There are subtle forms of racism but then there are outright blatant and disrespectful forms of racism however racism is still racism right? Upon hearing from a friend as well as an advocate that Dr. Seuss was racist I was in a state of disbelief. No way! His books were some of my childhood favorites. I remember my childhood days sitting criss-cross applesauce on the carpet anxiously waiting for my teacher to read The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. However, not desiring to go by hearsay I began researching in hopes that there was some type of mistake. Sadly that was not the case Dr. Seuss being Racist was proven to be true. Considering I am in the educational field I walked away from my research with more questions than answers.
1. How do we profess to be proactive in undoing racism in the educational system but yet we openly support an author that is racist? Wait he’s not racist? but he wrote shows and performed in them in blackface.
2. How do we as an educational system say that we desire more diversity but continue to read Dr. Seuss books whose characters are 98% white but only 2% black? Even more troubling is that of the 2% they are all males. According to Sam Gillette an Editorial Assistant at People Magazine she states “Notably, every character of color is male. Males of color are only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles,” the authors write as part of their findings. “This also remains true in their relation to White characters. Most startling is the complete invisibility and absence of women and girls of color across Seuss’ entire children’s book collection.”
3. If Dr. Seuss illustrations consisted of views that are clearly offensive how is that okay?
4. Why is it that the educational system has high expectations for children to do their homework in order to be better learners? However, upon hearing the news that Dr. Seuss was racist they do not do their homework so that they themselves can become better learners?
5. Why continue to support an author who was not only racist but bold enough to think about as well as spend, countless hours drawing racist illustrations?
6. How can teachers comfortably without conviction read to a classroom of children one of Dr. Seuss books as they look their brown students in their eyes, knowing he viewed black children as monkeys and as being inferior to whites? How can teachers read one of his books in an atmosphere knowing that people of color, as well as Japanese colleagues, can possibly be offended?
7. How can teachers read one of his books to children knowing that the creator of the book passed on a legacy of racism through his books without having to ever apologize for the harm that he inflicted intentionally or unintentionally?
8. How can the educational system support his teachings through his books as he made fun of Chinese and Japanese through racial stereotypes?
9. Why give his books a pass when clearly they deserve a fail?
For National Read Aloud Day the educational system has a day set out to celebrate him and his legacy. Is it because that is what they have been accustomed to doing for years? 10. Just because racism was around for years does that mean we continue to support as well as subtly promote it within schools because it’s been around for years? Does that make it morally right?
11. If the educational system as a whole professes to lean more towards reading children’s literature that is more diverse why read Dr. Seuss books when they do not represent diversity? “If kids open books and “the images they see of themselves are distorted, negative or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society in which they are a part,” Rudine Sims Bishop, a scholar of children’s literature, wrote in a 1990 article.”(Sims)But when they see themselves represented in a positive way, it can have a similarly powerful effect.
As I conclude having stumbled upon this newfound knowledge I have more questions than I have answers. The educational system as a whole has come a long way in terms of undoing racism and I realize a little bit of progress is better than no progress at all. I genuinely appreciate the educators, schools, and parents that heard about the racism and stereotypes depicted in Dr. Seuss books and took a stand. What does taking a stand look like? No longer supporting Dr. Seuss or his work no matter how good his books are. There are plenty of authors just as gifted, creative and talented as Dr. Seuss who is all for diversity and producing children’s books that give children a healthy perspective on race.
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Some other thought-provoking articles on this topic check out https://www.theconsciouskid.org/blog/2018/2/18/a-critical-race-reading-of-dr-seuss