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Dr. Seuss Books pulled for racist images


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1 hour ago, Pam in CT said:

re clothing

Right.  I don't think the primary, or secondary, issue is the characters' clothing.

I think it's more around the ape features and the consistent subservience of the roles. Had Asian and black kids been depicted as regular kids with regular features going about regular business, I expect clothing would fade to the tertiary status that I agree with you and murphy it warrants.

To piggyback off of this, Asians were regularly depicted as having no chin, having buck teeth, coke bottle glasses and being actually yellow.  (Not in every image that Seuss did, but in many of them and of course stereotypically these types of images were made by many other artists as well.)  These features were "assigned" to Asians despite the fact that anyone in any race could have an undefined chin, buck teeth etc. 

Africans were depicted as ape-like, with oversized lips, huge bellies and as "savages". 

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censored, banned, burned by governments or mobs...   ...vs discontinued by the author / author's estate   Evidently the Seuss estate *did* want to "make a huge public statement

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 b

I do love Dr Seuss, but when you know better, you do better. Times have changed and it is appropriate to retire offensive stereotypes. 

3 hours ago, SlowRiver said:

 

I also think it's very common now for people to be unable to put books that are older, even a little older, in the context of their time in the most basic kind of way.

I think that is common of 4 and 5 yr olds in general, which is another argument for NOT reading this with small children unable to grasp the context. Not an argument for continuing to expose small kids to images like this. 

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1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I've observed that when people say that we would ignore issues with books like the LIW books because we should place them in the context of their time, those people rarely do the work themselves to understand these books and the history. What they actually want is to enjoy the books as they are without looking deeper. LIW books are on all of the homeschooling lists. How many HSing mothers assign those books to their kids and have discussions about why Laura felt as she did about Native Americans? How many attempt to struggle with the propagandistic elements of those books. 

 

I can't speak for others, but I certainly did.  My kids are biologically Native American, so it was an important discussion for that reason, but I also do this with all kinds of books reflecting how people treated each other in history (and in the present).

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15 hours ago, Spy Car said:

She (the mom) would blast Wagner. I was immediate enamoured with the music, and often ditched my girlfriend (pretending I needed to use the restroom) only to be found hours later sitting with her mom, in auditory ecstasy.

Poor girlfriend! 😉 

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3 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

re "publicity," whose intent is presumed to be good, vs whose motives are fair game to impugn

Perhaps so. Perhaps the foundation was "looking for publicity" to raise awareness about the harm racist images can evoke, even if the original intent at the time of the images' creation was not to do so.

That is, after all, what the statement says.

To label that message as "self-centered" and "disingenuous" publicity is a bit... jarring. As a general matter, are you not on Team Thou Shalt Not Impugn Other Folks' Intent (as many on this board, to which you are evidently new, are)? 

Or is there something specific about foundations, or publishers, that gives rise to your cynicism here?

Or is there something specific about the foundation's expressed concern for the harm caused by racist images that gives rise to your cynicism here?

 

 

re babies v bathwater

I don't know if you've yet had a chance to read the parts about The Canon upthread; or about the distinction between government bans, mob burnings, or copyright holders' own decisions to cease publication for whatever reasons they choose.

All these distinctions matter.

 

 

re conflation of Seuss Foundation decision with "larger question"

This really puzzles me. How do you see Seuss pulling Seuss as "related" to universities "suppressing" books?

 

 

 


 

 

When there is a larger pattern, in both universities and in publishing, and also particularly within children's publishing, of demanding books not be published, boycotting publishers, evicerating authors on Twitter, and deplatforming authors, I'm not sure how a statement like the one that's been made here can avoid being seen within that context.

This is a huge issue in publishing generally, even if this was actually just totally unrelated, it would always be seen within the context of those things.

 

I am quite aware of the different ways books (and people) can be suppressed, outright government bans are not the only concerning way that can happen. Did you read the document posted upthread signed by the APA, librarians association, and several others?

As for why I am suspicious of the motives of the family, cynicism about capitalism is top of the list I suppose. But also - there was no need. As several people have pointed out, books go out of print all the time when they fall out of fashion or no longer fit social norms, or often because they don't contain much that is of value. They slip into obscurity. Most of these are books that weren't among the most popular and could easily have gone out of print (though at least one I think is among his more interesting books, but not popular so still unlikely to be reprinted.) There is something rather odd about announcing not reprinting a book you wouldn't reprint anyway.

