In all the brouhaha over Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ decision to pull six of Theodor Geisel’s books because they’re “hurtful,” a lot of people have been pointing to other of his works. What about “The Sneetches”? The book in which the creatures with stars on their bellies and those without decide to overlook the difference and get along?

Gabriel Smith of Teaching Tolerance admits that they’ve used “The Sneetches” to teach anti-racist themes — but not anymore.

If that screenshot is too difficult to read:

In light of this new information, you may wonder about Dr. Seuss books featuring non-human characters. At Teaching Tolerance, we’ve even featured anti-racist activities built around the Dr. Seuss book The Sneetches. But when we re-evaluated, we found that the story is actually not as “anti-racist” as we once thought. And it has some pretty intricate layers you and your students might consider, too.

The solution to the story’s conflict is that the Plain-Belly Sneetches and Star-Bellied Sneetches simply get confused as to who is oppressed. As a result, they accept one another. This message of “acceptance” does not acknowledge structural power imbalances. It doesn’t address the idea that historical narratives impact present-day power structures. And instead of encouraging young readers to recognize and take action against injustice, the story promotes a race-neutral approach.

See? The modern approach to “anti-racism” would require the Star-Bellied Sneetches to acknowledge their privilege and the history of their privilege that has led to ongoing structural power imbalances and atone for it, eventually becoming star-traitors and finally star-abolitionists.

Smith also notes that the results of a study of Dr. Seuss books are “actually pretty bad”:

The researchers surveyed 50 Dr. Seuss books and concluded that, “of the 2,240 (identified) human characters, there are forty-five characters of color representing 2% of the total number of human characters.” Of the 45 characters, 43 exhibited behaviors and appearances that align with harmful and stereotypical Orientalist tropes. The remaining two human characters “are identified in the text as ‘African’ and both align with the theme of anti-Blackness.” It’s also important to note that each of the non-white characters is male and that they are all “presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles,” especially in their relation to white characters.

No wonder children of all races have been rejecting the works of Dr. Seuss for so long; they saw what we adults failed to see.

Nope … because that doesn’t address the structural racism that’s still present in everything around us.

No, he’s like the “anti-racism” grift being peddled by Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. Those seminars aren’t free you know.

But it’s only six books!

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