Let’s Talk About Dr. Seuss, Racism and Change

Lots of talk about Dr. Seuss being racist and his books being cancelled. Why not talk about how he changed?

Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced they decided to stop publishing six Dr. Seuss books last year because they felt the way the books portrayed people of color was “hurtful and wrong”.

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), at one point in his life, was obviously racist. He created too many drawings to deny it. Born in 1904, times were different. As an adult during World War II, he had strong feelings against the Japanese. He was quoted as saying,

“But right now, when the Japs are planting their hatchets in our skulls, it seems like a hell of a time for us to smile and warble: “Brothers!” It is a rather flabby battle cry. If we want to win, we’ve got to kill Japs, whether it depresses John Haynes Holmes or not. We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left.”

Theodor Seuss Geisel

Did you know he was a Liberal Democrat? Did you also know you’re most likely pronouncing his name wrong? It rhymes with voice.

After the war, his views changed. His artwork and actions consistently showed this.

It continues today. His books have been made into movies. To my knowledge, none of the movies were racist. Actually, they were inclusive. More movies are on the horizon. Oh, The Places You’ll Go (2027), characters from The Cat in The Hat will have their own movie (2026), and a new version of The Cat in the Hat is slated for 2024. Dr. Seuss lives on, with equality. I’m looking forward to watching the movies and seeing what comes next.

What can we learn from this? Geisel changed and, to me, the story is a good one to share to inspire others to be more inclusive (less racist). His books contributed to systematic racism. That may not have been his intent, but it was the result. It’s not about being offended. He changed. Those works no longer reflected his views. The company no longer wants to inject into society views he no longer felt long before his death.

Why would anyone have a problem with this?

Are the people who want the books to keep being published telling the entire story? No. Are they pointing out the racist aspect of these books and explaining why it is wrong? No, partly because many are racist themselves or the child is too young to understand the implications of the truth. Are they mentioning the entire story, that Geisel changed and no longer held those views? No, for the same reasons. This is why systematic racism is hard to stop. It’s embedded in society.

Instead of dwelling on the cancelling of the books, I’m partying about learning he changed. It gives me hope others can change and perhaps, one day, true equality will exist. I’m looking forward to the movies and games coming out. I feel much better embracing these projects since the company made it clear they are trying to be inclusive and racism is wrong.

Why don’t we share the positive story instead of the negative one?

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