Skip to content

I’ll not cancel Seuss, I refuse to, I won’t!

Dr. Seuss’s beloved Fox in Socks

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.

26 Comments »

  1. Yes! Things seem to have gotten out of hand. If I had to stand trial for everything I’ve ever thought or said, I’d probably be in trouble. What ever happened to learning from our mistakes and doing better? Or, understanding that times were different and, while not excusing past behavior, acknowledging that we’ve evolved (and probably all have further to go). He wrote Horton Hears a Who, for gosh sakes. I will always love Dr. Seuss too.

    • It seems to me a lot of the “cancel culture” ideas arise with young people who haven’t lived long enough to appreciate how much things can and do change over time. At least that’s how I excuse the Gen Z folks. Older people should know better.

  2. I have just had it.
    Those that wish to be offended will find something to offend.
    NOTHING will ever satisfy them.
    If you don’t like it, turn it off – that’s what so many said about TV shows – well, the same goes with books

    Unfortunately those who are loudest about complaining can’t see the forest for the trees:learning to read – the books are structured tone developmentally appropriate for the age and for emerging readers. (There’s plenty of research and reading literacy formulas to back that up) From pre-K to end of grade 2, kids are learning to read from 3rd on kids have to be able to read to learn.
    literacy is everything (and these stories also had a positive message) These books are gold for emerging readers – they have it all – all the phonetic awareness, phonemes, repetition of sounds, predictability – on and on and on> So rich. So brilliant.

    You hit it with “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?”

    Sounds like some just want to gain fame wagging virtuous fingers at others….Bossy Britches telling everyone they must think just like them, (How dull life would be)

    Apparently growing up no adult in charge of them managed to import the wisdom of “there is no guarantee you will not be hurt, insulted, or sad in life – all that is your problem to deal with so don’t make your problem other people’s problem.”

    ARRRRGGGHH.

    • Really. Attacking Dr. Seuss? There is so much wisdom in his books, lessons taught in ways that kids can understand and enjoy — totally unaware of the work that goes into those seemingly “simple” books.

      And you are so right: Everything will offend somebody somewhere. That doesn’t mean an entire society should bow to the offended one. If you feel offended, perhaps you should look within yourself before expecting change from others. If you are offended by Dr. Seuss, go read something else. Or buy something else for your kids. There are tons of great children’s books out there, with more coming every day.

      Interestingly, I got a phone call a little while ago from my son. He, too, had spent the morning bouncing off the walls over the Seuss thing. He even downloaded a copy of one of the books in question, just to see the pictures. He hadn’t had any luck either finding pictures of the offensive material.

      The link I added with my P.S. includes some of the pictures in question.

  3. Dr. Seuss, and particularly Green Eggs and Ham (ok, to be fair, along with Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff) opened the world of reading to me. Haven’t stopped reading since. Now will have to make sure to reread all of the Seuss books i can before they disappear. This growing attitude of “that offends me, destroy it” really offends me – as does participation trophies, but that is another rant….

    • Dick and Jane were for school. Dr. Seuss was for fun. One way or another, I too was an avid reader as a kid. It didn’t stop until I’d been a proofreader and editor for a couple of years. When you do that 8 hours a day, it kind of ruins reading for enjoyment.

      Seuss was so much fun, you never realized you were actually learning something. What a gift that has been to several generations.

  4. Nice to hear it isn’t only us having this ‘cancel culture’ forced upon us. Last year in the UK we had BLM marches here and they causes alot of damage and injuries to buildings, police ,etc. but specifically statues. That caused alot of debate about all statues need to justify there existence. UK history had to be re-written according to them because of slavery and not enough black statues.
    Education here has undergone a transformation here in the past few years. Young children are taught there are 100 sexual orientations. They can elect to be binary, non-binary, etc. and the boy/girl moniker is being frowned upon. Puberty blocking drugs are used to delay sexual maturity so kids can wait until they are a bit older before having transgender surgery. All reading books used for learning to read are looked at for gender stereotypes and re-written or banned. They are even going to comedy programs and banning certain episodes. They have just started casting a coloured actress in a white historical part, so changing history. Since the BLM protests last year news programs, talk shows, adverts on tv and fashion advertising are all being stuffed with anyone who isn’t white. Being a white masculine man and a white feminine woman in a traditional marriage with white children, who are biologically there’s is frowned upon in the media here. A whole new level of social engineering is being implemented through the childrens school education. They have transexual teachers extolling the virtues of their lifestyle and telling kids how wrong their parents are if they are stereotype parents. The longer I live the more I am seeing the breakdown of traditional values around me. I don’t know how it is there but I noticed President Biden has two sex change people in his cabinet. Who are trying to change the education system there. Also I noticed since the law was changed on transexuals able to take part in sports, women athletes are losing repeatedly when competing against former males who compete against women. What do you think?

