Why the current Dr. Seuss controversy?
The controversy concerns the fact that there is a difference between using words as objective and legitimate adjectives or using them as identity labels to encourage racial and political stereotypes.
“Black” coffee is an objective descriptor: black is a shade on the color spectrum. “Italian” sausage is the sweet and mild Italian variety. (Phrases like “Indian Burn” are suspect similar to the common association of scalping with Native Americans though the practice was originally brought to North America by Europeans.)
Some of Seuss’ s words — emphasis on “some” — are descriptors used as stereotypes that were once generally accepted but now are purposefully used by white supremacy elements in society to dehumanize people of color.
For example, in “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl. “If I Ran the Zoo” includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appears to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.
In most books, Dr. Seuss plays with the legitimate use of adjectives for fun and creative expression. But in the ones above, he crosses a line (yes, a line that has changed historically as all lines do) that uses words with an impact today that intentionally or not serves to dehumanize.
Are we talking about political correctness? Charges of “political correctness” are often used to serve another political viewpoint that displays disrespect for people who are different.
The Dr. Seuss controversy is not about political correctness. It’s about respect.