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Dr. Seuss Books pulled for racist images


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If some of you folks wring your hands every time a book goes out of print you must get one heck of a workout!

As for caricatures, that word has more than one possible definition. It's possible to decry one thing without the other thing.

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3 minutes ago, Spy Car said:

 I'm willing to split that hair.

You always are, but the white people in the Seuss books are clearly not caricatures, but rather simplified versions of reality. There is no gross or ludicrous exaggeration, no one laughs when they see them. The little boys look like little boys, the little girls look like little girls. If you handed people a mixed stack of the illustrations, and asked them to be sorted into caricatures vs not, you would have staggering agreement in results. 

The way they are using the word is clear, easy to understand, and correct. It is part of a quick, effective litmus test.

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1 hour ago, Plum said:

I don’t know about their motives. Cancel culture has become a dominating force. For all I know it could have been a preemptive move. 

Sure looks like I’m assuming a lot. 

1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

All we know is what they claim. Why not take them at their word? Why assume that you know more about their motives than they've made public? 

We must have a different definition of "dominating force." I don't see "cancel culture" as having much dominance when everyone who claims to be canceled, is still very vocal and able to be heard. 

 

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2 hours ago, Sneezyone said:

Or an indication of just how many people are desperate to cling to anything that validates their superiority.

Really?!??  Good grief.   I think you are over thinking this.  Maybe they are trying to make a quick buck.  Or maybe they like Dr. Suess, which actually doesn’t make them racists.  Or maybe they want a collectors item.  Thinking the worst possible things about total strangers has become a real problem in our society.  Who is really trying to validate their superiority here.   

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7 hours ago, SKL said:

The 6 books they are discontinuing aren't particularly popular anyway.  I have never heard of most of them.

I wish the headlines were a little more objective.

Dr. Seuss actually wrote some progressive ideas into some of his books - ideas that I believe actually took hold.

I loved To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street as a kid. I read the cover off that book. I loved how it encouraged imaginative thinking. I don’t remember what stereotyping was in that book that hadn’t aged well, though I have no difficulty imagining there is some. 

 

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14 minutes ago, katilac said:

You always are, but the white people in the Seuss books are clearly not caricatures, but rather simplified versions of reality. There is no gross or ludicrous exaggeration, no one laughs when they see them. The little boys look like little boys, the little girls look like little girls. If you handed people a mixed stack of the illustrations, and asked them to be sorted into caricatures vs not, you would have staggering agreement in results. 

The way they are using the word is clear, easy to understand, and correct. It is part of a quick, effective litmus test.

There are multitudes of examples of Theodor Geisel portraying ostensibly "white" people as caricatures.

And this "test" goes beyond Dr Seuss books.

I don't think being a caricature "alone" qualifies an image as racially insensitive. That's a bridge too far.

That's not to say a caricature that relies on stereotypes or racist tropes are not problematic. The images the family has identified as offensive are offensive. I think Geisel would agree with that if he were alive today.

Bill

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6 hours ago, Corraleno said:

There are issues with both the writing and illustrations. How many children who grab a book off the library shelf are going to read "a lesson with context at the end of the book"? Why should we keep reprinting books that depict "Africans" like this?

Screen Shot 2021-03-02 at 4.56.11 PM.png

Are those meant to be pictures of people? I would never have thought that. When I look at the picture I think they depict animals, and I see nothing wrong. Now if they meant to be people, then it’s a very different story. 🥲

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25 minutes ago, Spy Car said:

There are multitudes of examples of Theodor Geisel portraying ostensibly "white" people as caricatures.

And this "test" goes beyond Dr Seuss books.

I don't think being a caricature "alone" qualifies an image as racially insensitive. That's a bridge too far.

I honestly can't think of or find any in his children's books, but I'm relying on memory and the internet. What would you consider some examples of this? 

But, at any rate, read the excerpt from the blog again; it does not say caricature "alone" is what they're looking at. It says (bolding by me): "Every single character of color is portrayed through at least 3, and sometimes all 5, of the following themes: "

So caricature and either two, three, of four additional themes. 

Edited to add that they also give the precise definition of caricature that they are referring to. 

