This week, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced they would no longer be publishing six books by the popular children’s author because they contain images that are racially insensitive.
The titles, including And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, If I Ran The Zoo, and four others, were published in the early 1950s. Times have changed. Images that were considered acceptable 70 years ago are no longer appropriate today. Africans and Asians were portrayed with features that perpetuate negative stereotypes of these groups.
But there’s more to Zoo than just the illustrations. If you haven’t read this recently (or at all), the story is about young Philip McGrew. On a visit to the zoo, Philip decides he’d like to let all of the standard animals go free and replace them with the most unusual, most exotic Seuss-imagined animals instead.
We always saw this as a story of inclusion–even if you were different or unusual, there was a place for you and someone who would love you in spite of your peculiarities. It was perfectly OK to not be a lion or a tiger, but a Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill instead–in fact, maybe it could be even better.
Maybe the right thing to do is to not totally ban the book, but to offer it in context–similar to what HBO MAX did with the film Gone With the Wind. There are lessons to be learned here–how mores evolve, what changes we need to make to be appropriate for today’s society, as well as the fact that there can still be value in something that is flawed. Use this as an example to teach school children of how we as a society learn and grow.
That’s what I’d do, Philip McGrew. If I ran the zoo.
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