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I didn't find it remotely difficult to contextualize books with my preschooler/kindergarteners/primary schoolers, because that is a core task in reading aloud to children. 

I didn't read aloud any of the Suess books, but many books published prior to say, 1990, contain outrageous sexism. Stop, ask, explain discuss. This is how one reads aloud. 

If I were to only read aloud books that contained images of girls and women that were enlightened, gosh, we wouldn't have had a whole lot to read outside an extremely narrow era. So you take what is good, despite being if it's time, and you make it even better by walking through it with the child. 

I'm surprised more teachers don't do this, but hey, ho, there's a reason I think children under 7 shouldn't be in schools. 

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

RE the bolded text (bolded by me) - I just read a conversation on a homeschooling FB group about a child who was exposed to a pop culture song. Why the criticism of the inability of modern people to put old books in the "context of their time" and not popular songs? I've been a part of conservative religious circles for a long time and I've heard so many discussions about keeping certain books, movies, and songs from our children. A parent gasped when I mentioned that I did yoga with my daughter. Another mother criticized me for letting DD watch Sofia the First because it had magic. I've been a part of very earnest discussions about whether it was appropriate to allow our kids to read the Harry Potter books. 

What's the message sent when someone objects to a book with an LGBTQ character but dismisses concerns about a book with a problematic portrayal of non-white characters? 

And speaking of placing a book in the context of its time, I'm currently reading Prairie Fires which is a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up on the LIW books but did not share them with DD. Prairie Fires is a fascinating book because it tells LIW's real life story (not the curated version of her life told in her books) and the history happening at the time. 

I've observed that when people say that we would ignore issues with books like the LIW books because we should place them in the context of their time, those people rarely do the work themselves to understand these books and the history. What they actually want is to enjoy the books as they are without looking deeper. LIW books are on all of the homeschooling lists. How many HSing mothers assign those books to their kids and have discussions about why Laura felt as she did about Native Americans? How many attempt to struggle with the propagandistic elements of those books. 

 

Well, because I am, in fact, socially liberal, I criticize BOTH. 

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

RE the bolded text (bolded by me) - I just read a conversation on a homeschooling FB group about a child who was exposed to a pop culture song. Why the criticism of the inability of modern people to put old books in the "context of their time" and not popular songs? I've been a part of conservative religious circles for a long time and I've heard so many discussions about keeping certain books, movies, and songs from our children. A parent gasped when I mentioned that I did yoga with my daughter. Another mother criticized me for letting DD watch Sofia the First because it had magic. I've been a part of very earnest discussions about whether it was appropriate to allow our kids to read the Harry Potter books. 

What's the message sent when someone objects to a book with an LGBTQ character but dismisses concerns about a book with a problematic portrayal of non-white characters? 

And speaking of placing a book in the context of its time, I'm currently reading Prairie Fires which is a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up on the LIW books but did not share them with DD. Prairie Fires is a fascinating book because it tells LIW's real life story (not the curated version of her life told in her books) and the history happening at the time. 

I've observed that when people say that we would ignore issues with books like the LIW books because we should place them in the context of their time, those people rarely do the work themselves to understand these books and the history. What they actually want is to enjoy the books as they are without looking deeper. LIW books are on all of the homeschooling lists. How many HSing mothers assign those books to their kids and have discussions about why Laura felt as she did about Native Americans? How many attempt to struggle with the propagandistic elements of those books. 

 

It's difficult to comment on the pop song without knowing the content.

 

But thee seems to be a pretty clear difference between disallowing a book to be reprinted, and saying everyone needs to read it to their kids, and a difference again  from being worried about kids exposed to explicit imagery on film or in a song.

FWIW I think not allowing kids to read books because they have magic in them is dumb, and I also think there is no good reason to avoid the LIW books. But it's not useful to claim there is one rule for every instance.

My comment was specific - there is in many cases at the moment a very shallow and reactionary type of approach to deciding an image or text is racist, even ones aimed at children. The image of the supposedly Chinese character in the parade is an example of that, and it happens because people lack discernment. The equivalent is a Chinese book for kids, written 50 years ago and set in a small town where Europeans would be a rare sight, and a boy imagines a parade with an American cowboy, or an English gentleman in a top hat and spats - romantic images from a generation ago. It's in a cartoon style because all of the books are.