Edited by katilac
talked about bolding that I didn't do
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24 minutes ago, ealp2009 said:

Really?!??  Good grief.   I think you are over thinking this.  Maybe they are trying to make a quick buck.  Or maybe they like Dr. Suess, which actually doesn’t make them racists.  Or maybe they want a collectors item.  Thinking the worst possible things about total strangers has become a real problem in our society.  Who is really trying to validate their superiority here.   

Well it is a little strange that people are falling all over themselves to find books that they never knew existed before this news was released. 

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4 of these books were already essentially out of print.  I would wager Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo were the only ones still selling.  
 

A lot of books go out of print.  
 

As leery as I would be of his entire body of work getting written off as racist, I don’t think letting books go out of print is the same thing as banning them. 
 

I also have 3 of those books and probably two copies of one of them. I can’t be the only one contemplating if I could sell them to pay some bills.  😉

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8 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Well it is a little strange that people are falling all over themselves to find books that they never knew existed before this news was released. 

Last night, my mother asked me to buy copies of all the books for her. She only saw it as “banned books” and she’s always hated banned books. She’s the sort to keep copies of things like To Kill a Mockingbird and all the other books that have been banned over the years and make a point of reading them.

When she asked me to get her these books (she is afraid to buy stuff online with her credit card), I wasn’t really sure what she was talking about yet. She just gave me a list and said, “Can you get these books for me? They’re being banned.” When I started looking for them, they were all selling for a minimum of $1000 each, so I called her and said, “Unless you want to spend $6000 on these books, you can’t get them.”

It wasn’t until after that that I read up on the issue and figured out what was going on. I sent her an email saying that I don’t believe these are banned books, but (as I wrote above) are not being published because a company didn’t want to make them anymore. No one is forcing them to close down their printing press. But the company doesn’t want to be party to disseminating such icky books.

She hasn’t written back, so I don’t know what she’ll say.

Anyway...just saying that some people who are sort of clueless like my mother (who isn’t normally racist) heard about the books and thought, “Banned books! I’m gonna buy them and stick it to the man!”, in the same way they buy and read other banned books.

 

Edited by Garga
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34 minutes ago, ealp2009 said:

Really?!??  Good grief.   I think you are over thinking this.  Maybe they are trying to make a quick buck.  Or maybe they like Dr. Suess, which actually doesn’t make them racists.  Or maybe they want a collectors item.  Thinking the worst possible things about total strangers has become a real problem in our society.  Who is really trying to validate their superiority here.   

Right....

let’s see...

275 years of violently enforced stereotypes and many recent flare ups by people who cannot let these ugly things die or...ME?

How many threads have we had with complaints about the dying of the racist light in America now?

These outrage stories are being consistently pushed by the same people. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Edited by Sneezyone
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19 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

Are those meant to be pictures of people? I would never have thought that. When I look at the picture I think they depict animals, and I see nothing wrong. Now if they meant to be people, then it’s a very different story. 🥲

Those are most definitely meant to be African people, which Seuss drew in similarly racist ways in advertisements early in his career, e.g.:

Screen Shot 2021-03-03 at 4.55.16 PM.png

Screen Shot 2021-03-03 at 4.54.58 PM.png

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27 minutes ago, Quill said:

I loved To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street as a kid. I read the cover off that book. I loved how it encouraged imaginative thinking. I don’t remember what stereotyping was in that book that hadn’t aged well, though I have no difficulty imagining there is some. 

 

 

19 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

Are those meant to be pictures of people? I would never have thought that. When I look at the picture I think they depict animals, and I see nothing wrong. Now if they meant to be people, then it’s a very different story. 🥲

There are illustrations here. And yes, they are meant to be people not animals.

https://nationalpost.com/entertainment/books/here-are-the-wrong-illustrations-that-got-six-dr-seuss-books-cancelled

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13 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Well it is a little strange that people are falling all over themselves to find books that they never knew existed before this news was released. 

Did you see the stores when the pandemic started?  How many years worth of TP did some people buy?  People buy all sorts of things for weird reasons.   Thinking dreadful things about people doesn’t help and is far more toxic to society than a book even a truly terrible and even racist book.    But I don’t think this is a particularly helpful discussion.   I probably shouldn’t have read or commented.   

