Dr. Seuss museum to replace mural after complaints that it depicted ‘jarring racial stereotype’

 In Entertainment

A sculpture of the Lorax is displayed at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Mass. (Springfield Museums)

This story has been updated.

A controversial mural at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Massachusetts will be replaced after several children’s authors complained that it promoted racial stereotypes — and that they were boycotting an upcoming festival at the newly opened museum because of it.

The authors — including Mo Willems, the Caldecott-winning writer and illustrator behind the popular Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books — issued a joint letter Thursday saying they were skipping the upcoming Children’s Literature Festival in Springfield, Mass. 

Willems, Lisa Yee (“DC Super Hero Girls” series) and Mike Curato (“Little Elliot” series) said the mural, which illustrates a scene from Theodor Geisel’s “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” includes a “jarring racial stereotype of a Chinese man, who is depicted with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.” The authors called the caricature “deeply hurtful.”

After the uproar, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which oversees the author’s estate, said it would replace the mural with another image depicting another of Dr. Seuss’s stories.

“This is what Dr. Seuss would have wanted us to do,” the group said in a statement. “His later books, like The Sneetches and Horton Hears a Who, showed a great respect for fairness and diversity. Dr. Seuss would have loved to be a part of this dialogue for change. In fact, Ted Geisel himself said, ‘It’s not how you start that counts. It’s what you are at the finish.’ ”

Willems, Yee and Curato had been invited to appear at the festival Oct. 14 at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, which opened in June.

The event was described by the museum as “a day filled with books, costumed characters and famous authors.” But the three authors said they were skipping the festival after having learned about the mural’s racial stereotype.

“While this image may have been considered amusing to some when it was published 80 years ago, it is obviously offensive in 2017 . . .” they wrote. “For some children who visit the museum, their only interaction with Asian representation might be that painting. For others, seeing themselves represented in such a stereotypical way may feed into internalized, even subconscious shame and humiliation. It is incumbent on our public institutions to present all races in a fair manner. Displaying imagery this offensive damages not only Asian American children, but also non-Asian kids who absorb this caricature and could associate it with all Asians or their Asian neighbors and classmates.”

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