I suspect responses would be better if the targets were more carefully chosen, and less performative.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

RE the bolded text (bolded by me) - I just read a conversation on a homeschooling FB group about a child who was exposed to a pop culture song. Why the criticism of the inability of modern people to put old books in the "context of their time" and not popular songs? I've been a part of conservative religious circles for a long time and I've heard so many discussions about keeping certain books, movies, and songs from our children. A parent gasped when I mentioned that I did yoga with my daughter. Another mother criticized me for letting DD watch Sofia the First because it had magic. I've been a part of very earnest discussions about whether it was appropriate to allow our kids to read the Harry Potter books. 

What's the message sent when someone objects to a book with an LGBTQ character but dismisses concerns about a book with a problematic portrayal of non-white characters? 

And speaking of placing a book in the context of its time, I'm currently reading Prairie Fires which is a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up on the LIW books but did not share them with DD. Prairie Fires is a fascinating book because it tells LIW's real life story (not the curated version of her life told in her books) and the history happening at the time. 

I've observed that when people say that we would ignore issues with books like the LIW books because we should place them in the context of their time, those people rarely do the work themselves to understand these books and the history. What they actually want is to enjoy the books as they are without looking deeper. LIW books are on all of the homeschooling lists. How many HSing mothers assign those books to their kids and have discussions about why Laura felt as she did about Native Americans? How many attempt to struggle with the propagandistic elements of those books. 

 

Well, apparently I'm a unicorn. 

LHP read, racism discussed, Louise Erdrich texts read to show a non-white perspective. 

You know what harmed my (mixed) kids? Actual anti-Indian prejudice in the world. Things people say and do. Or fail to say or do. Mostly in the realm of micro-aggressions, because that can be the fate of passing kids - not fair enough to avoid prejudice, not dark enough to be able to point to 'real' harm. Just a thousand tiny paper cuts. 

Do you know what didn't harm them? Exposure to literature. 

Nor pop music with obscene lyrics, I hasten to add. They apparently survived a well meaning but clueless gift.of a Lady Gaga album at 10/11.

 

 

 

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15 minutes ago, SlowRiver said:

My comment was specific - there is in many cases at the moment a very shallow and reactionary type of approach to deciding an image or text is racist, even ones aimed at children. The image of the supposedly Chinese character in the parade is an example of that, and it happens because people lack discernment.

Are you suggesting that Chinese people who object to stereotypical images like these are lacking in discernment? 

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8 minutes ago, SlowRiver said:

It's difficult to comment on the pop song without knowing the content.

 

But thee seems to be a pretty clear difference between disallowing a book to be reprinted, and saying everyone needs to read it to their kids, and a difference again  from being worried about kids exposed to explicit imagery on film or in a song.

FWIW I think not allowing kids to read books because they have magic in them is dumb, and I also think there is no good reason to avoid the LIW books. But it's not useful to claim there is one rule for every instance.

My comment was specific - there is in many cases at the moment a very shallow and reactionary type of approach to deciding an image or text is racist, even ones aimed at children. The image of the supposedly Chinese character in the parade is an example of that, and it happens because people lack discernment. The equivalent is a Chinese book for kids, written 50 years ago and set in a small town where Europeans would be a rare sight, and a boy imagines a parade with an American cowboy, or an English gentleman in a top hat and spats - romantic images from a generation ago. It's in a cartoon style because all of the books are.

I suspect responses would be better if the targets were more carefully chosen, and less performative.

 

 

First, no one has "disallowed" these books to be published. The author's estate chose to stop publishing them. I agree that there is not one rule to follow here. 

I also agree that discernment is important and is sometimes lacking today. However, there are thousands of children's books so why choose a book that requires the work of discernment? There are classics that are worth that effort but these books are not classics. 

I think the LIW books are probably also worth the effort even though I disagree that they are classics. To be clear, I did not keep them from my daughter. In fact, my Little House books from the 1970s are on our shelves. My daughter was never interested in books set in that period and I didn't force her to read them. 

