Dr. Seuss has written some of the most memorable books of our childhoods, from the Cat in the Hat to Green Eggs and Ham he is celebrated as an American hero, an inspiration.
But something is often not spoken of. How he depicted Africans and Japanese-Americans as animals or property or terrorists waiting to strike!
Two woke kids, 11-year-old Rockett and 10-year-old Zoe found out about this and decided to protest ‘Dr Seuss Week’ at their South Pasadena elementary school.
Their parents were sent an email saying that the school was not an appropriate awakening for such matters!
Here was the father’s epic response!
I do want to begin my response to your email, and our children’s actions of creating the flyer, by stating that we appreciate the non-racist work of Dr. Seuss. We have a collection of his books in the home and we read many of them often to our kids when they were younger. A couple of years ago, we wanted to balance our love for Seuss Geisel’s creativity by exposing our children to the darker side of his early racist works. So while we still respect his art, our family understands that Seuss Geisel, like many others we hold in high esteem, can indeed have a sordid past. Rockett wanted a way to express this to his classmates, and we gave him and his sister the okay to create something to achieve this goal of educating people about Geisel’s past racism. They came up with the flyer on their own without much oversight on my own. Nonetheless, Leslie and I approved what they were doing and are ultimately the ones to be held accountable.
Rockett and Zoe’s great-grandmother and great-grandfather who are still with us today, along with 120,000 innocent others (most of them American citizens), were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to U.S. concentration camps due to lack of leadership, rampant racism, and war hysteria. There was no basis or evidence of Japanese Americans involved in any espionage, and the U.S. has since apologized for the unconstitutional act against its own American citizens. However, it is important to understand that Seuss Geisel, helped fuel that racism and war hysteria with many racist cartoons that he published during that time. His cartoons targeting Japanese Americans directly contributed to the public support of Executive Order 9066 (the executive order that incarcerated Japanese Americans). This is not an opinion, much like Hitler’s anti-Semitism is not an opinion, for Geisel’s hatred of Japanese is well documented, and is chronicled in American history books. Unfortunately, our family has had a direct impact and has suffered directly from Geisel’s cartoons.
This is not to say that Geisel did not have a change of heart later in life. Perhaps he was just keeping up with the times when racial intolerance became distasteful in America, nonetheless, he did make that turn. If I did have more oversight I would have insisted that they include his turnaround. However, we trusted that the kids did adequate research and based the flyer in facts.
We do appreciate that you applaud Rockett for his civic-mindedness, and we appreciate the education you are providing him. I apologize for the length of this email, but I thought it was important to convey.
Commentary by Jon Masters,