Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that manages the legacy of the late children’s book author, decided of its own accord to stop publishing six Seuss books that, according to a statement, “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” The books being withdrawn from publication are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.
Hurtful and wrong how? Well, a 2019 study of 50 Seuss books found that 98% of the human characters in those books were white—and the 2% portrayed as other races were overwhelmingly stereotyped and shown subject to white domination.
For instance, “The three (and only three) Asian characters who are not wearing conical hats are carrying a White male on their heads in If I Ran the Zoo. The White male is not only on top of, and being carried by, these Asian characters, but he is also holding a gun, illustrating dominance. The text beneath the Asian characters describes them as ‘helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant’ from ‘countries no one can spell,’” Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens write. Only two characters in 50 Seuss books were depicted as Black, and those were a laundry list of stereotypes of “primitive” Africans.
Republicans are up in arms in defense of these books that are deemed hurtful and wrong by the company that publishes and licenses them. According to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as he objected to an expansion of voting rights, “First, they outlaw Dr. Seuss and now they want to tell us what to say.”
Nobody outlawed Dr. Seuss. A private enterprise decided to stop publishing six books out of a catalog that contains dozens.
More evidence that Seuss had been “canceled” came in the form of President Biden not mentioning the author in a Read Across America Day proclamation, so … apparently every individual author not mentioned by the president is hereby canceled? Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, and the rest of the no-wedge-issue-too-stupid Republican crew joined the outrage. But—gasp—Vice President Kamala Harris did say nice things about Seuss in a 2017 tweet, so she’s in trouble now. Fox News chyrons are all over this very important issue.
After a Virginia school system similarly moved to deemphasize Seuss in its celebration of Read Across America Day, claims spread like wildfire that it had “banned” Seuss. Again, a “banning” that consisted of not elevating him over every other possible children’s book author. The Loudon County Public Schools were forced by the false rumors to issue a lengthy statement that concluded: “We continue to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms, however, Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day in Loudoun County Public Schools.”
The six Seuss books being pulled from publication unmistakably, unequivocally feature gross racist stereotyping—and they were written and illustrated by someone whose career included a series of explicitly racist cartoons. Explicitly racist as in he had published “over a dozen cartoons depicting Black people as monkeys and repeatedly captioned them as ‘n*ggers.’” Or an illustration with “stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people with large feather headdresses, long pipes, and nearly naked in the snow.” Or work in which “Japanese people were drawn with pig snouts, as snakes, monkeys, or cats, and referred to as ‘Japs.’” It should be impossible to dismiss the drawing of a white man using a whip on a man of color in And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street as inconsequential no matter what, but in the context of Seuss’ career, it’s a screaming red flag.
Millions of copies of these books remain in circulation, of course, and predictably, sales of these and other Seuss books spiked after the announcement, with people rushing to show that by gum yes they do embrace things that are hurtful and wrong. Tales of white victimhood seamlessly blend with overt racism to create one Republican cause celebre after another, be it a country musician saying the N-word or children’s books filled with racist imagery. Defending racism is more motivating to Republicans than just about anything else these days, and they take it as a badge of honor.
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