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37 minutes ago, katilac said:

I honestly can't think of or find any in his children's books, but I'm relying on memory and the internet. What would you consider some examples of this? 

But, at any rate, read the excerpt from the blog again; it does not say caricature "alone" is what they're looking at. It says (bolding by me): "Every single character of color is portrayed through at least 3, and sometimes all 5, of the following themes: "

So caricature and either two, three, of four additional themes. 

Edited to add that they also give the precise definition of caricature that they are referring to. 

And my point remains that any of the first 4 points are highly suspect on their own, where caricature--in my mind--is very different in its nature. 

Caricatures certainly can be used in ways that are racially insensitive/offensive, but caricatures can also be a legitimate artistic style. That differentiates it from the other "themes" IMO.

Bill

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1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

If some of you folks wring your hands every time a book goes out of print you must get one heck of a workout!

As for caricatures, that word has more than one possible definition. It's possible to decry one thing without the other thing.

I hate it when books go OOP.

I'm old fashioned like that.

I like to be able to easily access lots of books. Thank goodness for digitisation.

Have you never spent a ridiculous amount of time and money tracking down OOP books? 

 

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I really hate to agree with Bill but yes, caricature is an important tool in the artists toolbox.

Note: that doesn't mean I agree with racist caricatures in Dr Suess. As already established, I'd like the pictures redrawn or the books stickered with a content warning.

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I think this was a savvy public relations move. They have some books that aren't selling well. They are problematic books too that the estate may be uncomfortable with.

So now, Seuss estate gets praise and maybe some sales from people who are happy with their decision. They also get sales from people who are enraged about "cancel culture" and anyone who would dare to cancel Seuss- maybe they'll just buy Seuss to support his estate or maybe they'll specifically look for the copies of the discontinued books before they are available only in the secondary market (if any are left?). 

I've never even heard of any of them and my parents read me tons of Seuss when I was a kid and we had many books. 

Any book will go out of print if it doesn't sell and if it no longer fits the public's tastes. I think it's a good thing that the public's tastes are moving away from racist kids' books. There's a ton of excellent kids' books- too many to waste time reading problematic books for enjoyment. I've been thinking I need to disappear some of my DS's books that feel like time wasters- those that don't have great pictures, great stories, or great or thoughtful messages need to get off my shelf. 

My HS students are reading Miss Julie right now. I told them before we started that they'd find it offensive, but that it will make for good discussions. I'm not at all saying we should avoid books that present ideas that we find offensive or uncomfortable, but itty bitty kids? They're just reading for fun. 

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I don't even know what to say to the idea that the publisher should just slap a sticker on the cover of a children's book saying "Warning: This book depicts Black people as ape-like savages with rings in their noses."  

Doesn't that send the message "We're fine with that image, but if that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to skip this book. But if you don't see anything wrong with that depiction, then by all means buy it!"

Like we need to keep publishing books for the kind of people who don't find that image offensive??? 

Edited by Corraleno
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54 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

 

I don’t think you’re the problem. I think swiftly attributing bad motives to people is a problem and I think othering people is a problem and at the root of racism.    Scarcity breeds desire.    I think we need to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best for one’s own mental health and for the health of society.   I hope you have a lovely day.  

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I know this blog post was shared on this forum last summer. It made the rounds in the homeschooling world and I think it opened some eyes. 

Quote

The emphasis on reading living books in a CM education is ideas – not facts. So if a book presents many facts in a beautifully written way but includes spurts of racism, can it really be considered a good living book? If the book conjures up mostly great ideas in a child’s mind but has just a little bit of racism sprinkled on top is it a matter of the good outweighing the bad? If a few of the living ideas in an otherwise great book are rooted in evil should we pretend they’re not there and just hope for the best?

When "Really Good" Books Hurt

 

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34 minutes ago, ealp2009 said:

I don’t think you’re the problem. I think swiftly attributing bad motives to people is a problem and I think othering people is a problem and at the root of racism.    Scarcity breeds desire.    I think we need to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best for one’s own mental health and for the health of society.   I hope you have a lovely day.  

