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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Racist Case of Dr. Seuss


Whether one likes to admit it or not, information greatly shapes our daily lives and interactions. With newfound information opinions develop, shift and change in regards to science, politics and sometimes even people. When it comes to a person's legacy, how important are their past actions to your overall opinion of them? What if it were a lover? An employer? What if it was someone influencing your children? With the celebration of the birthday of children's author Dr. Seuss and the commencement of the annual Read Across America Day, stories began to appear online discussing Seuss's sordid past embroiled in racism. That's right, the beloved children's author is a noted racist but that shouldn't be surprising, instead we should be shocked that this well-kept secret wasn't such a secret after all.
     If not a deep hatred for minorities, Seuss harbored a great prejudice towards Japanese Americans and African Americans, which he so eloquently illustrated in his political cartoon drawings for a liberal New York paper beginning in 1941. The paper's mission was described as opposing people who push other people around just for the fun of pushing, whether in this country or abroad; however, in reality, the paper only served to alienate minorities and help further prejudices against Japanese citizens and Japanese Americans during World War II.
Tying Hitler's Nazi Germany and Japan into a dangerous partnership and labeling all Japanese citizens and Japanese Americans as threats to America, these groups became the target of Seuss' satirical illustrations.

     In his illustrations, Japanese were drawn to the likeness of having slanted eyes and over-sized teeth and were often described as yellow. Naturally, this led to a rise in hatred and aggression towards Japanese families, and his illustrations only became more heinous after the events of Pearl Harbor. Critics of Seuss usually cite a sense of Nationalism as the fuel behind his hatred, however, that does not excuse his actions nor does it correlate to his depiction of African Americans. During his tenure with the paper, Seuss' cartoons used racial slurs to refer to African Americans and drew his images to resemble monkeys.
Another highly racist act, and yet somehow this man, like so many before him, has been made a mainstay in American history and integrated into the lives of countless children. Minority and non-minority alike.
     Reactions to the news of Seuss’ racist past have ranged from some choosing to look past his actions to those that have decided to outright boycott his recognition. Each person is rightfully entitled to their opinion on the subject, but the question remains will you read Dr. Seuss to your child knowing his racist past?

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