As all this happened, I was just reading about how Aborigine children are raised, there are certain practices that go throughout what’s now called First World cultures, used to be called Indians, before that primitive, sometimes First Nations. One thing they do is allow their children to roam very freely, and have small children of say seven watching even smaller children of four. They believe that exposing them to high risk growing up is good for them.
If parents did that in our culture it would be considered child neglect, endangerment, even child abuse. You could go to jail. We wouldn’t expect Aborigines, however, to follow our dictates, to see the world through our eyes. No one would suggest arresting them for their child rearing practices. They are following the dictates of their own ways, beliefs.
That’s kind of how the Suess thing hits me. The company that owns the Dr. Seuss books is discontinuing six of his books, citing racist things in the books that are hurtful. There are Chinese people with slanted eyes holding chopsticks, Africans with a silly, primitive look. Cats that are said to be taken from black minstrel images.
Today, some of those images look inappropriate. When they were drawn and put out, no one saw them that way. There are two cultures at play here, two sets of eyes that see different meaning. Kind of like an Aborigine when you ask, where are your kids?
To us, unacceptable. To them, normal. Two different cultures, two different sets of eyes.
It probably is dangerous to let kids play like that. And there is no doubt there are racist images from the past. But we have to fairly evaluate them.
When I look at the Chinese characters in Suess’ book, I recall what I thought in first grade in 1959 when I read his books. It was an education about Chinese people, what they were like. They were foreign, unknown. Strange and different. One of the differences is that they ate with sticks, chop sticks. Isn’t that strange? It was an education. We never saw Chinese people and it was fascinating to picture them. There was no intention of racism. Knowledge of Chinese people and what they were really like was unknown to us then, just like the idea of raising your kids in a protected environment was unknown to Aborigine’s.
Now there are millions of Chinese in America and they are as American as I am. It’s a different world now. From today’s eyes some of it would seem at least dated, in poor taste. Maybe racially insulting. There are new, usually younger sets of woke eyes today that attribute racism to those drawings. It’s literally a different culture than the one I grew up in in the 50’s. But it makes no sense to judge that world by the standards of the current world, because it is an entirely different context with entirely different meanings. Even though now we may judge some of it as racist, just like we would judge Aborigine child rearing practices as child abuse, it makes no sense. You cannot remove the context and intentions of people from what they were doing and be fair.
The drawings were for children, and meant to be silly and entertaining. Everyone in those books, including the “white” characters like Thing One and Thing Two, were silly caricatures. That was the point.
Here’s another angle to consider. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s during huge civil rights upheavals . My town was no exception and as a child I followed the events closely through our local paper. One thing I recall happening is that the word “negro” was going to be retired from use, and a survey was done of black people as to what they preferred to be called. One of the words that black people voted for, high on the list, was Afram. I thought it was an odd word, which is why I remember this story. First was African American, second came Afram, third Black. At first African American was used, then over time black.
Now the progressives who seem to control the language used for anything under their concern are now saying we should capitalize black, Black. They seem to invent new words and rules all the time, a recent one that is getting a lot of play is BIPOC. That just got made up not long ago. I’m a little incredulous about all this, it seems to be as much about playing gotcha, you used the wrong word, you are a racist! by white liberals more than anything. A set up.
But I digress. So let’s flash forward ten years, where those same white woke liberals have decided that actually calling black people “black” places too much emphasis on skin color, that in fact it is actually racist to do that, and no one should be called any color, black, white, or brown. The new term should be Afram, because people should be identified by their ancestral heritage and not the color of their skin.
I could easily see that happening, it actually kind of makes sense to me. Using color is actually racist, the woke decide, and reference to ancestry is legit.
So Afram is the word, and now anyone who said black, from our new cultural eyes, was saying something racist. So should we go back to years past, and look at everyone’s tweets, articles, books, and banish and cancel anyone who ever used the word black in a public way that we can find? Should we fire people from their jobs over this racist term? Are the woke condemning Seuss subject to their own rules, their own lack of tolerance? I bet you anything they will be soon, one way or another, because if you enact rules of intolerance toward others sooner or later it will catch up to you, because you live in a world like that by your own choosing. Soon, someone will make up a rule making you the intolerant one.
That is what we are doing with Seuss, and people it is stupid. It was done in a different world, in a different culture with different eyes. It is just as wrong to impose modern eyes on that as it would be to arrest Aborigines for child endangerment.