What I’m saying is that the attribution isn’t swift or othering. It’s an authentic representation of a movement, an undercurrent that’s existed all in and throughout this country since its inception. The demand exists not just for pecuniary reasons. The market exists because people collect rare racist memorabilia like beanie babies. There’s no doubt to be given about the existence of those sympathies among wide swaths of Americans. I don’t need to see the tiki torches again to know that. Ignoring that doesn’t benefit ME or my social standing or mental health. It benefits YOU and yours.

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8 minutes ago, ealp2009 said:

I don’t think you’re the problem. I think swiftly attributing bad motives to people is a problem and I think othering people is a problem and at the root of racism.    Scarcity breeds desire.    I think we need to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best for one’s own mental health and for the health of society.   I hope you have a lovely day.  

There's no scarcity of Dr Seuss books — there are literally dozens of different Dr Seuss titles available on Amazon, where you can buy a brand new hardcover of most of the popular books for around 5 bucks. The fact that people are willing to pay high prices specifically for the books with racist images suggests that there is more to it than a bunch of people who just always really wanted a copy of Scrambled Eggs Super! and think this is their last chance to get one.

Personally, I find it amusing that people think they're somehow pwning the libs by spending large sums of money on books they likely never heard of, don't really want, and won't be able to resell in 6 months because social media will have moved on and there will be new things to be Totally Outraged about.

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4 hours ago, Dreamergal said:

I see what you are saying, but if the Enid Blyton estate stopped publishing those books today,  it would mean I do not have an answer to the question about books I grew up reading when my kids ask. It is almost all the books I read at a certain age. She was a prolific writer.

Well, not all Dr. Seuss books are going out of print, just a couple. So not really the same thing. Plus, you can buy used ones. Plus, if all the works of an author I liked were offensive to a large percentage of Americans, I'd rather my kids not read them, even if I had fond memories of them when I was younger. 

3 hours ago, Plum said:

I don’t know about their motives. Cancel culture has become a dominating force. For all I know it could have been a preemptive move. 

Can someone explain the difference between "cancel culture" and "free market" and how one is good and the other bad? 

And why ANYONE thinks some author or author's representative or estate should be somehow forced to publish books they no longer wish to publish or be associated with?

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33 minutes ago, Corraleno said:

There's no scarcity of Dr Seuss books — there are literally dozens of different Dr Seuss titles available on Amazon, where you can buy a brand new hardcover of most of the popular books for around 5 bucks. The fact that people are willing to pay high prices specifically for the books with racist images suggests that there is more to it than a bunch of people who just always really wanted a copy of Scrambled Eggs Super! and think this is their last chance to get one.

Personally, I find it amusing that people think they're somehow pwning the libs by spending large sums of money on books they likely never heard of, don't really want, and won't be able to resell in 6 months because social media will have moved on and there will be new things to be Totally Outraged about.

Perhaps they can make a future trade for some Gamestop stock?

Bill 

 

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6 hours ago, kristin0713 said:

When I first saw the headlines, I thought, how ridiculous. Now that I know the whole story, I think that making a big deal out of it is ridiculous and more damaging in the long run. They have every right to stop printing their own books. And it is truly just a few books, some that I had never even heard of.

Now if Dr. Seuss is vilified from here on out and becomes a thing of the past, that would be unfortunate. His books are great for emerging readers and a lot of fun.  I still quote Green Eggs and Ham to my 13yo picky eater occasionally! 

Have any of you ever read the original Raggedy Ann and Andy books?  I picked up a few vintage copies at a book sale one year.  Oh my goodness! I was horrified! There was a line that said, "Last one up the stairs is a cocoa baby!"  😱  I was reading aloud to my kids and had to edit on the fly. Then I promptly threw the books away. I don't know if they are "banned" but I'm certainly glad they are out of print. 

A grandmother loved those creepy raggedy Anne books and gave the kids more than one before I got a look at them. The kids did not like them and were not at all upset when I disappeared them. 
 

Great conversation in this thread, much appreciated. 

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3 hours ago, Roadrunner said:

Are those meant to be pictures of people? I would never have thought that. When I look at the picture I think they depict animals, and I see nothing wrong. Now if they meant to be people, then it’s a very different story. 🥲

Most racist drawings of black people look like animals. That is the point, I would say. And it’s not all old. Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and the Obamas were/are drawn as monkeys.

