Dr. Seuss on Racism

I recently came across this Dr. Seuss short animation, which was adapted from the book, about the Sneetches and the conflicts embedded in their small society. I had never heard of the Sneetches before, despite being an avid Dr. Seuss reader in my childhood, but my friend sitting next to me screamed out that she remembered them when she saw the title of the video, so we watched it.

This video is a somewhat surprising and very obvious criticism of many societies today, in that racism is a very real part of the Sneetches’ mindsets and behavior. For apparently no reason at all, some of the Sneetches, which are yellow furry Dr. Seuss-looking animals, have green stars on their bellies, and some don’t. And of course, the green star guys think they’re better than the no star guys, and the society splits into two groups, the haves and the have-nots.

What is interesting about this particular fictional story about racism, of which there are many, is that somewhere in the middle of the video, a man from out of town comes bustling in and appeals to the starless Sneetches by saying he can put stars on them and consequently make them acceptable members of the Sneetch society, at a “small” price. Once the starless Sneetches have stars, the true star Sneetches get enraged, because now they can’t tell each other part, but for some reason they want to hold on to the idea that they are different and somehow entitled to different and better aspects of life. So the man from out of town offers to take their stars off, of course provided they pay up!

This goes on and on in circles, with both groups putting stars on and taking stars off and putting stars back on until no one can even remember what they started out as in the first place. And once they’re all out of money, the man with the star machines leaves, but not before casually remarking that this society of Sneetches will never learn of their racist ways and the problems they created for themselves.

But of course they did just that, and all of a sudden the Sneetches became accepting of everyone because they couldn’t tell each other apart anymore anyways.

What do you think about this representation of racism and how does it relate to the real world? Do you think if someone came along and made us all the same color for day, racism would somehow magically disappear? What do you think about the man profiting off of the Sneetches’ racism? Do you think he was really trying to help them overcome this challenge or was he just looking for money?

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One thought on “Dr. Seuss on Racism”

  1. I also loved Dr. Seuss when I was younger, and I vaguely remember this short, but it was never one of my favorites. Watching it now I totally see what you mean when you say its a satire on racism, in fact most Dr. Seuss works are some sort of commentary on an issue in society. I think that this one really highlights the issue nicely, it’s human nature to want to fit in, and with the sneetches it was the same. The ones with the starred bellies were the unmarked category, and the star-less bellied were the marked. I think this is a great example for kids and something they should definitely be shown so that they can understand, either starred or un-starred, a sneetch is a sneetch just like a person is a person. At the end of the video the fixing man says that “you can’t teach a sneetch.” I think that clearly, the sneetches could be taught, just like future generations can be, a person is a person, no matter what they look like, and they should all be treated with respect and dignity.

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