Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Students, alumni react to Dr. Seuss being accused of racism

<p>Some Dr. Seuss books sit on a shelf Monday at the Monroe County Public Library. Six of the author&#x27;s books were pulled from further publication on March 2 for using racist depictions of Black and Asian people. </p>

Some Dr. Seuss books sit on a shelf Monday at the Monroe County Public Library. Six of the author's books were pulled from further publication on March 2 for using racist depictions of Black and Asian people.

From depicting Black people as monkeys to having Asian people carrying a man and large animal by the top of their heads, Dr. Seuss’s choice of racist imagery in some of his books have received major attention

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which owns Dr. Seuss’s work, released a statement March 2 in support of removing these publications from shelves and stated it is working to create a more inclusive environment for its readers.

A 2019 study went into detail about the lengths in which Dr. Seuss has used racist imagery within his works, including racist political cartoons, advertisements for newspapers and the US government. 

Within the above study, it is also stated Dr. Seuss’s works spanned multiple generations from his first minstrel show in 1921 to his last published piece in 1991. His work and contributions have been timeless, however, within his lifetime he never acknowledged or apologized for his racist acts. 

Dr. Seuss has been trending on Twitter due to six of his books being pulled from further publication because of racist portrayals of Black and Asian culture and identity. 

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot's Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat's Quizzer” are the publications being pulled from shelves, due to allegations of racism. 

Dr. Seuss played a positive role in the lives of many, including students in attendance here at IU. 

IU junior Will Clawson said while he grew up reading Dr. Seuss, he was unaware of Seuss’s racist books and imagery but is not surprised that they exist. 

The news of Dr. Seuss’s racism came as a surprise to many because, until recently, these topics surrounding race had not been widely discussed. 

Senior Dayjah Lee said she was particularly disappointed to learn of Dr. Seuss’s racist background because his books played a vital role in her childhood education. 

“I grew up reading a lot of Dr. Seuss and had mostly all of his books,” Lee said. “It was disappointing to learn Dr. Seuss was racist. What was conflicting for me is that he was a big part of my childhood and I learned to read from his books.”

Even though Dr. Seuss has had a major influence on children’s literature and will continue to play a positive role in the lives of children of all backgrounds, Lee said this controversy does not change the way she looks at her childhood. 

“I do not think it alters my childhood because these books were read to me by strong Black figures in my life,” Lee said. “I do not have much of an issue looking back on my childhood because what matters most is who read these books to me and taught me. Dr. Seuss was not one of those people.”

First grade teacher at Great Oaks Legacy Charter School in Newark, New Jersey and IU alum Natalie Ferguson said growing up she was unaware of the racist imagery in Dr. Seuss’s books. She said it is important to talk with younger students about issues of race and social justice because children are intelligent and deserve to be a part of these conversations. 

“When I was in elementary school, issues around race were not discussed at an early age as they are now,” Ferguson said. “At the elementary school I teach at, we are way more vocal about social justice issues with our students, and we talk about things happening in society. Kids are way more competent than we give them credit for.”

Ferguson said adults need to start talking to children about  race and social justice issues at a young age. 

“I think it should be talked about, needs to be talked about from kindergarten up until college,” Ferguson said. “Children can see what is going on around them and hear the news. The conversations need to be age-appropriate, and there are definitely appropriate ways to have these conversations with any topic in general.”

Ferguson said no matter who a person is and what their contributions to society have been, everyone should always be held accountable for racist acts.

Since Dr. Seuss began trending on social media,  some say he has become a victim of cancel culture, and does not deserve this treatment. Clawson said cancel culture can sometimes be understood as holding people accountable for their actions and Dr. Seuss should not be an exception. 

“It is important to at least highlight his past because we have to further educate ourselves on these issues. We cannot allow kids to continue reading these books and think everything is ok,” Clawson said. 

It is important for people to continue educating themselves on  issues regarding race and pass that knowledge down to future generations, Clawson said. One way to do that is to hold people like Dr. Seuss, even though he is deceased, accountable for their actions. 

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