 

ETA there is a Mammy character in some Raggedy Ann books, such as Beloved Belindy.

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31 minutes ago, Dreamergal said:

Pretty much everything I value in my life has a painful history associated with it from the language English that did not have people who looked like me yet opened the most doors in my life . My religion which came as a side effect of colonization. My own family history has painful association with colonization including a British ancestor without the benefit of a relationship. This is my history. I cannot read parts of the Bible like the slavery verses without cringing. 

I’ve had to grapple with racist imagery in my own family like the gollywog doll which was handed as a heirloom by my grandmother. I knew better so I did better and refused. Some things are black and white, most are gray and that includes pretty much everything I value. Who I am is because of this. I want my children to know our family history, all the good and bad parts. That includes the books we read. I teach them right from wrong using those books. We read all kinds of books, diverse, modern and books their parents read. That is how I choose to do it because of my life experience, how I grew up and what I choose to do with things that are painful and gray. I focus on the good. Otherwise, it will mean refusing part of my identity, losing my religion and many other things I value. Your life experiences may lead you to choose otherwise. What is important to me is what we teach our children going forward. 

 

This is my ex's history (Anglo Indian). He's a novelist. He could deny himself the canon b/c colonization. But why should he? The canon is his as much as anyone's. It's not like he can't have Melville because he's brown.

As a woman, just about everything I read prior to 1960 and after 2010 contains the most outrageous stereotyping of women - so what?! I'm not going to deprive myself of a single scrap of art because of it. 

I just finished a novel which moved me greatly (Earth Abides) and which contained outrageous sex stereotyping, written in the 50's, I think. It's a dystopia, and I've read a lot of them, and this one moved me in a very particular way. I ignored the stereotyping as forming part of the historical context. I think it deserves a place on the shelf, regardless of the sexism. And I'm definitely a feminist. 

Now, I'm pretty open to the idea that Dr Suess doesn't deserve a place on the shelf where space or time is tight - I hated those books, though one kid taught herself to read using Fox in Socks. 

But for me personally, I lean towards as much art being available as possible for as many people.  From all places, from all time periods, including (but not limited to) the now. Including work marred (as work from 2021 will be, at some future time) by authors sharing prejudices common to their times).

 

 

 

 

Edited by Melissa Louise
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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I know this blog post was shared on this forum last summer. It made the rounds in the homeschooling world and I think it opened some eyes. 

When "Really Good" Books Hurt

 

I hadn't seen this blog post before, but it rings true for me. 

I'm a white mother of kids of colour.  Children's literature, especially older classic titles often recommended by classical home ed curricula, including TWTM, felt like such a minefield.  The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, the Little House books, Peter Pan, Swallow and Amazons, Pippi Longstocking, The Cricket in Times Square, The Great Horn Spoon, Twenty-One Balloons, Caddy Woodlawn, The Jungle Book, Just So Stories, the list goes on and on.  You'd be happily reading along, and them Bam! get slapped in the face with a baldly racist phrase or allusion or image, or a dismissive remark about "savages" or "cannibals" or "Indians".  It's really not OK.

Now that my kids are older, it has almost become a bit of a macabre running household joke - books of a certain age will necessarily have at least one problematic racist element. 

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5 hours ago, LucyStoner said:

4 of these books were already essentially out of print.  I would wager Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo were the only ones still selling.  
 

A lot of books go out of print.  
 

As leery as I would be of his entire body of work getting written off as racist, I don’t think letting books go out of print is the same thing as banning them. 
 

I also have 3 of those books and probably two copies of one of them. I can’t be the only one contemplating if I could sell them to pay some bills.  😉

I passed all my Seuss books on about 12 months ago because my kids had outgrown them - definitely had put me in the zoo and scrambled egg super.  I did like Scrambled Egg Super although a remember a couple of cringy moments - I wouldn’t mind if they edited and reprinted it.

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12 minutes ago, Ausmumof3 said:

I passed all my Seuss books on about 12 months ago because my kids had outgrown them - definitely had put me in the zoo and scrambled egg super.  I did like Scrambled Egg Super although a remember a couple of cringy moments - I wouldn’t mind if they edited and reprinted it.

