Dr. Seuss and the Cancel Culture

Dr. Seuss and the Cancel Culture

The Dr. Seuss shelf at Barnes & Noble will have 6 less books. Why? Are sales low? No, these 6 books contain blatant descriptions of racist attitudes. Wait, do they don’t? The books in question have depictions of non-whites that seem to capture the stereotypes of the American racist culture.

For instance, there is a drawing of Chinese men carrying a cage animal on their heads. Their eyes are closed but do have a downward angle to the line representing their eyes. They also have long stringy moustaches reminiscent of Dr. Fu Man Chu, a book about a Chinese detective played in movies by: Christopher Lee, Nicolas Cage, Warner Oland, Peter Sellers, Boris Karloff, Henry Brandon, Glen Gordon and others.

Is it wrong to depict Chinese people this way? Maybe. Are creatives exempt from characterizing other people and cultures in a negative and harmful way? Maybe.

You might be thinking, “Why do you say ‘maybe’?”

Well, first, I think that we should look at the intent of the work and ask more questions.

    • Was Dr. Seuss purposefully creating artwork that demeaned Chinese and African people?

    • Was Dr. Seuss ignorant to the hurt and pain his images would potentially cause?

    • Did Dr. Seuss have racist or prejudice attitudes?

Answers to these questions would give me more of a position to understand the full extent of the individuals motivations as well as help to make a decision on whether or not the books should continue to be promoted or should we cancel all of Dr. Seuss 45 books because of these few bad apples.

Ask Questions, Get Answers

But that isn’t how Cancel Culture works. There isn’t a dialogue about who people are and their motives (in this case, Dr. Seuss has been dead since 1991).

Instead there is a quick decision to cancel Dr. Seuss, which brings a delightful money making opportunity disguised in morality.

Yes! It’s about money. The sales of these cancelled books have sky rocketed and people are making a nice piece of change selling and buying up these so-called racist books. See Forbes.

Racism has been turning a profit for about 300+ years, so why should it stop now.

My personal criticism about the Dr. Seuss’s Estate is that they haven’t declared these books racist, but only insensitive and “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

If this was a true concern for Dr. Seuss’s, they should issue a massive recall of the books that are already in circulation. Of course, that would drive the price of these books higher than they are now.

Let’s answer one of my questions to get a good idea of who Dr. Seuss is.

Was Dr. Seuss a racist or have prejudice attitudes?

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” was the first book to be published under Theodor Seuss Geisel’s pen name Dr. Seuss. “Geisel conceived the core of the book aboard a ship in 1936, returning from a European vacation with his wife.” — Wikipedia

I have never read that book growing up as a child, or even knew about it as an adult with children. In fact, I didn’t even know these 6 books existed until yesterday. We were more on the Green Eggs & Ham end of the 45 books published by Dr. Seuss.

And seeing it’s content now, I can see why it’s viewed as insensitive or a poor portrayal. It’s no wonder post-1970’s educators did not promote the book through kindergartens and elementary schools throughout the United States of America.

Of course, my exposure to every kindergarten is limited, but the documentation on the sales of this particular book were extremely low, compared to the 8+ million copies sold of Green Eggs & Ham.

Did anyone ever confront Dr. Seuss about the imagery?

Yes, and in 1978, Dr. Seuss agreed to change some wording, renaming a character from “Chinaman” to “Chinese Man”. He also got rid of the characters pigtail and yellow coloring of the characters skin. (Source: Nel, Philip (2004). Dr. Seuss: American Icon)

Ok, it seems that Dr. Seuss did stereotype different ethnicities and races in a negative way. I haven’t looked into whether or not he was a racist, but these images are definitely not a clear representation of the people they represent.

Now what?

For myself, I don’t have a need for any Dr. Seuss book so cancelling Dr. Seuss would not impact their bottom line. I mean, that is what’s supposed to happen right. The idea is you cancel someone and they lose their jobs and their corporations lose money too and that brings about change…right?

My advice to parents, if you were asking, would be to carefully review all your child’s books and look for what you feel is inappropriate material. You should know what your kids are reading and spend time researching and looking up why you should and should not expose your kids to certain materials. Although we have been taught to trust and respect our educators, the content they choose should always be under your review and approval.

Wait, doesn’t the Bible have insensitive material?

In the Bible, it can get pretty gruesome. There is violence, wild sex parties and absolute crazy TV-MA things happening. When I first taught my kids the Bible, we took care in what we allowed them to read, especially things that they were not yet ready to discuss.

Then there came a time, when they read it unfiltered.

That is our responsibility as parents, to carefully watch and approve of what our children read and watch. Helping them grow so they will make better choices as they grow in wisdom and knowledge.

As Christians we have a divine charge to grow our children in the wisdom and understanding of Jesus Christ. It is up to us to expose them to the living Savior and His desire to live a life that is pleasing to God.

Need help? Leave a comment below.

Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

About The Author

Jesse Velez

Although Jesse Velez will forever carry the essence of a Native New Yorker, he currently calls the sun-soaked city of Miami, Florida, his home. Celebrating a marriage of 31+ years to Eusebia, he proudly embraces his role as the father of five grown children. Jesse has cultivated a profound grasp of the Bible over the span of 40+ years, dedicated to following and serving Jesus while engaging in extensive reading and in-depth study of the scriptures.