Dr. Seuss a.k.a. Theodor Geisel has been a staple across the Loudon County, Virginia school system for decades. Geisel’s popular books have been a major part of the Read Across America event, which is a national day that encourages reading, and one that coincides with Geisel’s birthday. But that is no longer the case after the author’s books have been pulled from one county’s schools.
Dr. Seuss, whose characters include the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch, and Horton the Elephant, has been taken off the event for what Loudon County school officials have deemed to have “strong racial undertones.” Instead, these same officials will be looking to promote books that they believe are more “inclusive and diverse and reflective of our student community.”
Wayde B. Byard is the spokesman for the Loudon County school system and says that research conducted on the many Dr. Seuss books has uncovered “strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss.” Byard went on to say via Deadline, “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.”
Now, Byard is not saying that this ban is permanent, in fact, he says the books will still be available for children in the libraries and in classrooms across the district. They just won’t be exclusive to Read Across America and Dr. Seuess’s birthday. Sometimes being woke just doesn’t make sense.
Many, if not all, Dr. Seuss’s books have come under fire in recent years, which culminated in the 2019 report by Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens titled The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books. In it, the authors claim: “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.”
Geisel, who passed away 20 years ago, was under constant fire in his later years when it came out that popular author had, per a 2019 Daily Mail piece, portrayed black people as if they were slaves being sold off in white-owned department stores. He also used the “N” word in reference to African-Americans and then described women as “insignificant and helpless.” When these accusations were presented to Geisel, he simply claimed that it was “just the way things were 50 years ago.”
In their announcement concerning the Dr. Seuss ban, Loudon County wrote, “Realizing that many schools continue to celebrate ‘Read Across America Day’ in partial recognition of Dr. Seuss’ 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.”
Learning for Justice, which bills itself as a left-wing educator’s group, has also taken many shots at Dr. Seuss and his works. They allege that many of the non-white Dr. Seuss characters were men and that these characters were “subservient” to the white characters in his stories. “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 relation to white characters,” the group wrote via Daily Wire. The group also states that if anyone decides to defend Dr. Seuss and his racial views then they are a racial “apologist” and are only making excuses for why “bigotry doesn’t matter.”
All this comes on the heels of toy-making giant Hasbro announcing a major change to the 70-year-old icon Mr. Potato Head, rendering him gender-neutral by removing the “Mr.” from their name. Now known only as Potato Head, Hasbro said, via the Daily Mail, the change comes as societal roles are seeing much change with same-sex parents coming into the picture and more single-parent households. While Hasbro has since backed away from completely removing the Mr., the cat is out of the bag.