I’ll not cancel Seuss, I refuse to, I won’t!
I’m wrestling. Wrestling with the newly hatched culture canceling of Dr. Seuss. At least I think that’s what’s happening because I’ve never been sure just what “cancel culture” is all about.
Apparently Dr. Seuss, in some of his books, included what are now considered objectionable stereotypical images. Asians with slanted eyes. Africans with black skin. Yet most of the major media stories I’ve seen don’t include any examples of the drawings that people are complaining about. Not sure how well that informs the reader if examples aren’t included. And yet, doing so would make the media guilty of perpetuating those same ugly stereotypes. Wouldn’t it?
There hasn’t been a Dr. Seuss book in this house for decades, and I certainly don’t remember any specific objectionable illustrations. My guess is that at the time the “objectionable” books were published, other sources were publishing similar stereotypes. I could be wrong, of course. It’s possible Seuss was the only illustrator who thought to draw Asians with slanted eyes. Or Africans with black skin. But I doubt it. And yes, I guess I’m racist enough myself to wonder how you’d include diverse races in your books without resorting to some form of recognizable characteristics/stereotypes. Aren’t we encouraging diversity these days?
I did find a blog with some old, ugly Seuss drawings of Japanese people that were published during World War II. But they were racist political cartoons drawn during the war and before Seuss started writing children’s books. And oh the wisdom he taught!
If Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to withdraw six books from future publication, that’s their prerogative. But I object to the public piling onto an author for reflecting the times he grew up in and lived in.
Much of today’s “cancel culture” strikes me as “presentism” — defined by Oxford as “uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, especially the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts.” There’s a lot of self-righteous presentism in the world today, and it says as much about the promulgators as it does the persons or things attacked.
As for Seuss, I’ll always remember the joy he gave my young son and me as we read together. (How fast can you read Fox in Socks without stumbling?)
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
P.S. I came across an excellent article by a mother who, rather than dumping the Seuss books, used their racist illustrations as a teaching tool for meaningful discussions with her children.