I think it was "If I Ran The Zoo" rather than "Put Me in the Zoo".

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7 hours ago, Spy Car said:

For those who'd like a little fuller appreciation of where Theodor Geisel was coming from:

 

 

 

And, because people are complicated, at the same time he was drawing hideous cartoons that openly depicted Japanese Americans as enemies of the country. I'll post an example that I think will fall easily under fair use, and others are readily searchable: 

Waiting for the signal from home...

When Seuss is presented only with the hazy halo of Nazi-fighter and writer of anti-racist books, all the strong and powerful parts of the story are left out. Like how he could see the evils of Nazism and the dangers of America First, but could not see the evils and dangers of presenting American citizens as enemies to be feared, based only on their race. He could not see that this could actually incite violence against them (I mean, I hope he couldn't see that). 

It leaves out his deep regrets as he realized how wrong he was, and how those regrets, and the lessons he learned, influenced him to attempt to make amends. How, even in the midst of making those amends, even after realizing how his efforts to dehumanize the Japanese people were tragically wrong, he still managed to repeat the same mistakes, perhaps thinking that the humorous and light-hearted manner excused it. 

The complete story of his contradictions and efforts and failures is far more interesting and inspiring, imo. 

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I remember reading "The Cat in the Hat" to my DD many times when she was very young. I do not remember that being racist.  If it is, possibly because of my age I didn't realize that it was racist. 

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4 minutes ago, Lanny said:

I remember reading "The Cat in the Hat" to my DD many times when she was very young. I do not remember that being racist.  If it is, possibly because of my age I didn't realize that it was racist. 

The Cat in the Hat is not racist. It could, perhaps, be withdrawn for causing children to lie to their mother about what they get up to home alone, but that's it. 

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4 hours ago, katilac said:

And, because people are complicated, at the same time he was drawing hideous cartoons that openly depicted Japanese Americans as enemies of the country. I'll post an example that I think will fall easily under fair use, and others are readily searchable: 

Waiting for the signal from home...

When Seuss is presented only with the hazy halo of Nazi-fighter and writer of anti-racist books, all the strong and powerful parts of the story are left out. Like how he could see the evils of Nazism and the dangers of America First, but could not see the evils and dangers of presenting American citizens as enemies to be feared, based only on their race. He could not see that this could actually incite violence against them (I mean, I hope he couldn't see that). 

It leaves out his deep regrets as he realized how wrong he was, and how those regrets, and the lessons he learned, influenced him to attempt to make amends. How, even in the midst of making those amends, even after realizing how his efforts to dehumanize the Japanese people were tragically wrong, he still managed to repeat the same mistakes, perhaps thinking that the humorous and light-hearted manner excused it. 

The complete story of his contradictions and efforts and failures is far more interesting and inspiring, imo. 

As you noted, the man expressed regrets for many of these images in his lifetime. I'd say that the efforts of some to paint the man as nothing but a virulent racist presents the same danger of one-sidedness that you object to yourself. It isn't consistent with his complete life record, despite the existence of art work from early in his career that clearly doesn't pass muster today.

Being a fighter against Nazism, fascism, and the fascist enabling American First movement isn't a "hazy halo," with all due respect.

Bill

 

 

 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

The Cat in the Hat is not racist. It could, perhaps, be withdrawn for causing children to lie to their mother about what they get up to home alone, but that's it. 

You must not have read the articles linked above that directly compare the cat to blackface minstrel shows where the “black” characters would entertain white children with tricks. It goes right over the heads of people not raised on racist entertainment like that, but the argument is very compelling when you compare the Cat to pictures of the author performing in such shows. 

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10 minutes ago, Katy said:

You must not have read the articles linked above that directly compare the cat to blackface minstrel shows where the “black” characters would entertain white children with tricks. It goes right over the heads of people not raised on racist entertainment like that, but the argument is very compelling when you compare the Cat to pictures of the author performing in such shows. 

Oh, for goodness sake. Seriously? Cat in a Hat is now about white children engaging in white supremacist entertainment? Please. 

Luckily here we didn't raise our children on black and white minstrelsy, so I think their self concept as non-white children survived some nonsense verse. 