We're in a period where we are re-evaluating the canon. That's a good thing. The canon should always be evolving. The perspectives of non-white are being taken more seriously than before. Many of us are re-evaluating many of our assumptions about race and gender. I suspect that is why some of the criticisms of classic books are shallow and reactive today. I think we are somewhat in an adolescent period of rejecting the past. By we, I mean white Americans. Maturity will come with time. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

RE the bolded text (bolded by me) - I just read a conversation on a homeschooling FB group about a child who was exposed to a pop culture song. Why the criticism of the inability of modern people to put old books in the "context of their time" and not popular songs? I've been a part of conservative religious circles for a long time and I've heard so many discussions about keeping certain books, movies, and songs from our children. A parent gasped when I mentioned that I did yoga with my daughter. Another mother criticized me for letting DD watch Sofia the First because it had magic. I've been a part of very earnest discussions about whether it was appropriate to allow our kids to read the Harry Potter books. 

What's the message sent when someone objects to a book with an LGBTQ character but dismisses concerns about a book with a problematic portrayal of non-white characters? 

And speaking of placing a book in the context of its time, I'm currently reading Prairie Fires which is a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up on the LIW books but did not share them with DD. Prairie Fires is a fascinating book because it tells LIW's real life story (not the curated version of her life told in her books) and the history happening at the time. 

I've observed that when people say that we would ignore issues with books like the LIW books because we should place them in the context of their time, those people rarely do the work themselves to understand these books and the history. What they actually want is to enjoy the books as they are without looking deeper. LIW books are on all of the homeschooling lists. How many HSing mothers assign those books to their kids and have discussions about why Laura felt as she did about Native Americans? How many attempt to struggle with the propagandistic elements of those books. 

 

I can only speak for myself. I grew up in a time when we had state television only, so one channel from 6PM to 10 PM. Cable and MTV came only when I was in my late teens. So books were the ones I learned from. My family did not know what  age appropriate books were, so to improve my English they used two library memberships, the British and American because I was book mad. I read voraciously, they would drop me off in the morning and pick me up at lunch because you could not check out a lot of books. So I sat on the floor sometimes because there were so many kids like me who loved books and all the chairs were occupied and we travelled the world through the pages of a book.

My ideas of what a girl should be like were contrary to what my culture said and because I loved Elizabeth Bennet  that idea changed my life according to me. We have orphanages in the country I come from, I did not know what happened in there. One of the first books I read which had orphans I remember is Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. The line "please sir can I have some more" taught me about children not being given enough food. Jane Eyre taught me more. I was surrounded by poor children and though we would give alms to them, we did not talk about that. No one told me about the treatment of them except through books. We had teachers who taught us that through books and that led us to volunteering as teens. My grandparents and parents did not know English well, they were more people who did works of charity.  I had no one to discuss books with at home.

When I had a home of my own and children, I wanted to recreate that atmosphere with books. But the difference is, in addition to reading to our kids, DH and I talk about what we read. I believe in being the change I want to be, modeling to my children what I what them to follow.

.We discuss all books, no book is out of bounds for us. I come from a place where being gay was illegal until 2 or 3 years ago, so I absolutely want to talk about it with my kids because I want them to know as it could be them for all I know. I do not believe in hiding things from them to "protect" them and doing it in an age appropriate way. I try to do my best, knowing I will fall short. But my kids will know the world in all it's beauty and ugliness, past and present and though we employ other means like food, travel, movies, music, language to show them the world. the best way I know is through books.

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18 hours ago, Murphy101 said:

Well you would be disappointed with that expectation then.  

My husband and I have had people calling or visiting Oklahoma for the first time for business ask where all the teepees are bc they thought we had real indians here.  I mean we do have lots of native Americans here, but dude Oklahoma is not as seen on the Lone Ranger?!

A lot of people do not meet someone different from themselves and ask questions.  A lot of people who travel, even heavily, do not want to learn a single thing about the places they go beyond where to get American food and not have to deal with native issues. It’s a bizarre and weird thing to me but I’ve traveled just enough to know it is true for the majority of people.

I don’t mind being ignorant bc I’m happy to learn and discuss all kinds of things to reduce it. I didn’t know about slanted eyes.  Or that the Chinese man was not even wearing Chinese items. Or that someone else views this as a boy imagining weird outsiders who can’t possibly belong in his town. Now I do.  Okie dokie.🙂

 

 

18 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

That is very strange to me. And sad. 

Just chiming in to say @Murphy101's experience is similar to mine.  A lot of America is locked in their own little bubble.  And it is not just rural either.  I have cousins who were raised in Philadelphia and they are as uneducated culturally as they come.

