If You’re Outraged About Dr. Seuss, Consider This
I’ve seen about a dozen memes over the last couple of days expressing outrage that rap lyrics aren’t censored for derogatory content but Dr. Seuss books, Disney creations, and sports mascots have been “forced” to change.
I hate this line of thinking so much.
It’s not an either/or. When you know better, you [should] do better, as Maya Angelou said. The argument, “Yeah, but what about…” is childish and self-centered. When my kids were little and tried to take that route to get out of trouble, I cut the argument off immediately. Wrong is wrong, no matter where on the spectrum it may fall. And you are responsible for what you do.
Should rap artists be pressured to stop producing disgusting music that objectifies and denigrates women? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean other streams of the entertainment industry shouldn’t also come under scrutiny for how they portray people. I’m sure that for some, it’s too little, too late, but at the very least, it’s an acknowledgment, an apology, and a course-correction.
Do I still love Dr. Seuss and the Muppets? Absolutely. But the saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” applies here. You keep what is good and wholesome, but you throw out the dirty water. You don’t keep the filth because it’s part of the baby you love.
I think nostalgia clouds our thinking, especially for those of us who aren’t part of a minority group. We feel offended and attacked when icons of our childhood — especially those that conjure up happy memories — are now deemed inappropriate and racist. So many of us want to return to happier times, the days when life felt safer and more innocent.
But here’s the thing: while “the old days” may indeed have felt happier, safer, and more innocent to you, that was not the reality for people of color.
Those nostalgic “old days” were filled with discrimination, stereotyping, and disenfranchisement for African Americans, indigenous people, and immigrants from countries we felt were ‘inferior’ to our own. How we treated people who were different from us was horrifying and unconscionable, and it’s about time we began attempting to right some of those wrongs.
So before you pitch a fit about not being able to pour your Mrs. Butterworth syrup over your Aunt Jemima pancakes and cry, “Cancel culture!” consider how necessary it is for you to hang onto your nostalgia when it’s at the expense of someone else. Your happier, simpler times are part of your story, your own experience, and no one can take that away from you. You are allowed to cherish them as they were for what they were. But to whine and complain and fill the internet with your “yeah, but” arguments is evidence that you’re in a safe bubble and need a little introspection about why these things are so important to you.