- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Dr. Seuss Enterprises will stop publishing and licensing six books by the American author due to offensive imagery, the company announced Tuesday.

The company said it will stop publishing “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” after a review of its catalog of titles.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” said the company, which was founded by family of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author/illustrator known as Dr. Seuss.

The company did not specify which images it considers “hurtful and wrong.” But “If I Ran the Zoo” includes a drawing of two bare-foot African men wearing what seem to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads. “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” portrays an Asian person wearing a cone-shaped hat while holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl.

The company said it made the decision last year to stop publishing the books after working with a panel of experts and educators.

“We are committed to action,” it said in a statement Tuesday, which coincided with the author’s 117th birthday. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises‘s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”

But the decision prompted criticism that it is another instance of the so-called cancel culture.

“I’m baffled that we live in a society today in where Dr. Seuss gets canceled,” said Mike Gonzalez, senior fellow at Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum at the Heritage Foundation. “We do not want to live in a society in which books get canceled and banned.”

“Cancel culture is an instrument to silence dissent,” he said. “It also reaches into canceling works of arts and works of literature. And again, the worst regimes on earth have been the ones that have banned books and works of literature and other art forms. We’re getting into a very scary place in America if we ban books.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, tweeted: “Now 6 Dr. Seuss books are cancelled too? When history looks back at this time it will be held up as an example of a depraved sociopolitical purge driven by hysteria and lunacy.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, tweeted: “If Dr. Seuss wanted to #DefundThePolice, his books wouldn’t be getting canceled.” Mr. Jordan on Monday called for a House committee hearing on the cancel culture.

However, Michael Hansen, director of the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, said that Dr. Seuss Enterprises is trying to be sensitive to years of criticism over the books’ use of stereotypes and caricatures that conform to racist tropes.

He said there is an argument that children’s literature historically has been very white-centric and doesn’t necessarily reflect experiences of children of color and the struggles they undergo. And books that do include characters of color portray them as stereotypes or racialized caricatures, Mr. Hansen added.

Dr. Seuss has published some of the most popular children’s books, which have been translated into dozens of languages and sold in more than 100 countries. Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904, and died in 1991.

His books are still popular and brought in an estimated $33 million before taxes in 2020, making the Forbes list as the second highest-paid dead celebrity of that year, The Associated Press reported. More than 600 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide.

Although millions globally admire Dr. Seuss for the positive values he promoted in his works, the author has faced increasing criticism in recent years for how people of color are portrayed in some of his children’s books and in his earlier advertising and propaganda illustrations.

President Biden excluded any reference to Geisel in his proclamation Tuesday for Read Across America Day, also known as Dr. Seuss Day, due to the ongoing criticism.

According to a 2019 study published by the Research on Diversity in Youth Literature journal, Dr. Seuss published racist and anti-Semitic cartoons during the 1920s while attending Dartmouth College, once drawing Black men who were boxing as gorillas and perpetuating Jewish stereotypes by depicting characters as stingy or with oversized noses.

“Before and during his career publishing children’s books, Dr. Seuss also published hundreds of racist political cartoons, comics, and advertisements for newspapers, magazines, companies, and the United States government,” the study researchers wrote. “In spite of Dr. Seuss’ extensive body of explicitly racist published works dehumanizing and degrading Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and people from other marginalized groups (including Jewish people and Muslims), many differentiate and defend the author’s children’s books as ‘promoting tolerance,’ and even ‘anti-racist.’”

Jessica Chasmar contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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