Cooking the Goose of Dr. Seuss? Chicago Public Library Piles Onto the Plate of Publication-Pulling

(AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

If there’s one doctor you shouldn’t want to be right now, it’s Dr. Seuss.

At the moment, the physician-themed kids’ favorite is being bum-rushed.

Near the end of February, I covered the case of Virginia’s Loudoun County Schools.

The district had announced that Read Across America Day — a celebration on the author’s birthday — would be notably Seuss-less from now on.

Loudoun’s official notice:

Realizing that many schools continue to celebrate “Read Across America Day” in partial recognition of [Dr. Seuss’s] birthday, it is important for us to be cognizant of research that may challenge our practice in this regard. As we become more culturally responsive and racially conscious, all building leaders should know that in recent years there has been research revealing radical undertones in the books written and the illustrations drawn by Dr. Seuss.

Previously, a St. Catherine University study whacked at the wordsmith.

Learning for Justice relayed the results:

“Of the 2,240 (identified) human characters, there are forty-five characters of color representing 2% of the total number of human characters.” Of the 45 characters, 43 exhibited behaviors and appearances that align with harmful and stereotypical Orientalist tropes. The remaining two human characters “are identified in the text as ‘African’ and both align with the theme of anti-Blackness.” It’s also important to note that each of the non-white characters is male and that they are all “presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles,” especially in their relation to white characters.

Ebay’s no longer allowing certain Seuss sales:

And you know it’s bad when your own people pull your publications:

Well, now add one more to the critical crew.

As reported by The Daily Wire, the Chicago Public Library has (at least temporarily) removed — not one (fish), not two (fish), but — six books by Seuss while it figures out the next move.

Only time will tell the fate of the following:

  • And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
  • If I Ran the Zoo
  • McElligot’s Pool
  • On Beyond Zebra!
  • Scrambled Eggs Super!
  • The Cat’s Quizzer

Courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times, let’s peruse the problematic:

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street depicts an Asian person wearing a conical hat and holding chopsticks while eating from a bowl. And If I Ran the Zoo includes images of two barefoot African men wearing grass skirts with their hair tied on top of their heads.

Referencing the whole half-dozen, the official Seuss organization released a statement on Seussville.com:

These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

As for the Chicago Public Library, per the Times:

[C]hicago Public Library officials said they’re “deeply committed” to fostering a passion for reading with a diverse collection of books that “provide accurate and current information.” That’s why the system will withhold copies of the Dr. Seuss books from the public once they’re returned while library leaders decide what to do next.

All six of the Dr. Seuss books are checked out, with more people in line to borrow the books after that. The library will honor the holds placed on the books before pausing their circulation, Chicago Public Library spokesperson Patrick Molloy said in an email.

Patrick pointed to importance:

“It is important to recognize that what society understands to be relevant and/or common knowledge changes over time, and so too does the Library and the needs of the communities it serves. Library staff encourage patrons of all ages to engage critically with our materials, but materials that become dated or that foster inaccurate, culturally harmful stereotypes are removed to make space for more current, comprehensive materials.”

Library staff will “continue to evaluate all…resources and consider bias, prejudice, and racism when making decisions about our programming, services and recommendations, in addition to our collections.”

A few years ago, surely most Americans would’ve considered Dr. Seuss beyond the reach of an evolving culture.

But when you’re trying to build a better world, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! 

Could more Seuss books get the boot?

I’d say it’s definitely possible.

From the Seussville statement:

Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.

Progress — it’s a journey, not a destination.

-ALEX

 

See more pieces from me:

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Pepé Le Pew Cut From the New ‘Space Jam,’ and the Scene Was Already a Stab; Is Speedy Next?

Georgetown’s Student Bar Association Asks Law Students to List Their Pronouns in Support of Nonbinary Peers

Find all my RedState work here.

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