Dr. Seuss faces cancel: Schools says books have 'racial undertones'

Dr. Seuss faces cancel: Schools says books have 'racial undertones'

02/28/2021

Now Dr. Seuss faces cancel: Virginia school system says books have ‘strong racial undertones’ following report that accused them of ‘anti-blackness and white supremacy’ – as day dedicated to Cat in the Hat author shifts to be ‘more diverse’

  • Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard confirmed to The Washington Post that they have ‘shifted the emphasis’ of March 2 Read Across America day
  • That means the day will not celebrate the much loved Seuss stories ‘exclusively’
  • ‘Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones,’ Byard said 
  • That came following a 2019 report called ‘The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books’ 
  • Read Across America Day had traditionally focused on Seuss books
  • But since 2017 the focus has shifted to ‘Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers’
  • Learning for Justice is behind the calls to cancel Dr Seuss, Fox News reports

A Virginia school system has accused Dr. Seuss books of ‘strong racial undertones’ following a report which said author Theodor Geisel’s stories featured ‘orientalism, anti-blackness and white supremacy’. 

Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard confirmed to The Washington Post that they have ‘shifted the emphasis’ of March 2 Read Across America day to not only celebrate the much loved children’s stories ‘exclusively’. 

He said: ‘Schools in LCPS, and across the country, have historically connected Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. 

‘Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss. 

‘Given this research, and LCPS’ focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction, LCPS has provided guidance to schools in the past couple of years to not connect Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’ birthday exclusively.’

Byard – who insisted the books had not been banned – added: ‘We want to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive and diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. 

‘Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day. That being said, Dr. Seuss books have not been banned; they are still available to students in our libraries and classrooms.’

His comments come following a 2019 report called ‘The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books’.

A Virginia school system has accused Dr. Seuss books of ‘strong racial undertones’ following a report which accused author Theodor Geisel, pictured, of ‘orientalism, anti-blackness and white supremacy’

American author and illustrator Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904 – 1991) sits at his drafting table in his home office with a copy of his book, ‘The Cat in the Hat’, La Jolla, California, April 25, 1957

That report states: ‘White supremacy is seen through the centering of Whiteness and White characters, who comprise 98% (2,195 characters) of all characters. 

‘Notably, every character of color is male. Males of color are only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles. This also remains true in their relation to White characters. 

‘Most startling is the complete invisibility and absence of women and girls of color across Seuss’ entire children’s book collection. 

‘In addition, some of Dr. Seuss’ most iconic books feature animal or non-human characters that transmit Orientalist, anti-Black, and White supremacist messaging through allegories and symbolism.’

Read Across America Day had traditionally featured on Seuss books including classics like The Cat In The Hat and The Grinch.

But since 2017 the National Education Association has shifted its focus to ‘Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers’. 

Learning for Justice is behind the calls to cancel Dr Seuss, Fox News reports.  

Author Geisel has already come under fire for using ‘stereotypical Orientalist tropes’, according to a report by researchers Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens.

That found ‘of the 2,240 (identified) human characters, there are forty-five characters of color representing 2% of the total number of human characters’.

A total of 43 of ‘exhibited behaviors and appearances that align with harmful and stereotypical Orientalist tropes’, they said. 

The Loudoun County Public Schools administration building in Ashburn, VA

On Friday it was reported that Mr. Potato Head had gone gender neutral as toy maker Hasbro announced it is changing the branding of the 70-year-old figure because it needs to break free from gender norms.

The change – which will drop the ‘Mr.’ from Mr. Potato Head brand – sparked debate on social media, with many saying toy company Hasbro has bent to ‘woke’ culture by changing a cultural icon that’s been on toy shelves since 1952.

Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard confirmed to The Washington Post that they have ‘shifted the emphasis’ of March 2 Read Across America day to not only celebrate the much loved children’s stories ‘exclusively’

But Rhode Island-based Hasbro, which revealed the change in a presentation to investors Thursday, said the gender-neutral name comes as societal roles are changing – with more single-parent households and same-sex parents coming into the picture. 

In 2019 DailyMail.com reported how Geisel portrayed black people as if they were slaves being sold off at a white-owned department store.

He used the word ‘n*****’ to refer to African Americans and described women as ‘insignificant and helpless’, book Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination claimed. 

Decades later when Geisel was called out on these cartoons he said it was ‘just the way things were 50 years ago’ and claimed that feminists wanted to ‘clean up everything’. 

In 2017 Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro rejected a gift of several Dr Seuss books from Melania Trump, saying their whimsical illustrations were ‘steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes’. 

The White House had announced that one school in each state would receive a selection of Seuss’ books chosen by Melania, including ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ and ‘The Cat in the Hat’.

In 2019 DailyMail.com reported how Geisel portrayed black people as if they were slaves being sold off at a white-owned department store

But Soeiro turned down the collection of almost a dozen books, saying in the open letter her school was award-winning and well-funded.

She continued: ‘You may not be aware of this, but Dr Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature.’

She added: ‘Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. 

‘Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art.’

Neither of those books were included in Melania’s selection.

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