Perspective: Did We Just Cancel Dr. Seuss?

Mar 5, 2021

This week it was announced that six titles by Dr. Seuss would no longer be published due to racist imagery and sensitive situations. The announcement was immediately called out and criticized with headlines like “Dr. Seuss gets canceled.” But let’s be clear about what actually happened and what it means.

First, this is not an instance of “cancel culture” or politically correct censorship. It was a decision initiated and instituted by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the corporate entity that oversees the legacy and literary estate of the late author. In a statement to the press, the company emphasized that it was taking these measures to ensure that the Dr. Seuss catalog represents and supports all communities and families. This is not cancel culture. It is intelligent and responsible brand management instituted by the organization best situated to make these decisions.

Second, cultural norms and values evolve, and this too is something to be celebrated. Books -- even books we loved as children or with our own children -- are the product of a particular time and place. The images and scenarios that are now being identified as racist did not just become racist. They always and already were racist. We just tolerated and normalized it. This is what is meant by systemic racism. So fixing the problem is not just about the brand, it is about us. It is about our world becoming more equitable, just and inclusive.

And that is something to be proclaimed proudly from the top of Mount Crumpit.

I’m David Gunkel and that’s my Perspective.