COMMENTARY: “Green Eggs” and racial stereotypes…

by Mar 6, 2021OPINIONS




It appears that Dr. Seuss was a racist. Or, he was simply a product of his times. The debate is raging, well, it’s raging at Fox News anyway. 

It seems that Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the outfit that handles the good doctor’s legacy, has pulled six of his books for children because, “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”  Their words. The titles of these six books are, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.” 

Some are currently spiking at nearly $650 bucks on eBay and will climb because of the authors popularity, and new notoriety. Eventually, the bottom will drop out of this run because these books are simply not for everyone – only hardcore collectors. Amazon reports that Dr. Seuss’ other books like, “Cat in the Hat”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, etc. are enjoying an upshot in sales because, well, mostly because people are reactionary. Herd mentality.

Dr. Seuss, or Theodore Geisel, in my opinion, may be a racist, but as I stated previously, it’s because he’s a product of his time. Does that make it alright? Not in the slightest. Back in America’s dim past, it was OK to portray Asian people in the usual stereotypical fashion, pigtail, cone hat, slits for eyes while holding onto chopsticks. It was OK to name sports teams after Native people because we were “savage” and “relentless killers” and we were dying out. It was OK to depict black people as lazy and shiftless and it was OK to depict Hispanic people as thieves with sombreros. Ah yes, them good old days, eh? 

But Dr. Seuss wasn’t alone. Are any of you folks out there familiar with the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder? For those that shook their heads no, “Little House on the Prairie” might jog your memory. She wrote the series of novels that inspired and resulted in the TV show with the same name. It ran for an interminably long time. 

I’ve never read any of her books and for sure never watched that show but her racist portrayals of Native people resulted in the removal of her name from a prestigious literary award. 

How about L. Frank Baum? Familiar with that name? No? Let’s try this, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. There you go, now you know. What you may not be familiar with is his editorial work for the Aberdeen, S.D. local newspaper. He wrote that Native populations be wiped out for “their” own good – a final solution to the “Indian problem” as it were. You know “Wizard of Oz”, you don’t know this guy. 

Those are just a few, I could keep going but you kinda get the picture. Before I go, I wanna toss my two or three cents in regarding a hot button topic called “cancel culture”. It seems that supporters of the right side of the political spectrum like to throw that phrase around when stuff like this Dr. Seuss business rears up. To these folks, Freedom of Speech means that they should be allowed to say anything about anyone they choose. Doesn’t matter whether its ignorantly racist, they want to be allowed to say it. Or read it. They get offended when Native people want to have statues of Columbus or Spanish conquerors taken down and when Black people want statues of slave owners removed. To them it’s “history”. And they’re OK with that history. Why they’re afraid of the truth is beyond me. 

In the words of Vinnie Barbarino, “I’m so confused.” 

I’ve read that folks in the Home World are getting their second dose of the COVID vaccine, that’s great, rock on! Or, vax on! Whichever you prefer. Native people, especially Eastern Cherokee, need to be protected from another disease from the Outer Worlds. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting on my first dose. Oh well, life in the city I suppose. At least I’ve got my green chile available every day. As good or better than a vaccine. And tastier. Maybe someone will vaccinate my breakfast burrito, darn good way to get the shot. OK, I’m out! See ya next time!  

Ledford is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians currently residing in Albuquerque, N.M.