As an English major, parent, and avid reader I am surprised more people haven’t asked for my thoughts on the publishers of the works of Dr. Seuss discontinuing six of his works. My thoughts on it are fairly simple. This wasn’t the government banning his books or going all Fahrenheit 451 and burning all copies of these works in existence. This was a private publishing company saying they weren’t going to publish a handful of Dr. Seuss’s works in the name of social responsibility.
And it is socially responsible. I say this as a parent. A parent that wants his children to be better than himself. We live in a world where we are full of unconscious biases. Where we may not even be aware of the harm we cause others. We ourselves may not be racists or act purposefully racist but we do not need to in order to benefit from systemic or institutionalized racism. I work as a pet sitter. I go into other people’s home for a living. It is rare that I am met with any sort of suspicion by clients or neighbors and it is assumed I belong in any neighborhood I am in. But we have seen numerous instances of people of color being reported as suspicious individuals or worse for entering their own home, operating a lawncare business, watching birds, working as a realtor, or any number of common daily occurrences in a neighborhood.
Systemic or institutionalized racism isn’t something we see or experience unless we are the target. The problem of social change and social justice is so large and overwhelming that it makes me feel small, tiny, insignificant. I am powerless to fight the issues that plague our society through any other method than raising my children to be better, and the discontinuing of these works of Dr. Seuss help.
Thanks to their aunt our boys are members of the Dr. Seuss book club. One of the first books we got was Mulberry Street which is one of the discontinued works. As I had not heard of this Dr. Seuss book I was very excited to read it to them, and I did. Then I came across the antiquated racial term for which it was discontinued. Luckily I wasn’t too much in a rhythm and was able to self censor but it would have been much better if I didn’t have to dodge that landmine at all.
As an English major I am abjectly against censorship. Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and other works that contain racist terms should be read in their original state, but those are adult books meant to be read by someone of a more mature mind who has the ability to reason for themselves. There is a big difference between censorship of works meant to be read by adults or older students and those meant to be read to children or to help children learn to read on their own. These antiquated racial terms and sentiments are landmines I wish not to have to dodge while reading to my children.
If we want to talk about Dr. Seuss and censorship let’s talk about The Lorax being banned because it portrays the logging industry in a poor light and politicians were worried that children would be upset and want to fight against climate change. Dr. Seuss was in more than a few ways an early social justice warrior. I would say that the world would be a much better place if more people took to heart the lessons of The Lorax and Horton Hears a Who, and understood that, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”