Dr. Seuss isn't "canceled," no matter what grumpy conservatives say

Dr. Seuss mascot holding "The Cat in the Hat" book with a banner and balloons in the background
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After a Virginia school district and the Biden administration recently disentangled Dr. Seuss from “Read Across America Day,” which occurs on the author’s birthday, six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published. The call came from Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business which preserves the late author’s legacy. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, The Cat's Quizzer, and Scrambled Eggs Super! will cease publication after the company indicated that the books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” the company told the AP in a statement. “Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics, and specialists in the field as part of our review process.” Dr. Seuss Enterprises says it arrived at the decision last year, so the timing isn’t influenced by the most recent attempts to sever explicit ties between Seuss and Read Across America.

Although there have been past reckonings with racist portrayals in Seuss books, this is the most actionable change to date. As you might imagine, this has given the same right-wing culture warriors who staged a conniption over Potato Head last week — and over some of the most obscure titles in the Seussiverse to boot. And mind you, the arguments are factually inaccurate — there’s no canceling of Seuss by external forces here. The single Virginia school district hasn’t banned any of Seuss’s books, nor has Biden. They’re merely shifting the emphasis of an unofficial school holiday.

The portrayals in question are unquestionably racist or anti-Semitic stereotypes of Asian, Black, and Jewish characters, so when conservatives wax poetic about cancel culture, this — and not The Cat in the Hat or The Grinch — is what they’re going to bat for. Alleged serial sexual harasser, fabulist, and enthusiast of Hitler iconography Rep. Madison Cawthorn went on Fox and Friends this morning to give it his best shot. He didn’t have to dish on the most recent slate of disturbing allegations leveled against him, but was instead delivered a layup to grouse about the cancellation of Dr. Seuss.

As Cawthorn alludes to, people are hurting out there, so maybe the politically savvy move might be to actually craft policies that help them. (He doesn't follow through, of course, and instead launches into some anti-China jingoism.) When an entire political party extracts greater outrage from the removal of old racist tropes or newly gender-neutral toy names than the preventable death of more than 500,000 Americans, it’s only ever going to service their endless mission of minority-rule white grievance politics.