It's ALWAYS Good to Call Out Racism - Even from Dr. Seuss!
Why I think it's a sign of progress that 6 Dr. Seuss books are being pulled from further publication. Each of them had unmistakable racism and bigotry.
“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem, because it’s not a problem to you personally.” - David Gaider
Racism should ALWAYS be called out - no matter who it’s from and no matter when and where it took place. Racism and bigotry are wrong - dead wrong - even when it comes from Dr. Seuss or George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or anybody else that you thought it was safe to love without reservation or interrogation.
You may have seen today that Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the group that oversees all Dr. Seuss projects, has decided that it will stop publishing six different books from the author because of overt instances of racism and bigotry in each of them. These books weren’t “canceled” by some random group, but by the very people that oversee the legacy of the man whose legacy they’ve been charged with protecting. And a lot of white people are pissed.
I could’ve posted a few thousand more of those. What they are saying, without saying it, is that it bothers them that open racism and bigotry that went generations without being challenged is finally having to account for itself. I’m sure it’s uncomfortable to accept that your childhood relics are steeped in bigoted stereotypes of everybody except white people - who are universally faultless, happy-go-lucky heroes for Dr. Seuss while African Americans and Asians are regularly ignorant and exaggerated buffoons. When those books were written and published, and for the generations that followed, people were expected to simply look the other way.
But 2021 is different. And unlike 1941 or 1961 or even 2001 - before social media existed - and the only way to call out racism like we can do today was through published op-eds in white-controlled media outlets or direct in-person protests, we now all have the power to publish our thoughts and feelings on the world. What that means is that unchallenged legacies can now be directly confronted and interrogated in a way that is simply new for this country.
It’s a good thing.
The United States has hardly even scratched the surface of really righting the wrongs of its past in great part because this nation struggles to even admit its most basic faults.
George Washington, for instance, was an open white supremacist who bought, sold, traded, and sexually assaulted Africans for fun and profit his entire life. I happen to think that all of those things completely disqualify him from being honored with national monuments. Why? Because to many he was an outright monster. But again, in the words of David Gaider, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem, because it’s not a problem to you personally.”
If your heroes are someone else’s oppressors, you either have to ignore the oppression or perhaps prefer it, to get over the pain it causes. And so I’m grateful that Dr. Seuss Enterprises had enough decency to determine that six books that they probably value and love simultaneously degrade entire ethnic groups - and therefore the benefits do not outweigh the costs of such a thing. We need more of this. And here’s what I know - bigotry and racism are such a part of white life and power that confronting it makes millions of white people think you are confronting them. And they don’t like it.