 

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14 minutes ago, Katy said:

You must not have read the articles linked above that directly compare the cat to blackface minstrel shows where the “black” characters would entertain white children with tricks. It goes right over the heads of people not raised on racist entertainment like that, but the argument is very compelling when you compare the Cat to pictures of the author performing in such shows. 

I read that article and didn't find the argument compelling at all. I don't have a great love for The Cat in the Hat and I don't have any problem with these titles being pulled, but I felt that the argument in that article were weak. One that jumps at at me is well down in it where the author is asserting the idea that the pink ring in the bathtub in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and the Yink who drinks pink ink in (I think) the Foot Book are clearly party of the racist trope of ink drinking to gain color. Then, the author compares a truly racist cartoon of a baby drinking ink and the picture of the Yink drinking ink, saying that the first picture obviously inspired the second as they resemble each other so strongly. The thing is, they don't. Both contain characters driving ink through a straw, but the resemblance end there. Different facial expressions, postures, arrangements on the page, kind of straws, kind of bottle, literally everything is different. The author wants to show that Geisel's racism taints everything he wrote, and I don't think the author succeeds in showing that.

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10 hours ago, Dreamergal said:

Pretty much everything I value in my life has a painful history associated with it from the language English that did not have people who looked like me yet opened the most doors in my life . My religion which came as a side effect of colonization. My own family history has painful association with colonization including a British ancestor without the benefit of a relationship. This is my history. I cannot read parts of the Bible like the slavery verses without cringing. 

I’ve had to grapple with racist imagery in my own family like the gollywog doll which was handed as a heirloom by my grandmother. I knew better so I did better and refused. Some things are black and white, most are gray and that includes pretty much everything I value. Who I am is because of this. I want my children to know our family history, all the good and bad parts. That includes the books we read. I teach them right from wrong using those books. We read all kinds of books, diverse, modern and books their parents read. That is how I choose to do it because of my life experience, how I grew up and what I choose to do with things that are painful and gray. I focus on the good. Otherwise, it will mean refusing part of my identity, losing my religion and many other things I value. Your life experiences may lead you to choose otherwise. What is important to me is what we teach our children going forward.

I agree.  I've been using books to help my kids understand what's wrong and why as long as my kids could understand the words.  It helps when they then hear things from older people they love and respect etc.  It seems a much better approach than pretending I don't know anything about the history of racism.

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C’mon, really? Not reading books rife with racist language or imagery doesn’t mean you’re ignoring racism. For some of us it’s an everyday lived experience so reading about it is simply an exercise in self-flagellation. For those who NEED to read it to believe it exists/existed, I humbly propose that original content from the past isn’t where it’s most likely to be ignored and reading only or mostly from those sources gives the impression that it exists only in the past. It doesn’t.

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2 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

C’mon, really? Not reading books rife with racist language or imagery doesn’t mean you’re ignoring racism. For some of us it’s an everyday lived experience so reading about it is simply an exercise in self-flagellation. For those who NEED to read it to believe it exists/existed, I humbly propose that original content from the past isn’t where it’s most likely to be ignored and reading only or mostly from those sources gives the impression that it exists only in the past. It doesn’t.

I didn't say you need to read it to your kids.

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6 minutes ago, SKL said:

I didn't say you need to read it to your kids.

If you need to have and profit from, on an ongoing basis, hard copy versions of Dr. Seuss and other books vs. digitized bits to illustrate the prevalence of racism, combatting those messages isn’t the goal. Promulgating them is.

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1 hour ago, Xahm said:

I read that article and didn't find the argument compelling at all. I don't have a great love for The Cat in the Hat and I don't have any problem with these titles being pulled, but I felt that the argument in that article were weak. One that jumps at at me is well down in it where the author is asserting the idea that the pink ring in the bathtub in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and the Yink who drinks pink ink in (I think) the Foot Book are clearly party of the racist trope of ink drinking to gain color. Then, the author compares a truly racist cartoon of a baby drinking ink and the picture of the Yink drinking ink, saying that the first picture obviously inspired the second as they resemble each other so strongly. The thing is, they don't. Both contain characters driving ink through a straw, but the resemblance end there. Different facial expressions, postures, arrangements on the page, kind of straws, kind of bottle, literally everything is different. The author wants to show that Geisel's racism taints everything he wrote, and I don't think the author succeeds in showing that.

