Tuesday’s announcement that Dr. Seuss Enterprises would shelve six of the author’s books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — is “wrong,” civil rights attorney Leo Terrell told “The Story.”
In a statement, Dr. Seuss Enterprises told the Associated Press that the books in question “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” “Mulberry Street includes an illustration of an Asian person wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl. “If I Ran the Zoo” includes a drawing of two barefoot African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.
“The images reflect the time in which the books were written, in the 20s and the 30s,” said Terrell, a former public school teacher. “I was not offended by those pictures because it talks about the evolution of this country and how we are now. What those books reflected was a sign of the times. You cannot ignore history. You cannot eliminate history. There’s worse pictures than that. But taking in context, those that want to cancel these books, those that think those books are racist, show me the … harm to victims today. They can’t.
“They use the argument of racism as a gimmick, a talking point to basically cancel people out,” he added. “I think it’s wrong as a teacher, I think it’s wrong as a lawyer because unconstitutionally that is telling people that they can’t read certain books in libraries and if the government imposed these restrictions, it’s horrific. We cannot eliminate our history. Some history is bad but the majority is great. Both sides need to be taught.”
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Terrell recalled that “when I taught, you talked about the context of how these books were written. Today that does not exist. It’s done with the movies like ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ People are canceling things to set tone and basically hurt people economically, politically and socially. Cancel culture will backfire. It denies history.
“Ever since the George Floyd incident, that’s being used as a stepping stone to cancel people out … I want to make it clear to all the viewers. No person in American history is perfect, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln,” he added. “We don’t cancel. We need to embellish the good part, criticize the bad part, but grow and learn from it. I think that is something that we need to do and speak out about it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.