Dr. Suess' Books Like 'Horton Hears A Who!' And 'The Sneetches' Are Racist And Problematic, Study Reveals

Dr. Suess' Books Like 'Horton Hears A Who!' And 'The Sneetches' Are Racist And Problematic, Study Reveals

A study reveals that the children's books are racist and shape, problematic and shape children to be the same. The sudy questions whether it is time to stop allowing children to read these books anymore.

Many homes with children have their shelves stocked with books by Dr. Suess. These books are probably the most popular children's books in the country and have been around for the longest time. Written by Theodor Seuss Geisel who assumed the pen name Dr. Seuss, the widely popular children's books was first published in 1937. Generations of kids have grown up reading these books. The books that were once appreciated and passed down from one generation to the next, has received a lot of criticism in the past couple of months. According to PEOPLE, a study that was published earlier this year branded the much-loved children's book series as problematic and even racist. Seems kind of outrageous and slightly ridiculous, doesn't it? However, an educated inspection and analysis of the Dr. Suess books have shown that the series reveals sometimes latent and other times blatant prejudice. 

Other than consisting of racial undertones, the books do not feature a lot of female characters. The stories are dominated by male characters and in a way support patriarchy. While analyzing anything at all, especially literature, the date, and era the work was done in should be kept in mind. However, while keeping in mind the time it was written, the book is not all that problematic but times have changed. This begs the question of whether children in modern times should be allowed to read these books at all. The world has moved forward and evolved, so why teach the children something outdated? 


The study was carried out as a part of St. Catherine University’s Research on Diversity in Youth Literature. In their February 2019 report on the subject, Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens wrote, "[This study reveals] how racism spans across the entire Seuss collection while debunking myths about how books like Horton Hears a Who! and The Sneetches can be used to promote tolerance, anti-bias, or anti-racism. The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, AntiBlackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’ s Children’s Books." 



The author continues, "Findings from this study promote awareness of the racist narratives and images in Dr. Seuss’ children’s books and implications to the formation and reinforcement of racial biases in children."The author hopes that these findings will make the parents realize why reading these books is wrong. Most of the issues that the books have are very subtly portrayed but this has an impact on the children as they only learn from what they read. They will not know it is wrong unless they are told so. They are impressionable and should not be exposed to such biases. 



The study observed that some of the most iconic characters convey unsettling messages of Orientalism (the representation of Asia and Asian people based on colonialist stereotypes), anti-blackness and white supremacy. "Notably, every character of color is male. Males of color are only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles," the report reveals. "This also remains true in their relation to White characters. Most startling is the complete invisibility and absence of women and girls of color across Seuss’ entire children’s book collection." 



The study's author used several examples to prove the point the study was trying to make. The first sad truth is proved in Seuss' book If I Ran the Zoo. Three Asian characters are shown carrying a gun-wielding white male in the book. Captions describe the Asian males as "helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant" from "countries no one can spell," Ishizuka and Stephens point out. Meanwhile, Horton Hears a Who! showcases the only two characters that are identified as African. The characters are always walking around without any footwear and in grass skirts. "They are placed in a subservient role, carrying an animal to a White male child’s zoo," explain the authors.



The researchers aren't the first ones to point out the issues the books have. Back in 2017, Liz Phipps Soeiro, the librarian of Cambridgeport Elementary School turned down First Lady Melania Trump's shipment of Dr. Seuss' books. In an editorial for The Horn Book's reading blog, Soeiro wrote, "You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature. As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips." Soerio added,  "Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes." 



Steven Grant, a manager of Read Across America, told Education Week in October 2017, "I think there will always be a place for Seuss books — they are in every classroom and library in America — and in some cases, they’re effective for younger readers. That said, it’s not to the exclusion of all the other great books that are out there." Meanwhile, Domenic Sarno, the mayor of Dr. Seuss’ hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, did not take kindly to Soeiro's blatant dissection and dismissal of the books. According to MassLive, Sarno said, "‘One fish – two fish – red fish – blue fish’ – I think her comments 'stink' and are ridiculous towards our beloved Dr. Seuss. Her comments that this is 'racist propaganda and that Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche and a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature' is 'political correctness' at its worst."

Dr. Suess' books surely have enough issues to take them off the shelf and there is a good reason to not let the children of the new generations read them. However, it isn't the only book that has received criticism. Other children's books like The Chronicles of Narnia and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory have also been called out for having racist undertones.  

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