Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known names in children’s literature, with his 60 book collection selling more than 700 million copies globally combined. His first book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” became a worldwide sensation, establishing Dr. Seuss as a household name, while others like “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” and “The Cat and the Hat” have been given a modern twist and adapted to TV shows and movies. While his stories are celebrated by parents and children alike for tackling issues ranging from environmentalism to the dangers of greed, some have not stood the test of time. Six of his books, including his debut novel, will no longer be published by Dr. Seuss Enterprises due to racist imagery and statements.
Many, particularly right-leaning media and political figures, protested Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ decision, blaming cancel culture for the change. Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted his dismay, calling the decision “a depraved sociopolitical purge driven by hysteria and lunacy,” while House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy read Seuss’s book “Green Eggs and Ham” (which was not one of the six) on the House floor in protest.
Now 6 Dr. Seuss books are cancelled too?— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 2, 2021
When history looks back at this time it will be held up as an example of a depraved sociopolitical purge driven by hysteria and lunacy
Fox News, meanwhile, brought up and criticized the decision multiple times throughout the day, dedicating a few minutes every news segment to express their dislike. #cancelcancelculture began trending on Twitter (though it was taken over by users making fun of the hashtag), and Dr. Seuss’s books jumped to the top of bestseller lists after the announcement. Despite this, Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ decision is final.
Criticism of Dr. Seuss’s work is not new. In 2017, authors Mo Willems, Mike Curato and Lisa Yee co-wrote a letter where they described a picture found in Seuss’s book as “a jarring racial stereotype of a Chinese man, who is depicted with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.” The five other books no longer being published are “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer,” all of which contain either pictures or statements that critics have described as racist.
“’And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street’ was the first Dr. Seuss book I ever read. I thought it was funny, and I felt a little bit like I was in on a joke, so I am sad to see production stopped. However, books are dropped from production all the time for a variety of reasons. It seems as though this is the choice of the people who own the rights to the book making a business decision and not the product of banning,” said Mrs. Carol Cabrera, co-chair of the English department and 7th grade literature teacher. She continued, “Banning books is banning ideas, and that is a dangerous road to go down. Of course, there will be ideas that offend, but people need to think and evaluate those ideas [instead of outright banning them].”
Dr. Seuss’s books are not the only ones with racist undertones. Older novels such as “Gone with the Wind,” “Jane Eyre” and “The Secret Garden” all contain ideas, stereotypes and characters that can be interpreted as racist. However, just because six of Dr. Seuss’s books are no longer getting published does not mean these books will have the same fate. The only entity that can determine whether or not a book will be taken off shelves is the publisher or distributor themselves, so each book will be reviewed on an individual basis.
“Texts like [“Gone with the Wind” and “Jane Eyre”] may help readers understand the history of the time and the development and change of ideas and beliefs over time. They provide an opportunity to discuss those ideas and how and why ideas have evolved and changed. As a teacher, I try to provide the context and help students understand the sources of prejudice and why change is necessary,” said Mrs. Cabrera.