Especially when you neglect to consider that both books are written to have a very limited, phonetically decodable vocabulary, so lots of words like cat, hat, pink, ink, etc. My teen also pointed out that Seuss drew the art for said books at a time color printing was expensive and limited, so the main character being a black and white anthropomorphic tuxedo cat would have been a cost savings, since the character holds a big percentage of many of the pages. It is likely that had the Cat in the Hat been written later on, there would have been more color range (as you see in later Seuss books). 

 

 

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Just now, Sneezyone said:

If you need to have, on an ongoing basis, hard copy versions of Dr. Seuss and other books vs. digitized bits to illustrate the prevalence of racism, combatting those messages isn’t the goal. Promulgating them is.

I didn't say any of what you are implying.

As someone noted above, literally every book in print from my childhood or before (and many since) have content that reflects wrong ideas of the past.  Yet many of them are still great books for many reasons.

I am not a big fan of Dr. Seuss, though some of his books were useful in teaching words, along with others which also were not 100% reflective of present-day values.

For most, the thing to appreciate about Dr. Seuss was that he was one of the first successful authors to provide early reading materials that were both engaging and effective.  Obviously he was born into an environment that didn't have the most enlightened values, as were most people of his day.  IMO that's not a reason to cancel what he did right.

FTR I have no problem with his racially problematic books going out of print and off the shelves.  In particular, I don't think they need to be accessible to young kids without their parents there to guide their understanding.  I think it's fine for them to exist for study of how things used to be, by people mature enough to do that study.

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18 hours ago, Corraleno said:

This story is a perfect illustration of the "outrage culture" fomented by talk radio and social media. So a minor story noting that the company founded by Seuss's family will no longer reprint a few books that most people have never heard of, gets blown up into "they're banning Dr Seuss!" And now people are paying inflated prices to buy up soon-to-be-OOP books that they've likely never read, and have no real interest in reading, because they saw a tweet or a FB post telling them that their right to read a book with racist stereotypes is being taken away from them!!! and they should be totally outraged about that!!! Apparently some people think that allowing the company that owns the rights to a book to decide not to continue publishing it is actually more offensive than depicting Black people as monkeys.

Yep. Seems many people have lost the ability to read beyond a headline, let alone discern that said headline was crafted specifically to evoke outrage.  

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2 hours ago, Xahm said:

I read that article and didn't find the argument compelling at all. I don't have a great love for The Cat in the Hat and I don't have any problem with these titles being pulled, but I felt that the argument in that article were weak. One that jumps at at me is well down in it where the author is asserting the idea that the pink ring in the bathtub in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and the Yink who drinks pink ink in (I think) the Foot Book are clearly party of the racist trope of ink drinking to gain color. Then, the author compares a truly racist cartoon of a baby drinking ink and the picture of the Yink drinking ink, saying that the first picture obviously inspired the second as they resemble each other so strongly. The thing is, they don't. Both contain characters driving ink through a straw, but the resemblance end there. Different facial expressions, postures, arrangements on the page, kind of straws, kind of bottle, literally everything is different. The author wants to show that Geisel's racism taints everything he wrote, and I don't think the author succeeds in showing that.

And I'll add that this kind of argument is exactly why people wind up nervous about reevaluation of books. There's the reasonable stuff like "every single non-white person in these books is a ridiculous caricature." And there's the "the author is so prejudiced that all of his work is tainted, and it doesn't matter if my argument is a really serious stretch." 

I think it's fine for Geisel's estate to pull these books. That's obviously not censorship in any way. However, some aspects of the cultural climate around this do bother me. There are MANY famous authors who indulged in racist stereotyping. I remember some of them being almost comically bad. Try Chesterton on just about any race. Or Shakespeare. Or if you want some easier reads... how about Jane Austen? Or Agatha Christie? 

All of these people were products of their times. It's not reasonable for us to expect them to conform to our current values. Yes, we should name the racism when we encounter it. And yes, children's books with racist stereotypes are particularly pernicious. But I dunno... some of the rhetoric around this stuff bothers me. 

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