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4 hours ago, MercyA said:

Are you suggesting that Chinese people who object to stereotypical images like these are lacking in discernment? 

This is rather begging the question, don't you think?

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1 hour ago, SlowRiver said:

This is rather begging the question, don't you think?

I don't think so. I genuinely want to know what you think. Take Dr. Seuss out of it. If an ethnic group makes it known that certain types of depictions of their community are stereotypical, hurtful, and offensive to them, do you consider that a lack of discernment on their part? 

I don't consider myself an expert on these things by any means. I'm ashamed to say I've only recently started paying better attention.

It just seems to me that people in positions of power or privilege shouldn't be lecturing minorities on what should or shouldn't offend them.

Edited by MercyA
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9 minutes ago, MercyA said:

 

It just seems to me that people in positions of power shouldn't be lecturing minorities on what should or shouldn't offend them.

This kind of language doesn't make sense in many contexts. Who are the 'people in power' lecturing minorities in this thread ? Is the person you are responding to a person of power? How do you know that? What does her power consist of? 

This framing is...riddled with its own bias. 

A clearer way to say this is 'I prefer to defer to people of Chinese background on the matter of Suess' stereotypical image of a Chinese man.'

Fair enough, I tend to think that way too, though acknowledging that 'Chinese background' is not a hive Mind and there is as much diversity of thought in Chinese and Chinese-heritage culture as any other. To assume a lack of heterodox thought in other cultures is itself a subtle form of racism. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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49 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

This kind of language doesn't make sense in many contexts. Who are the 'people in power' lecturing minorities in this thread ? Is the person you are responding to a person of power? How do you know that? What does her power consist of? 

This framing is...riddled with its own bias. 

A clearer way to say this is 'I prefer to defer to people of Chinese background on the matter of Suess' stereotypical image of a Chinese man.'

Fair enough, I tend to think that way too, though acknowledging that 'Chinese background' is not a hive Mind and there is as much diversity of thought in Chinese and Chinese-heritage culture as any other. To assume a lack of heterodox thought in other cultures is itself a subtle form of racism. 

Yes, your phrasing is better. 🙂  And, yes, I shouldn't assume I know anything about new posters other than what they've said themselves. 

It does seem to me that the vast majority of people expressing disapproval of the Seuss company's decision are white. It's strange to me when white people seem to be saying Chinese people and black people shouldn't be so offended by the imagery in the book--and that they, white people, somehow know better. It's an easy thing for them to say, being in a position of privilege (maybe privilege is a better word than power?) and not being depicted stereotypically in the books themselves. 

Thank you for your thoughts. I know you have a lot more experience thinking about these issues than me.  

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5 minutes ago, MercyA said:

Yes, your phrasing is better. 🙂  And, yes, I shouldn't assume I know anything about new posters other than what they've said themselves. Perhaps I will edit my post.

It does seem to me that the vast majority of people expressing disapproval of the Seuss company's decision are white. It's strange to me when white people seem to saying Chinese people and black people shouldn't be offended by the imagery in the book--and that they, white people, somehow know better. It's an easy thing for them to say, being in a position of privilege (maybe privilege is a better word than power?) and not being depicted stereotypically in the books themselves. 

Thank you for your thoughts. I know you have a lot more experience thinking about these issues than me.  

 

Offence is an interesting concept. I know non-white people who would understand the 'Chinaman' image to be a stereotype, one that has the capacity to offend. Who would also agree that it's not really a good choice for school libraries, given existing anti-Asian prejudice and stereotyping. Who also don't agree with eBay restricting sale of the book. Who are not personally offended that an image, reflecting ideas and stereotypes of the time, exists. Who think it's amusing to watch white women act like the Suess estate removing some lesser Suess is a radical act of social justice.

Of course, there are people who are not white who are offended by the image, in the here and now, think restricting sales of such images is a net positive, and feel each small step towards rectifying stereotypes children are exposed to add up to progress on social justice issues. 

What I really dislike in this issue is the narrowing of opinion to The Right One and The Heretical One. 

The issue of how we deal with the fact that the art of other eras is influenced by its own context is an interesting one, with many potentially positive answers. 