    • We’re in difficult, turbulent times, with so many people and groups trying to find traction in our society and correct historical inequities. But it shouldn’t be done by trying to erase the past. History is fact and we can and should learn from it. Moving forward, of course, we’ll make changes where needed, but decades of history cannot be changed overnight. We must, for example, be very, very careful about how we raise our children. Growing up is difficult at best and kids are very impressionable. Talking to kids about gender identity before they are ready to hear it is bound to cause confusion. That sort of thing should be discussed only in biology classes and only with parental knowledge and permission.

      Much of what you mention has been happening in this country as well. “Traditional” values like yours and mine are being challenged and as difficult as it can be for us to change, we have to accept — to some degree — that change will come as it always has. We don’t have to agree with it, but time marches on, with or without us.

      You mentioned transwomen participating in women’s sports. I do have a problem with that. I don’t see how it can be fair for a male physique (even if altered somewhat by hormone treatment) to be pitted against females.

      • I agree. Some mistakes are history and (some) deserve a understanding in that context. The thing is, we’re talking about it and people can decide if they want to think differently.

  5. johnthecook I just knew that the removal of Statues, paintings , carvings and “other” politically incorrect objects would NOT be the only things that the new leadership in Washington DC would try to wipe out of existence. The End Is Near to the America we once knew! huey77blogg is absolutely right to be concerned. Read her blog again, because it’s only going to get worse.

    • John, a lot of that public statue removal thing happened on Trump’s watch.

      As for changes Biden has made, It is a new president’s prerogative to change the decor in the White House to suit his personal tastes. Things there are not “wiped out of existence.” They are put into storage in case the next president wants to use them.

      Socially, we are seeing a lot of changes and a lot of those changes are overdue. But I endorse continued evolution, not revolution. Violence is never acceptable.

      By the way, Biden had nothing to do with the actions of Dr. Seuss Enterprises or reactions from the public.

  6. I have always loved Dr Seuss and, was initially annoyed by the idea of banning his books. (Green Eggs and Ham was a particular favorite.) But, picture yourself as an African-American (or Chinese American) mother, possibly well-educated, nicely dressed and trying to raise your children to be the best persons they can be. Then imagine reading a book to your children that contains some of the illustrations from this website:
    https://www.therichest.com/shocking/15-dr-seuss-illustrations-that-are-shockingly-offensive/

    • I could be mistaken, but I don’t think any of the images in your linked article appeared in Seuss’s children’s books. He was a political cartoonist, paid to reflect the times, before turning to children’s books. I’ll certainly not fault him for his depiction of the Japanese during WWII, for example. The link I added at the end of my post shows some of the pictures from his children’s books and tells how one mom discussed them with her kids.

      • True, but the six books that are being pulled have illustrations that would offend me if I were black or Asians—maybe not as badly as the ones I linked to. Really, I just think it’s an educational opportunity as to who Zuess was. Of course, that type of ‘unconscious racism was historically very common.

        It’s like older men getting in trouble for their sexist approach to women. Used to be so common that it certainly wasn’t in the news

        • I can’t argue with the six books being pulled. The publisher is just being responsible. It’s the widespread outrage toward all things Seuss that I object to.

      • johnthecook…in regards to the SIX books being pulled, Dr. Seuss died more than 29 years ago, so it has taken the publisher that long to grow a conscious? I think it all has to do with “Political Correctness”. There are most likely millions of books/pamphlets, and magazines in print in the USA that are full of images of similar pictures. Are they going to remove each and every one of those too?

        • The books in question were all published in the 1950s or earlier. Times have changed a lot since then. I do think that rather than withdrawing the books, they should perhaps be kept around as examples of what used to be okay but is no longer considered acceptable. Personally I don’t think much of book banning or book burning. Nobody is forced to buy or read these or any other books.

  7. I looked and I read
    I found them splendid
    Not one vicious word
    To make me offended
    The grammar was child-like
    The rhymes were quite plain
    I did not see
    The reason to complain
    The pictures are whimsical
    The characters unique
    A book for the young
    I did not see the crime they speak
    A cat in a hat
    An elephant of blue
    One fish, two fish
    And even a Who
    The Grinch that stole Christmas
    With its fictional villains
    did not speak out
    When it made Hollywood millions
    60 books to his name, For 84 years
    & just now have sent whiners, crying in tears
    With NO life to enjoy
    They must find someone to blame
    Someone to hate,
    Someone to shame
    Your goal is to hate
    I do NOT condone,
    go to hell Snowflakes
    Leave Dr. Seuss alone.

    Reposted from a friend on Facebook

"A republic, if you can keep it." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: