Woke parents agree: Dr. Seuss is canceled

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Dr. Seuss has got their goose.

“I turned my basement into a playroom for my daughter Anaiya. I thought a Dr. Seuss theme would encourage her to fall in love with reading,“ said Janeen Mikell-Straughn, 36, who lives outside of Annapolis, Maryland. The technical writer and mom of one decked out the space with colorful wall decals featuring Seuss’ famous characters, and inspiring quotes such as, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

But Mikell-Straughn, whose daughter is 6, has recently been second-guessing the decor. “Had I not invested so much time in the space I would get rid of everything,” she said of the playroom, upon which she spent approximately $200 for the Seuss-themed merch and has taken about a year to put together. Instead, she’s decided to be honest with Anaiya about the writer — whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel — and his “unsettling” shortcomings: “I will tell her that there’s some books we can’t read because of racial overtones,” she said. 

It’s been a tough week in Seuss-ville, as the once irreproachable children’s book author has been the subject of racial reckoning. On March 2 — what would have been the late author and illustrator’s 117th birthday — the company that oversees Seuss’ publications announced that they were pulling licensing rights to six titles, due to racially insensitive depictions of Asian and Black characters.

These books — which include “And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “Scrambled Eggs Super!” -— “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The day before, President Biden neglected to mention Seuss in his remarks for Read Across America Day, even though he had been included in similar speeches made by both Presidents Trump and Obama.

Parents agree that it’s time to rethink all the Seuss love.

Jenny Jackson, a Tenafly, NJ-based mother of two who moved from Brooklyn to the ‘burbs during the pandemic, isn’t psyched about her daughter’s school’s decision to go forward with “Dr. Seuss Week.”

“A whole week feels a little excessive to me,” said Jackson, 36.

Still, she sent daughter Anjali Jackson-Miller, 5, off to Kindergarten in a red-and-white striped dress and matching bow for “Cat in the Hat” Thursday. “I wouldn’t want [her] feeling sad that Dr. Seuss is no longer welcome in the house,” Jackson said of the decision to let her participate, despite mixed feelings.

Given the “not fun” controversy, the sustainable fashion entrepreneur plans, along with a fellow concerned mom, to approach the school about putting an end to the pro-Seuss spirit. “We want to make sure this is the last year of Dr. Seuss week,” said Jackson, even if it means that her son Bodhi, 3, will miss out.

“They don’t need to do it,” said Jackson. 

The backlash has been brewing since 2019, when researchers Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens published a study in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature” entitled “The Cat Is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, AntiBlackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books,” deeming them vehicles of white supremacy.

But not everyone is convinced that a total Seuss boycott is necessary.

“I was flipping through the books and I was a little shocked. They’re a lot racier than I remember,” said Chloe VanGroningen, 20, a third-year college student at the University of Ottawa. Distressed by the author’s stereotype-laden drawings of Asian characters, she reached out to her mother, who teaches pre-school, and uses Seuss in the classroom “prolifically.”

But her mom wasn’t having it.

“She was absolutely livid,” said VanGroningen, 20, who was “taken aback” by her mom’s reaction. “I felt she was having a disregard for someone’s feelings over what is ultimately a silly book.” (She’s not the only one; Tuesday’s announcement triggered a run on Seuss books, with some even auctioning off their soon-to-be-rare titles on eBay.)

VanGroningen, who works with kids at a summer camp, persisted, showing her mom the offending titles. She said her mom conceded that Seuss probably would rethink those drawings today — but she’s keep his oeuvre on the classroom shelves for now.

Jackson, who likes reading her kids more PC books by Mo Willems and Elsa Beskow, said she has open conversations about race in her home, but is cautious not to ruffle feathers in her new school district. 

“We’re already the Brooklyn family that moved to the suburbs, we’re already, let’s say more worldly,” said Jackson. “I don’t want her marching into school and preaching to the other kids.”

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