What to do about Dr Seuss
A warning notice should accompany all Dr Seuss books to alert unsuspecting parents to his racist cartoons and publications.
Dr Seuss is a favourite in my family. I taught my children to read with The Cat in the Hat. And my daughter memorized Green Eggs and Ham by heart, which tricked us all, only for a short while, that she could actually read, until the day I skipped a page and she was rumbled. I have given my god children Dr Seuss, and any child that strays across my path is certain to get at least one of his books on their birthday. I have passed this tradition to my grand daughters, they love Dr Seuss. On two consecutive World Book Day, my grand daughter went to school in The Cat and Hat outfit made lovingly by her mother and I.
So, imagine my horror when I read that Dr Seuss was an out and out racist and a white supremacist. I was shocked to see that between the 1920s and 1940s, long after the abolition of slavery, Dr Seuss drew cartoons depicting black people as monkeys and the most traumatic cartoon I found was a 1929 cartoon with this caption: ‘TAKE HOME A HIGH-GRADE N*GGER FOR YOUR WOODPILE! SATISFACTION GUARANTEED.
The carton above made me think that Dr Seuss would have supported lynching. How can you come back from that?
I sent the link to my daughter who was equally outraged. If I had known any of these, would I have read Dr Seuss to my children? Most certainly not. And I would not have passed it on to my grand-children. I felt duped and angry. This is the sort of information that should accompany each book. Just like you have on those CD’s with explicit lyrics – ‘buyer beware’.
But now what then do we do about two little girls who adore this monster which we brought into their lives. I hit the Internet and saw that there are many parents in similar situation. I read their stories and how they have empowered their children. The Japanese parents who empowered their children to use the anniversary of Dr Seuss’ birthday to educate their classmates,
My daughter and I decided we would pack all the books to one side, they will not be thrown away. She will tell the 7 year old about Dr Seuss, his history and why he has fallen out of favour in our family. We will explain to her the reason why the things he drew are bad for us as black people, we will help her to understand the toxic nature of Dr Seuss cartoons and the continuing impact of racist writing and racism on the lives of black people. We will do this over a period of time of course. And we will keep the books somewhere as a reminder until she is ready to let go of the books herself. We hope that in that way she will be empowered to deal with racism in her own life.
For further reading go to the Real African website