By Leah Mize
According to the New York Times, six Dr. Seuss books are not going to be published anymore because of racist depictions of Black Americans and Asian Americans. The reexamination of Theodor Geisel’s work has occurred recently due to these racist depictions.
The books, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo specifically will be removed from publication. And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street is being pulled because of a character called “Chinaman” who is portrayed as having thin lines for eyes and a pointed hat on his head while carrying a bowl of rice and chopsticks in his hands.
If I Ran the Zoo is being pulled because there are two characters from “Yerka,” which is the made up African island they’re from, that are portrayed as monkeys. This depiction of characters from Africa as monkeys has historically racist connotations, a running theme in both greater society and Dr. Seuss’s personal views as well.
Dr. Seuss books are prominent in early childhood education and experience because of their whimsical illustrations and rhyming simple sentences in large easy-to-read fonts. Generally speaking, they are among some of the first books children learn to read. If their first introduction to people who look differently is rooted in harmful stereotypes then they are already predisposed to carrying those principles forward into their lives.
The only things they know about these groups of people have been told to them and furthermore they’re wrong as well as hurtful. Asian children and black children also do not deserve to see their cultural image and likeness boiled down to a hurtful stereotype.
The other four Dr. Seuss books that will no longer be published are McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra, Scrambled Eggs Super, and The Cat’s Quizzer, according to articles in The New York Times and CNN.
According to a CNN article, Geisel had racist and anti-Semitic views that bled into his work beginning when he attended Dartmouth for his undergraduate degree. During his undergraduate career he drew black Americans as gorillas and portrayed the Jewish character he wrote as being greedy and selfish in financial dealings, another long-standing and harmful stereotype.
However, this isn’t to say that all of Dr. Seuss’s work was bad or problematic. Many of the messages and morals of his work are positive and important for children to grow up with. For example, Green Eggs and Ham introduces children to the idea about trying new things and The Lorax teaches them about being considerate about the environment. Kids should learn this early on in their lives and in an accessible way.
Because Dr. Seuss created such imaginative worlds with his stories, we tend to separate his work from who he was as a person. He was a person who held these beliefs about people who were different than him and that did influence his work. Removing these specific books of his from the market is not harmful. If anything, the decision will improve his image because we will likely forget that he also published those books.