By Jonathon Van Maren
If it weren’t vaguely sinister, it would be ridiculous. I refer, of course, to the latest successful crusade of the book-banners: Dr. Seuss. Six of the author’s titles will no longer be published due to imagery dubbed “racist and insensitive,” and Dr. Seuss Enterprises says the books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong … Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
Big Tech immediately assisted the memory-holing of the offensive children’s books, with the titles being pulled from Ebay as prices were driven sky-high by nostalgic buyers looking to lock down copies of childhood favorites. Ebay began to pull down copies posted for sale, stating that “listings that promote or glorify hatred, violence, or discrimination aren’t allowed. Dr. Seuss Enterprises has stopped publication of this book due to its negative portrayal of some ethnicities. As a courtesy, we have ended your item and refunded your selling fees, and as long as you do not relist the item, there will be no negative impact to your account.”
Five of the six books — McElligot’s Pool, If I Ran the Zoo, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and On Beyond Zebra — are all titles I used to read at my grandmother’s house when I was small.
Even after perusing the apparently offensive illustrations, I think the new ban is ridiculous — and if this turns out to be the new standard, the purge is barely beginning. Laura Ingalls Wilder is already on the blacklist, and children’s books encouraging heteronormativity and the gender binary like the Berenstain Bears (He bear. She bear. What a nightmare.) are sure to be next. Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking books have also been accused of racism; so has Roald Dahl’s Charlie books and the Dr. Doolittle novels.
If you’re tempted to give the folks who find these books awful the benefit of the doubt, let’s take a moment to consider what they do find appropriate for children. These people believe Dr. Seuss is offensive for kids, but Drag Queen story time is beneficial for all ages, including toddlers. The Little House on the Prairie must be treated with great caution due to all of the racism, but taking children to pride parades is a great opportunity for education — even (or especially) if naked adults are present.
Canada’s state broadcaster, which covered Dr. Seuss’s crimes against humanity with great solemnity, has also produced documentaries for children on “Drag Kids.”
And if we’re getting rid of children’s books that seem outdated or have concepts or illustrations offensive to 21st century sensibilities, what are we replacing them with? Well, there’s always Red: A Crayon’s Story, about a crayon who has the wrong label just like transgender kids has the wrong body. Or there is the favorite of many educators, I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings, about another transgender journey.
There’s Jacob’s New Dress, in case your kids want to get a jumpstart on cross-dressing (as long as you remember that dressing up as someone from another culture is appropriation.) There’s also Sparkle Boy, in case Jacob’s New Dress doesn’t fully do the trick.
The very folks telling us that beloved childhood classics are now wicked are the ones telling us that our kids should be reading heavily-sexualized stories about sex changes, gender confusion, and alternative family arrangements, preferably read to them by a drag queen. This isn’t really about ensuring appropriate sensitivity so much as replacing old storybooks with new storybooks. Not only do these educators have no credibility, but most of them should not be permitted to be teaching children at all. Any advice from them — on Dr. Seuss, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or anyone else — is a joke.