Many people around the world were caught off guard on March 2, 2021 when Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the estate of the famous author and illustrator, announced that it was ceasing the publication of six of the Children’s Literature giant’s books, citing their racist content. The decision has caused a wide variety of reactions around the world, ranging from support, to concern, to disgust.
While the news came as a shock to many, the racial undertones of some Dr. Seuss stories have been under scrutiny for several years, and the company’s decision come on the heels of a many-months-long review operation of his entire catalogue aided by teachers and other experts. In the end, six books were deemed as going against the company’s values: And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, McElligot’s Pool, If I Ran the Zoo, Scrambled Eggs Super!, On Beyond Zebra!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. Other books, including the massively popular and well-known Cat in the Hat, have also drawn criticism, but the company has not ceased production of any other books.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises released a brief statement along with the decision, saying that the books “portray people in a way that is hurtful and wrong.” The statement also adds the following: “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader mission to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all families and communities.”
The oldest of the books that production is ceasing on, And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was written in 1937 and contains racist imagery of a stereotypical East Asian character, and also refers to the character with a racial slur. During World War II, Dr. Seuss worked as a political cartoonist and drew several racist caricatures of Japanese people over the course of the war. He later expressed embarrassment at these drawings specifically, saying that they were, like the work of many other political satirists of the time, “full of snap judgements” and not reflective of his views in later years. All of the other five discontinued books were written after World War II.
Reactions to the move have been mixed, with many misinterpreting the halt in production as an outright ban on the books. In reality, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has only ceased publication and licensing, meaning that none of the books will be sold anymore. Additionally, many libraries carrying any of the six books have removed them from their shelves.
Some have also said that the decision constitutes an attack on the legacy of Dr. Seuss as a whole, while the company stresses that the intention of this removal is not to discredit or “cancel” Dr. Seuss, but rather to ensure that his legacy as well as the brand carry on in a way that is not offensive or discriminatory.
The discussion in the aftermath of the six books being discontinued has also been very politically charged, with many conservative figures such as Ted Cruz decrying the decision. Cruz even started a fundraiser for his campaign where he sent a signed copy of the classic Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham—which is not one of the books that has been removed or criticized—to anyone who donated over $60 to his campaign. He later went on to say on Twitter that “Lefties are losing their minds” and that the campaign had already raised 125 thousand dollars. In addition, some of the removed books have sold on eBay for thousands of dollars, though eBay has since gone on to remove all postings for the books on the site.
The debate continues to rage on various social media platforms, and many have extended the situation to a larger debate on “cancel culture,” that is the social movement where people or products which are deemed to be problematic are invalidated and, to a larger or smaller extent, barred from working or receiving attention. Many have incorrectly claimed that Dr. Seuss is being cancelled, despite the decision only affecting a small portion of his extensive and renowned catalogue.
6 Dr. Seuss books Will No Longer be Published Over Offensive Images: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/books/dr-seuss-mulberry-street.html
‘Banned’ Dr. Seuss Books Delisted on eBay After Selling for Thousands: https://www.cbr.com/dr-seuss-banned-books-delisted-ebay/#:~:text=The%20six%20pulled%20books%20were,the%20widow%20of%20Theodore%20%22Dr.
Dr. Seuss: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dr-Seuss
Dr. Seuss Bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss_bibliography
Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published due to racist content: https://globalnews.ca/news/7671590/dr-seuss-books-racist/
Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises: https://www.seussville.com/statement-from-dr-seuss-enterprises/
Ted Cruz has been selling signed copies of the Dr. Seuss book ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ and raised $125,000 in 24 hours: https://www.businessinsider.com/sen-cruz-sells-signed-dr-seuss-books-green-eggs-and-ham-2021-3
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