Would I buy and read these Suess titles? No. Would I replace them in a school library? No. Do I think some of the images are offensive, not only today but also at the time? I certainly do. Do I think readers should be able to make an informed choice as to what they read their children, with no archaic and racist surprises? I do. 

In large part, my actions in regards to the books would align with yours. 

I just...idk...think how we deal with literature is worth thinking through, from multiple perspectives. 

 

 

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29 minutes ago, MercyA said:

Yes, your phrasing is better. 🙂

It does seem to me that the vast majority of people expressing disapproval of the Seuss company's decision are white. 

I don't know how one would quantify this. 

Idk, Mercy, all cultures have and express stereotypes and prejudices. Within those cultures, endless personalities and perspectives.

 

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19 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

I don't know how one would quantify this. 

I'm sure I can't with absolute certainty. I'm thinking for one of the racial makeup of the news network complaining most loudly and continually about Seuss Enterprise's decision, and the racial makeup of their viewers. 

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28 minutes ago, MercyA said:

I'm sure I can't with absolute certainty. I'm thinking for one of the racial makeup of the news network complaining most loudly and continually about Seuss Enterprise's decision, and the racial makeup of their viewers. 

Ok. Well, I don't know anything about Fox TV.

The somewhat dissenting article I posted - not all of which I agreed with, btw - was from a Biden voting Russian-Jewish American journalist who is politically liberal. Fox News may be louder than some of the less popular voices from the centre and left, but those voices exist, all the same. 

 

Edited by Melissa Louise
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We have a controversial book on the shelf where I was working. There’s a disclaimer in the front stating they are aware. The book depicts some racist things centering around a little black boy. It’s called Little Black Sambo. I discussed the book with a former librarian. She felt it should stay because of the history to show people what kinds of things were published. She happens to be black. My knee jerk recreation was but do we really want this here? After seeing the disclaimer I decided to leave it. No one has checked it out in many years. I read it in the building so may have scanned it as used or quarantined. Either that or I set it aside for quarantine without scanning it. Then put it back on the shelf a week later. 
 

I haven’t read all the replies. I know at one point I heard about the Dr Suess controversy in the past, but that he’d supposedly admitted errors in his ways. Also, I do believe the story of the creatures with stars on bellies vs no stars on bellies was meant to share a message about inclusivity. So to a degree you could say I’d forgiven his past transgressions to the point of “eh maybe don’t shun all his stuff” but just don’t promote/condone the controversial work. 

There’s a list of “read alikes” some of which were listed in an anti racism traveling display that came to some of our branches. I ordered “I Am Enough.” 

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Weirdly, the actual storyline of Little Black Sambo isn't the problem - it's just that the book was saddled with some very unfortunate pictures (not done by Bannerman, who anyway set the book in India where she lived) and the names are... again, unfortunate.

I know of at least three rewrites. One of them I can never remember the name of, but the other two are fairly well-known - Sam and the Tigers (objectively the superior book, and it also has an afterword explaining the racist history of the original book with the complex reality of it often being the only book Black children saw that depicted them as heroic in any way shape and form and why the author/illustrator decided to go for an updated rewrite) and The Story of Little Baba-ji, which kept the original text intact other than swapping out the names and then added updated, very India-centric illustrations.

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2 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

Weirdly, the actual storyline of Little Black Sambo isn't the problem - it's just that the book was saddled with some very unfortunate pictures (not done by Bannerman, who anyway set the book in India where she lived) and the names are... again, unfortunate.

I know of at least three rewrites. One of them I can never remember the name of, but the other two are fairly well-known - Sam and the Tigers (objectively the superior book, and it also has an afterword explaining the racist history of the original book with the complex reality of it often being the only book Black children saw that depicted them as heroic in any way shape and form and why the author/illustrator decided to go for an updated rewrite) and The Story of Little Baba-ji, which kept the original text intact other than swapping out the names and then added updated, very India-centric illustrations.

Yes I vaguely remember the names being an issue and definitely art. The story was weird? but not what I expected. 

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Sorry, but the incorrect spelling of SEUSS is driving me nuts. Some seem to insist it’s SUESS which makes me think people are saying he’s SUS, ala the video game Among Us.

Edited by Elfknitter.#
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13 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

To piggyback off of this, Asians were regularly depicted as having no chin, having buck teeth, coke bottle glasses and being actually yellow.  (Not in every image that Seuss did, but in many of them and of course stereotypically these types of images were made by many other artists as well.)  These features were "assigned" to Asians despite the fact that anyone in any race could have an undefined chin, buck teeth etc. 

