“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in a statement.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises, a division of Random House Children’s Books and Penguin Random House, did not immediately respond to a request from The Washington Post for additional details about the decision to stop printing the books.
The announcement comes as the corporate and sports worlds have had to reexamine their use of racial images and stereotypes amid a larger societal reckoning on race and equality following the May killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody. Last year, Washington’s National Football League team retired a nickname long regarded as a racial slur, while Cleveland’s professional baseball team announced it would drop “Indians” from its name. Land O’Lakes quietly removed the Indigenous woman from its packaging, and last month the Quaker Oats Aunt Jemima line became Pearl Milling Company.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises made the announcement on national “Read Across America Day,” which has been celebrated in tandem with Dr. Seuss’s birthday since its inception in 1998, to champion reading for U.S. children. In recent years, the National Education Association has tried to disentangle the day from Dr. Seuss and celebrate “a nation of diverse readers.” Unlike past leaders, President Biden did not mention Dr. Seuss when he gave his “Read Across America Day” proclamation earlier this week.
Before his work as a children’s author, Geisel drew scores of racist ads and political cartoons that included racial slurs and that depicted Black people as savages in grass skirts, Asian people with slits for eyes and Middle Eastern characters wearing turbans and riding camels. In college, he wrote a minstrel show and performed it in blackface.
In 2019, a study from the University of California at San Diego and the Conscious Kid Library analyzed 50 Dr. Seuss books and found that 98 percent of the human characters represented were White. The few characters of color showed characteristics of Orientalism and anti-Blackness, the researchers found.
“Males of color are only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles. This also remains true in their relation to White characters,” the study reads. “Most startling is the complete invisibility and absence of women and girls of color across Seuss’ entire children’s book collection.”
Although many parents wait to address issues of bias with their children, research has shown that kids as young as 3 are susceptible to racial and gender biases, and that these biases can become fixed early in childhood.
“Research has shown that 3-month-old babies prefer faces from certain racial groups, 9-month-olds use race to categorize faces, and 3-year-old children in the United States associate some racial groups with negative traits,” the American Psychological Association said in an August statement. “By age 4, children in the U.S. associate whites with wealth and higher status, and race-based discrimination is already widespread when children start elementary school.”
The popular “Cat in the Hat” will remain in print for now, although it too has drawn criticism for drawing on racial stereotypes. Meanwhile, the slimmed-down Seuss catalogue is unlikely to make much of a dent in the worth of Dr. Seuss Enterprises: The deceased author’s estate nearly doubled its income in 2020, according to Forbes, earning roughly $33 million and making him the highest-paid deceased celebrity besides Michael Jackson.