There is nothing new about revising or even shelving published works in deference to concerns about racism and other bigotries...In Victorian England...Charles Dickens changed some language in reprints of Oliver Twist to cut down on references to the villainous Fagin as "the Jew" after a correspondence with a Jewish woman who criticized him for feeding anti-Semitic prejudice...a 1939 Agatha Christie novel whose original title is now unspeakable in polite society was reissued just a few years later as Ten Little Indians (And Then There Were None in the United States)
And yet there are valid reasons to see the publisher's withdrawal of those six Dr. Seuss books as a worrying sign.
For one, the decision comes in tandem with other moves intended to demote Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) from his iconic status. On the same day, President Biden omitted any mention of Dr. Seuss from his official proclamation to mark Read Across America Day, breaking a tradition started by Barack Obama...
What's more, the critique of those "racial undertones" has been often tendentious to the point of distortion. Thus, a CNN article asserts that Geisel, who was also a political cartoonist, "had a long history of publishing racist and anti-Semitic work, spanning back to the 1920s"...No mention is made of the fact that by the 1940s, the cartoonist had emerged as an outspoken foe of anti-Semitism — a stance that would later earn him the title of "honorary Jew," bestowed by Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek in 1969
No less disturbing, much of the current pushback against Dr. Seuss is based on a 2019 paper by Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens...Take Dr. Seuss's 1961 book The Sneetches, which has been widely praised for its anti-racist message: Birdlike creatures with stars on their bellies scorn and bully their plain-bellied cousins until a wily salesman brings a device that can add or remove stars, and all the sneetches change so many times they get thoroughly mixed up and decide to treat everyone equally. But Ishizuka and Stephens attack the poem as insidious because it teaches that color shouldn't matter.
I tend to agree with Cathy Young here. Reasonable to update Dr Seuss's imagery. Or discontinue if that's not profitable and it won't sell. But the coordinated aspect of the campaign makes one wonder what the motivations are here. Especially the weirdness around the sneetches.
See also an affiliate of the Southern Poverty Law Center on the Sneetches
At Teaching Tolerance, we’ve even featured anti-racist activities built around the Dr. Seuss book The Sneetches. But when we re-evaluated, we found that the story is actually not as “anti-racist” as we once thought. And it has some pretty intricate layers you and your students might consider, too.
The solution to the story’s conflict is that the Plain-Belly Sneetches and Star-Bellied Sneetches simply get confused as to who is oppressed. As a result, they accept one another. This message of “acceptance” does not acknowledge structural power imbalances. It doesn’t address the idea that historical narratives impact present-day power structures. And instead of encouraging young readers to recognize and take action against injustice, the story promotes a race-neutral approach. https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/its-time-to-talk-about-dr-seuss
Its of course possible that temporal transfers of power imbalances in the sneetch society is low to negligible. Especially since they've given all their money to McBean