Africans were depicted as ape-like, with oversized lips, huge bellies and as "savages". 

Yes, I still can’t get over those pictures. 
 

This discussion is bringing back memories. I was taught in school (not in America) that there were four races - white, black, yellow, and red. I remember posters with people on these colors holding hands to show friendship of nations. Wow, I am old. 

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3 hours ago, Elfknitter.# said:

Sorry, but the incorrect spelling of SEUSS is driving me nuts. Some seem to insist it’s SUESS which makes me think people are saying he’s SUS, ala the video game Among Us.

Lol, my bad.

 

Edited by Melissa Louise
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On 3/5/2021 at 12:48 AM, Spy Car said:

For me it was listening to Wagner. Aside from my exposure via Bugs Bunny as a kid, my introduction to the music of Richard Wagner came though the mother of a high school girlfriend who was a German Jewish intellectual who fled just in time.

She (the mom) would blast Wagner. I was immediate enamoured with the music, and often ditched my girlfriend (pretending I needed to use the restroom) only to be found hours later sitting with her mom, in auditory ecstasy.

Then I became aware of Wagner's virulent anti-Semitism and pretty much shut him out of my life for 45 years. I suppose I may have had a copy or two of the Ring that that I listened to (while feeling guilty about it) but that was about it.

As I was about to hit 60 I kind of thought "to heck with it," I can reconcile that fact that someone can be a genius and create works of incomparable beauty while having some pretty ugly aspects to their characters.

Bill

Interesting! I've never had such a strong reaction, for some reason. I don't know why... possibly some element of naïveté, to be honest. It all felt in the past. Not sure why, come to think of it -- maybe just the act of moving from a much more ostentatiously anti-Semitic country like Ukraine to Canada, where people weren't nearly as bad or at least as open about it. 

Anyway, I thought of this thread recently! I had been looking for a new mystery series, so I bought a Dorothy Sayers novel to try. And it is so far very heavily populated by Jews, or at least by Jewish stereotypes 😛. I always just sigh and ignore it. It never feels relevant to my own life, anyway. 

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9 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

Ok. Well, I don't know anything about Fox TV.

The somewhat dissenting article I posted - not all of which I agreed with, btw - was from a Biden voting Russian-Jewish American journalist who is politically liberal. Fox News may be louder than some of the less popular voices from the centre and left, but those voices exist, all the same. 

 

There is no small blurring of the lines between Russian and Jewish groups in this country on issues of this nature.

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10 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

 

Offence is an interesting concept. I know non-white people who would understand the 'Chinaman' image to be a stereotype, one that has the capacity to offend. Who would also agree that it's not really a good choice for school libraries, given existing anti-Asian prejudice and stereotyping. Who also don't agree with eBay restricting sale of the book. Who are not personally offended that an image, reflecting ideas and stereotypes of the time, exists. Who think it's amusing to watch white women act like the Suess estate removing some lesser Suess is a radical act of social justice.

Of course, there are people who are not white who are offended by the image, in the here and now, think restricting sales of such images is a net positive, and feel each small step towards rectifying stereotypes children are exposed to add up to progress on social justice issues. 

What I really dislike in this issue is the narrowing of opinion to The Right One and The Heretical One. 

The issue of how we deal with the fact that the art of other eras is influenced by its own context is an interesting one, with many potentially positive answers. 

Would I buy and read these Suess titles? No. Would I replace them in a school library? No. Do I think some of the images are offensive, not only today but also at the time? I certainly do. Do I think readers should be able to make an informed choice as to what they read their children, with no archaic and racist surprises? I do. 

In large part, my actions in regards to the books would align with yours. 

I just...idk...think how we deal with literature is worth thinking through, from multiple perspectives. 

 

 

There is no right opinion or wrong one but there are clearly pluralities of thought that do not support the continued promotion of these stereotypes, which is distinguished from the preservation of history by location (library/archive) and ongoing profit.

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1 minute ago, Not_a_Number said:

What are you considering to be "conservative Jewish groups"? 

AIPAC, among others.

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1 minute ago, Sneezyone said:

AIPAC, among others.

Got it. 

