Doodling Dr. Seuss: ‘If I Ran the Cancel Culture Zoo’

This is an opinion cartoon.

I met Dr. Seuss, he drew me a toon. I’ll tell you all about it one day real soon

Now there are thoughts to think and doodles to do

If a cartoonist was in charge

Things would be different for me, you and you

Like many of you, I grew up with Dr. Seuss. He was a huge influence on whatever it is I am today. In the second grade, my friend Tim Dixon and I got in trouble for laughing too loud in class. We were reading “If I Ran the Zoo”.

Later on, as part of a deal I made in negotiating a cartoonist job in San Diego, I got to meet and hang out with the man himself, Theodor Geisel. Meeting Dr. Seuss was like meeting the real Santa Claus. I’ll save that story for another time.

Here’s the thing that strikes me about the controversy swirling around 6 Dr. Seuss books: Seuss Enterprises has chosen to discontinue the publication of the books. The books haven’t been banned, burned or blown up. They are still in libraries. You can still buy them. The Seuss Estate will not print any more of these 6 titles because some of the drawings are offensive.

I agree with University of Alabama Professor Jamie Campbell Naidoo: “To call the discontinuation of some of Dr. Seuss’s titles cancel culture is a stretch,” Nadoo said. “Is it really cancel culture if Dr. Seuss’s own estate is ending the publication of these books? Are all of his books being taken out of circulation from libraries or pulped in book stores? No.”

“The Seuss Estate choosing to discontinue titles that are racist isn’t cancel culture,” he said. “They are acknowledging that times have changed and finally realizing that racist images of Africans and Asians is not acceptable. The term ‘cancel culture’ is being used more often lately to be synonymous with anything that is changed. Long before ‘cancel culture’ was being used, parents and educators realized that some of Dr. Seuss’s images were not appropriate and reinforced stereotypes.”

I have to believe if Ted Geisel were alive today he would have no problem with this decision. He was a sharp, feisty progressive man with a conscience. I can’t imagine he would draw the same offensive stereotypes today that were unfortunately accepted in the 30s, 40s and 50s.

Here’s the statement from Seuss Enterprises: Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

We are committed to action. To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: 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. These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

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.

JD Crowe is the cartoonist for Alabama Media Group and and 2020 RFK Human Rights Award winner for Editorial Cartoons.

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