Don't Scoff at the Push to Cancel Dr. Seuss | Opinion

Cancel culture activists have come for Dr. Seuss, who they deem a racist despite the fact that his books were undoubtedly woke for their time. It shouldn't be dismissed as yet another silly instance of fringe activists overreacting. It's part of a coordinated campaign to indoctrinate children to take on progressive causes.

After complaints from teachers and academics, Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to cease publishing six books, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and Scrambled Eggs Super!, accused of having racist and insensitive imagery.

The move was supposedly long in the works, but it comes as Virginia's Loudoun County Public Schools issued guidance to promote "inclusive and diverse" books rather than to "simply celebrate Dr. Seuss." Read Across America Day coincides with Dr. Seuss' birthday.

"Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss," the school district said in a statement.

One piece of that "research" comes from Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens, two social justice activists behind the Conscious Kid, an organization "dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth."

Both authors use critical race theory to condemn Dr. Seuss. They compared the number of white characters with the number of those representing minority communities, and judged the "dominance" and "master narrative" exhibited by white characters. They looked for stereotypes and characters who were dehumanized or exoticized.

Their study, "The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books," has been championed by activists seeking to remove books they deem problematic and replace them with content that teaches kids through a critical race theory lens.

"The Cat's physical appearance, including the Cat's oversized top hat, floppy bow tie, white gloves, and frequently open mouth, mirrors actual blackface performers; as does the role he plays as 'entertainer' to the white family—in whose house he doesn't belong," Ishizuka said of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat.

The news that cancel culture was coming for Dr. Seuss earned a collective sigh and chuckle from many parents and conservative voices. But we need to do more than that: we need to push back.

Dr Seuss
American author and illustrator Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904 - 1991) sits at his drafting table in his home office with a copy of his book, 'The Cat in the Hat', La Jolla, California, April 25, 1957. Gene Lester/Getty

Using woke progressive politics to judge any content is disturbing. Radical activists shouldn't be given the power to censor thought, art, literature or anything else. The same groups that view any opposition to their cause as white supremacist attacks have neither the temperament nor the intellectual honesty to hold that kind of power. They're already abusing their influence with impunity.

We must also reject any notion that contemporary standards should be retroactively applied to previous generations. Language and ideas evolve and it's decidedly unreasonable to shun old texts because they weren't woke enough by 2021 standards.

But therein lies one of the movement's goals: to erase our history, break down our institutions and rebuild. Radical progressives believe this country was founded exclusively on white supremacy and that its impact remains undiminished today.

To ensure "equity" (a term that has long since lost all its meaning), we must break down institutions like police departments, schools and even our system of government. In their place, stubbornly rigid radicals believe they should have the power to rebuild society according to their ideological preferences. Only then can we truly ensure an equitable world.

These activists define equity, however, as keeping white, cis-gendered, Christian men and women from ever seeing too much societal success (from promotions and better salaries to positions of power) because those demographic groups have held power for too long. All problems in society, as they see them, are tied directly to white privilege and supremacy.

This is the kind of warped thinking you get when you view the world through the lens of critical race theory. It is designed to find racism in everything. It is meant to create victims who will then push back. That's what makes a ban on Dr. Seuss books especially troubling; they're doing this to influence impressionable children.

Replacing ideas or content activists find objectionable with radical messages will shape a child's ideological development. It's not so much that these activists are seeking to ban books—ironically, we should note the considerable overlap between these folks and those who claim to fight fascism in the Venn diagram of activist movements—as that they hope to replace them with purely ideological texts.

For example, the Conscious Kid recommends that children read Woke Baby, which teaches kids to become progressive activists "to seize a new day of justice and activism." They also push Say Her Name, which pays tribute "to victims of police brutality as well as the activists championing the Black Lives Matter cause." There is no ideological diversity in these selections.

What do you think the end result is when you teach kids at an early age to identify solely with progressive causes, ideas and action plans?

This isn't to say diverse books shouldn't be taught. On the contrary, children (and adults) should be exposed to all types of content. It creates more well-rounded people who will be able, ultimately, to think critically and decide which ideology speaks to them. But that is not the goal of this movement. It's about exposing children to content that progressives approve. Surely, we can acknowledge the dangers of this strategy.

Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons. You can subscribe to his podcast here and follow him on Twitter: @jasonrantz.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.