The Gatepost Editorial Staff
On the 117th birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known by his pseudonym Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced six books by the author would cease publication.
The titles include “If I Ran the Zoo,” “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “On Beyond Zebra!” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” ‘The Cat’s Quizzer,” and “McElligot’s Pool.”
The announcement explained the books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” and Dr. Seuss Enterprises made the decision with a panel of experts as part of their commitment to support “all communities and families.”
Notably, Seuss’ “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” was under scrutiny for its racial and ethnic stereotypes because of its portrayal of an Asian man whose eyes were drawn as slanted lines.
The New York Times reported many are not happy about the announcement, with some claiming the decision promotes “cancel culture,” and raises questions about whether an author’s works should be curated after their death “to reflect evolving social attitudes, and what should be preserved as part of the cultural record.”
However, ceasing the publication of select Dr. Seuss titles is not an act of “cancel culture.”
A common pop-culture phrase, “cancel culture” is a form of ostracization that holds individuals and companies accountable for being offensive or insensitive.
Those shunned by society are considered “canceled,” which in turn damages careers and tarnishes the names of public figures.
Society is not canceling Dr. Seuss. Instead, his estate is voluntarily removing racist literature and images from common circulation to contribute to a growing movement for equity for all people.
The stereotypes Seuss conveyed are damaging to a developing child’s image of people and the world, and teaching children that people from certain ethnic backgrounds behave or appear a certain way is not what children’s literature should be doing in today’s world.
Parents expect their children will discover that every person is unique and people cannot be
summarized by their appearance or customs. Racially insensitive images and rhymes nurture false expectations in the minds of children.
People often say, “Appreciate the art, not the artist.” Yet, Seuss is an example of why we can’t follow that standard as the artist’s ideology makes its way onto the page. Those hesitant to condemn the racist language and images are likely only recalling the fun memories they have of Seuss’ work and are not among the groups being stereotyped in these books.
Times change. What was socially acceptable to say or write nearly a century ago may no longer be OK today.
When Seuss wrote “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” in the 1930s, the words he chose and images he drew aligned with cultural beliefs at the time. Today, the stereotypes found in many of Seuss’ works can no longer be tolerated.
Children’s stories littered with discriminatory images should no longer be read to children.
Nobody is calling for a book burning. However, some of Seuss’ titles are better suited for scholarly research than storytelling before bedtime.
Most importantly, the decision from Geisel’s estate to stop publishing some of his stories places a stronger emphasis on his other works.
As The New York Times points out, some of Seuss’ books, such as “Horton Hears a Who!” and “The Lorax,” are centered around “ethical and moral imperatives to treat others with kindness and care for the planet.” Those themes are still relevant today.
Dr. Seuss is, and probably always will be, an influential and highly appreciated children’s author whom kids from all backgrounds can read and enjoy in their early years and whom adults can return to in order to relive their childhood memories of “Green Eggs and Ham,” and “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
But much as Sam refused his green eggs and ham, we must refuse to allow these egregious racist stereotypes to fill young children’s minds.
Book lovers should commend and support Dr. Seuss Enterprises for living up to its mission of
“supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.”
This is not a story of “cancel culture.” Rather, it’s a story of living up to one’s ideals.