A Cambridge, Massachusetts, librarian refused several Dr. Seuss children’s books donated by First Lady Melania Trump, claiming the content is “steeped in racist propaganda.”
The First Lady donated ten Dr. Seuss titles to schools across the country in honor of National Read a Book Day, including, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” which Melania indicated she’d read to her son Barron “over and over.”
Cambridge Public Schools librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro thanked Melania for the “wonderful gesture,” but ultimately labeled Seuss works “a bit of a cliche” and said her library “would not be keeping the titles for our collection” due to their racist nature.
One “fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,“ Soeiro wrote in response to the First Lady.
“Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art,“ Soeiro explained.
The triggered librarian also pointed to a School Library Journal article entitled, “Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away from Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books,” which analyzed the “minstrel characteristics and trope nature of Seuss’s characters,” as an example of why Seuss books are racist.
Soeiro also referenced a book by Philip Nel, Was the Cat in the Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books, as proof the beloved children’s author embraced a racist ideology.
“I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out,” Soeiro said in an Hbook.com blog post.
The First Lady’s communication director, Stephanie Grisham, called the librarian’s rejection “unfortunate,” and said the Melania just wants “to help as many children as she can.”
“She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to children across the country is but one example,” Grisham said in a statement to Fox News. “To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”
Seuss’s grandnephew, Ted Owens, also took issue with the librarians’ representation of his great uncle’s works, defending the books and their numerous make-believe characters.
“I know one thing for sure — I never saw one ounce of racism in anything he said, or how he lived his life, or what his stories were about,” Owens told the Boston Herald, adding the charges were “preposterous.”
“When you have grinches and sneetches and all his other characters, how can you say that’s racist? His characters are based on made-up characters,” Owens said, according to the Herald. “They’re Sam-I-Am, they’re elephants, ‘Horton Hears a Who.’”
The mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, also slammed Soeiro for proposing Seuss had a hidden racist agenda.
“‘One fish — two fish — red fish — blue fish’ — I think her comments ‘stink’ and are ridiculous towards our beloved Dr. Seuss. We’re extremely proud to be home to the one and only Dr. Seuss Museum in the world. By the way, attendance has been through the roof, too!” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno stated.
“Her comments that this is ‘racist propaganda and that Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche and a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature’ is ‘political correctness’ at its worst. …By the way, kudos to First Lady Melania Trump for her generous offer to donate Dr. Seuss books to that Cambridge school library — they don’t want them — we’ll take them and would be honored to have the First Lady and President Trump… visit.”
As pointed out by The Gateway Pundit, librarians didn’t seem to mind when Obama read, Green Eggs and Ham, at the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll.
Update: Internet sleuths found a picture of Liz Phipps Soeiro dressed in a “Cat in the Hat” outfit from March 2015.