I really don't know that any of this is causal. Most Russian Jews I know of my mother's generation are incredibly skeptical of left-wing politics. It's a bit hard to blame them. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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2 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Got it. 

I really don't know that any of this is causal. Most Russian Jews I know of my mother's generation are incredibly skeptical of left-wing politics. It's a bit hard to blame them. 

Didn’t say it was causal (e.g,. One is the result of the other), or intentional, just that they regularly make common cause on these issues.

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1 minute ago, Sneezyone said:

Didn’t say it was causal (e.g,. One is the result of the other), or intentional, just that they regularly make common cause on these issues.

Yeah, I'm not surprised. Russian Jews are a receptive audience. 

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3 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Yeah, I'm not surprised. Russian Jews are a receptive audience. 

Neither am I but I wouldn’t be holding this group out as an example of mainstream thought within minority communities as a result.

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3 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

Neither am I but I wouldn’t be holding this group out as an example of mainstream thought within minority communities as a result.

I generally don't find "minority" to be all that useful a grouping, frankly. Minority communities are very diverse. 

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2 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I generally don't find "minority" to be all that useful a grouping, frankly. Minority communities are very diverse. 

I do. Yes, they are diverse but there are also unifying characteristics and cultural experiences that make group identification not only feasible but, in some cases, desirable. If one hasn’t received any benefits from that identification, which I don’t think applies to anyone really, I can see how that would seem less useful.

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7 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

Weirdly, the actual storyline of Little Black Sambo isn't the problem - it's just that the book was saddled with some very unfortunate pictures (not done by Bannerman, who anyway set the book in India where she lived) and the names are... again, unfortunate.

Yes. I have to admit it was one of my favorite books when I was a child. We had a 60's version (this one) and Sambo and his family were clearly illustrated as Indian. It should have been retitled for sure. I just perused some older versions of the book and the illustrations were horrible. 😧

I loved pancakes, and the stacks of pancakes made for Sambo were my favorite part. I also delighted in his cleverness in outwitting the tigers. 

I thought of the book many times while reading this thread. It's interesting how we (speaking of myself here) immediately want to defend anything that has been special to us. It's human nature.

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Just now, Sneezyone said:

I do. Yes, they are diverse but there are also unifying characteristics and cultural experiences that make group identification not only feasible but, in some cases, desirable. If one hasn’t received any benefits from that identification, which I don’t think applies to anyone really, I can see how that would seem less useful.

I think it's useful for people to think of themselves as belonging to SPECIFIC minority communities. But no, I don't think there is a ton in common between all the different minorities, except a certain level of alienation from mainstream culture. 

For example, the NYC minority communities are in deep disagreement about the issue of testing. For some strange reason, the Asian communities seem to feel differently about it than some other communities 😉 . 

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5 hours ago, Roadrunner said:

This discussion is bringing back memories. I was taught in school (not in America) that there were four races - white, black, yellow, and red. I remember posters with people on these colors holding hands to show friendship of nations. Wow, I am old. 

If you're old, so am I. One of the songs we sang the most in Vacation Bible School and church was Jesus Loves the Little Children: "red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight." 

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1 minute ago, Not_a_Number said:

I think it's useful for people to think of themselves as belonging to SPECIFIC minority communities. But no, I don't think there is a ton in common between all the different minorities, except a certain level of alienation from mainstream culture. 

For example, the NYC minority communities are in deep disagreement about the issue of testing. For some strange reason, the Asian communities seem to feel differently about it than some other communities 😉 . 

Alienation is, indeed, the commonality. Groups that DO NOT feel alienated and are benefiting from the status quo will not share the same views. Your example is not illustrating what you think it is.

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5 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

Alienation is, indeed, the commonality. Groups that DO NOT feel alienated and are benefiting from the status quo will not share the same views. Your example is not illustrating what you think it is.

I don't think it's reasonable to say that poor Asian immigrants aren't in any way alienated, especially in the age of COVID. They just happen to be academically focused, so in this SPECIFIC way, they benefit from the status quo. But there are certainly ways in which Asians do not benefit from it, too. 

I think "minority" is a political grouping -- it's an alliance of people with very disparate values and needs. What they have in common is, as you say, a certain amount of alienation from mainstream culture, partially because they've experienced prejudice. Like all alliances, this one is fragile -- when the goals coincide, they stick together. When they do not, they fall apart. 

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