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So You Want To Talk About Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers sitting in a chair backwards

Roald Dahl’s books are getting a revamp (not for the first time) to erase the late author’s antisemitism. So now you might be wondering how that brings Dr. Seuss into the conversation and, well, the answer is simple: Dr. Seuss published some pretty racist things! Now, he also published some stories (like The Sneetches) and drew cartoons that criticized racism, but he still wrote some racist stories as well. In fact, six of his stories have been taken out of publication for their racist imagery.

The discussion around Dahl and his work calls to mind the way people talk about the “preservation” of Dr. Seuss’ work—while not admitting that there are some themes and images that are racist/antisemitic and don’t belong anywhere, especially not in children’s books! What it all comes down to is: Why are there people in this world who are angry that we’re changing and adapting these works—for kids—as to not contain antisemitic and racist images?

The “outrage” about these changes typically comes from right-wing figureheads, and they never have a solution for fixing it or for teaching children about why these things are bad in a constructive way. But they love to scream about how the work shouldn’t be altered. Instead, it should be about what we teach our children.

Choosing what to teach our kids

For Seuss, the works that have been taken out of publication are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. They were put out of publication for racist imagery, including offensive depictions of Black and Asian people, but there are still a plethora of Seuss books out there for children to read.

Dahl and Seuss both still have their work out in the world. The books have just been changed to remove racism and antisemitism so that kids are not forced to look at the racist imagery while reading these stories. It’s not that hard to understand why this happened. The “controversy” stems from people taking action, apologizing, and fixing the issue, and then talking heads like those at Fox News make it a much bigger deal.

Seuss is complicated

Dr. Seuss had a lot of liberal themes in his work. He also had some racist caricatures as well. Both things are true. The books that were taken out of publication were removed for a good reason. You can still read The Cat in the Hat and Oh, the Places You’ll Go, but those that featured racist images—and were arguably less well-known—are no longer in circulation.

It is for the better that these particular stories are not being shared in school and promoted, and there are still many Seuss stories worth merit.

(featured image: Sony / Marvel Studios)

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She/Her. A writer who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.