturizes African people as wearing grass skirts and carrying dead wild animals, while also reinforcing white supremacist ideology by depicting a white hunter standing on the heads of Africans, ready to shoot a wild animal. Among other less popular books whose licenses have been restricted are The Cat’s Quizzer, Scrambled Eggs Super!, McElligot’s Pool, and On Beyond Zebra.
Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known by his pen name, Dr. Seuss, is one of the most famous children’s book authors who has enthralled readers young and old with fantastic stories. Trademarked with rhyming schemes and often light-hearted plotlines, there is a reason that Seuss remains one of the most successful children’s writers of all time.
However, multiple protests of his work have happened over time, first recorded in the 80’s when teachers criticized the harmful stereotypes and caricatures that have a negative influence on young minds. 10 Seuss books gifted to a Massachusetts elementary school by former First Lady Melania Trump were returned to her by the librarian who did not want to feed damaging imagery and words to young children. However, most protests have been overshadowed due to how widely loved Dr. Seuss’s stories prove to be. Seuss Enterprises’ decision to restrict the sale and publication of the books led to both rejoicing and protest.
For many, ceasing publication could not have come soon enough. The antisemitic and racist themes against Muslims, Africans, Asians, and black and Indigenous people portray them in discriminatory and dehumanizing ways. The parallels of removing Seuss’s insensitive themes have also been matched with respect for some of his other stories. The Sneetches deals with themes of social inequality and segregation measures during the Civil Rights Movements. It depicts the star-bellied Sneetches ruling the beaches and leaving out the Sneetches without stars. It is also one of the first books to challenge bigotry, a theme that many publishers tend to steer clear of. Other books like The Butter Battle directly relate to Seuss’s views on the Cold War. And Yertle the Turtle and Gertrude McFuzz demonstrate how greed and selfishness will only lead to short-term success and long-term pain. Many Seuss lovers are still entranced by the whimsical characters and rhythmic patterns but agree that there is no place to allow for hate speech and hate depictions.
For others, the ceasing of publication of the six books has been met with hostility. Many conservative and right-wing news areas have blamed “cancel culture” as the reason behind taking away beloved Dr. Seuss stories. Many Seuss fanatics are worried that the favorite author will disappear from shelves as people boycott Seuss books altogether, a doubtful conclusion as Geisel is the second most paid person, post-humously, and still incredibly popular. Furthermore, many protests from the far-right have demonstrated a skewed view of the six books’ restriction. Conservative propaganda demonstrates that many of the protests are insensitive and problematic.
“A racist Dr. Seuss is not. But one thing is true! Banning books is something…only Nazis & Commies do!” proclaimed one status update on Facebook.
“Why is a song called “Wet A** P***y” not considered inappropriate but Dr. Seuss is?” tweeted Republican Party member Chris Bish.
The irony of many Conservatives arguing that it is an infringement of freedom of the press stems from the banning of The Lorax from libraries and schools out of fear of turning children away from the California logging industry.
Before Seuss became a best-selling author, he would often make cartoons for the comic section in newspapers. Some of Seuss’s most shockingly racist cartoons were shown in these sections. In 2015, one of Seuss’s four-panel comics page was put up for auction in California but received no bids because it was such a shockingly racist caricature of black people. Many of Seuss’s illustrations during the Second World War displayed antisemitism towards Jewish people and cruel depictions of the Japanese with “slanty-eyes” after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was not until after the Second World War that Seuss switched his attention to children’s books. Seuss later published Horton Hears a Who! which was reflective of his regret of depicting Japanese individuals in such an ignorant way. Arguably one of Seuss’s greatest lessons comes from Horton the Elephant, who says, “A person is a person, no matter how small.” It was published nearly three decades after the now-denounced To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street.
Since the statement by Seussville was released, sales of Seuss books have spiked on
Amazon, with The Cat in the Hat being the number one best-seller, followed by One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go. The books that have been discontinued are currently being auctioned off for hundreds of dollars. Seuss proves to have a complicated legacy, having both participated in and condemned racism.