LeVar Burton has voiced his support for the decision to discontinue six Dr. Seuss books for "hurtful and wrong" portrayals of people. Amid surmounting criticism over Dr. Seuss Enterprises's decision to cease publication on titles including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo, the longtime Reading Rainbow host spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper, applauding the move, which he said is about growth.
Appearing on Anderson Cooper Full Circle to celebrate Read Across America Day, a day that encourages reading and is held annually on Dr. Seuss' March 2 birthday, Burton told Cooper, in the "general sense, once you know better, it is incumbent on you to do better. And I think that is exactly what Seuss Enterprises is doing here." The Hollywood Reporter noted Burton said Dr. Seuss Enterprises is "being a responsible steward of the brand."
Burton's remarks came after the company, which preserves and protects the author's legacy, announced Tuesday it had ceased publication on six of the late author's works – And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, The Cat's Quizzer, and If I Ran the Zoo, the latter of which has a narrator that uses "helpers who all wear their eyes as a slant" from "countries no one can spell" as servants. The company said those titles "portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong" and the decision to stop selling them is "part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises's catalog represents and supports all communities and families." Burton agreed with this, telling Cooper the six titles in question "really don't fit with the values we've all come to know Dr. Seuss for."
"America specifically, our xenophobia has crept into every aspect of our culture. And we have a tendency in this country to otherize everybody: Asians, Hispanics, Blacks. White normative culture has always been this way when it comes to the 'other,'" Burton continued in part. "We have tremendously racist underpinnings in this country. And the sooner we make peace with it, come to terms with the fact that this is part of the fabric of America, only then, only then are we prepared to do anything about it; make lasting systemic change."
Following his appearance with Cooper, Burton took to Twitter to address the conotroversy in a lengthy thread, writing in part that "this moment requires an unflinching honesty about who we have been, who we currently are, and most important, who will we be in the presence of one another going forward. Nothing less than the necessary hard work of extending whatever humanity we possess to one another, will do!"
Burton is the latest to voice his support for the decision, with Dr. Seuss' stepdaughters, Leagrey Dimond and Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, voicing mixed reactions in separate statements, though both have expressed hope that the titles will one day be published again. In the wake of the announcement, which has sparked heated discussion over "cancel culture," Dr. Seuss' titles have soared on Amazon's best-seller's charts.