Dr. Seuss controversy exemplifies cancel culture run amok


Lojuanda Weary/The Lion's Roar

If you have spent any time on social media over the past few weeks, then you are no doubt familiar with the controversy surrounding Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

On March 2, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that six titles published by the beloved children’s author would be discontinued due to their depictions of Asian people.

Almost immediately, accusations of racism were hurled at the children’s author and a campaign was launched to “cancel” him.

An Op-Ed for NBC News titled “Why Dr. Seuss got away with anti-Asian racism for so long” written by Taylor Weik suggested that the banning was a long delayed “reckoning over his racism.”

President Biden’s proclamation of Read Across America day, a national holiday to promote literacy across America in celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, failed to mention the very man who inspired the holiday’s creation.

Some second-hand markets have also sought to purge the books. eBay announced that it would crack down on resales of the book. According to The Wall Street Journal, a spokeswoman for the company said that they are “sweeping our marketplace to remove these items.”

These responses are perfect examples of what cancel culture leads to: a swift, unquestioned purging of media or people deemed offensive, rather than a productive conversation surrounding the issue.

Looking at the books in question, it is clear that the portrayal of Asians is taboo under modern standards. Several ads and political cartoons depicting Black people with monkey-like features, drawn by Dr. Seuss, have also come to light. It is also important to mention that Dr. Seuss Enterprises has every legal right to decide which books they do or do not want to publish.

This latest controversy with Dr. Seuss is just one of many examples of woke social media activists launching reckless and emotionally driven “cancel” campaigns.

Just last month, actress Gina Carano was fired from the enormously popular show “The Mandalorian” after a social media uproar over her right-leaning political views. In January, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to remove the names of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from public schools citing their ties to slavery and racism.

Under cancel culture, one mistake can spell complete destruction. No apologies are allowed and no one must dare question the severity of the backlash. Cancel culture treats outdated depictions of the past as black-or-white issues, when in reality, they are gray.

Saying the wrong things or having the wrong opinions unleashes the fury of the mob.

The simplistic world view of proponents of cancel culture that some people must be defined by one mistake has profoundly negative consequences on our country. Completely destroying someone’s career or legacy because you are offended by something they have done is hardly ever justifiable.

In the case of Dr. Seuss, activists are undermining the accomplishments of a great American icon by attempting to define him based on outdated cultural depictions.

Dr. Seuss is a significant American author. His works are often among the first books that many children read. Purging any of his works from our culture, even ones that do not hold up to current standards, would be foolish. We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater on this issue.

Rather than facilitating a nuanced discussion regarding these depictions, activists chose to offer a simplistic explanation that the books are unquestionably racist and immoral.

Through cancel culture, we see the consequences of a society that places emotion above logic or objectivity. Everything is based on anger. Nothing less than a complete and total removal of things deemed offensive is satisfactory.

Cancel culture accomplishes nothing other than further polarizing a deeply divided country. It only succeeds in making us more angry at each other. It isn’t productive to try and find the skeletons in everyone’s closet.

Instead of cancelling each other, we should try to support one another.