The National Coalition Against Censorship is disturbed by the recent decision of Dr. Seuss Enterprises to cease publication of six children’s books by Dr. Seuss because of their implicit racism.
Our society is in the midst of a broad conversation about the racism embedded in many of our cultural touchstones. We need to acknowledge that many of the books that are part of America’s literary heritage express attitudes about race that may offend people. Almost all authors are influenced by the prejudices of their times. Dr. Seuss is no exception.
However, we must draw a line between criticizing texts and purging them. If we remove every book that is offensive to someone, there will be very little left on the shelf.
NCAC supports and celebrates efforts to diversify library holdings, expand the stories told through school curricula and encourage underrepresented voices to be heard. While we cannot ignore the insidious effect of allowing children to uncritically encounter embedded racism in the books they read, we should not expunge those books from the culture as a whole. It is important to preserve our literary heritage even when it reflects attitudes that are no longer tolerated as they once were.
If nothing else, books like those that have been dropped by Dr. Seuss Enterprises show us how important it is to read critically and temper our admiration for beloved authors with the knowledge that they are often flawed human beings.