Dr. Seuss’ Anti-Asian Racism

By Julia Kemp

On March 2, 2021, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that they will discontinue the publication of six Dr. Seuss books. These books include: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. The discontinuation of these books occured because of their stereotypical and hurtful portrayals of Asian culture and people. For example, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street contains a drawing of a “Chinaman” carrying chopsticks with yellow skin, exaggeratedly slanted eyes, and a long ponytail. Though these books have been published for decades, they have only recently been revisited because the long-standing anti-Asian sentiment has been normalized in American society. Dr. Seuss Enterprises stated that they are “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio.”

Children’s books are not the only mediums in which Dr. Seuss has embedded his anti-Asian view. During World War II, a time loaded with anti-Japanese racism, Dr. Seuss published many political cartoons with hurtful stereotypes and depictions of Japanese people; many cartoons portrayed Japanese people as animals, used slurs, and mocked the way that Japanese people speak by replacing “R” with “L” in captions.  

Many parents and teachers disapprove of the discontinuation of the Dr. Seuss books, as well as the condemnation of Dr. Seuss’ past, as they accuse the controversy as being an example of “cancel culture” and that books should never be censored especially when they are “classics”. Others say that the discontinuation should have happened long ago, and that the content that is shown to young children, especially when the content is blatantly racist, should be carefully examined. I personally believe that books (especially children’s books) should be carefully examined in order to ensure that the worldview of young children is not one of hate or racism. While the censorship of books is not something that should be taken lightly or used in abundance, I believe that the long-standing racism that has been portrayed by Dr. Suess’ political cartoons and children’s books should not be shown to children nor continue to be published.

Below are images from the discontinued books and Dr. Suess’ political cartoons.