Woke Cambridge Librarian Learns That In Addition To Elephants, The Internet Never Forgets, Either

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/09/29/woke-cambridge-librarian-learns-that-in-addition-to-elephants-the-internet-never-forgets-either/

CAMBRIDGE — The Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian, who triggered a firestorm of criticism after penning an open letter in which she laid out her political reasons for not accepting a gift of 10 Dr. Seuss books from First Lady Melania Trump, apparently forgot that the Internet has a memory strong enough to make Babar the Elephant blush.

In her widely-circulated blog post, titled “Dear Mrs. Trump,” Liz Phipps Soeiro not only condemns the leadership of Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos, whom she claims “maligns” and “marginalizes” public school districts, she also makes the jarring claim that Dr. Seuss’s books are inherently racist.

“What many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” Phipps Soeiro wrote. “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.”

Yet what Phipps Soeiro had to have been aware of was the existence online of photos and posts in which she demonstrates an apparent affection for all things Seuss. 

A visibly unhappy librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro holding a donated copy of a Dr. Seuss book and a letter from the White House. (Facebook)

Nevertheless, Phipps Soeiro in her letter to the First Lady links to an academic article that claims to unmask a “racist Dr. Seuss.”

“Grace Hwang Lynch’s School Library Journal article, “Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away from Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books,” reports on Katie Ishizuka’s work analyzing the minstrel characteristics and trope nature of Seuss’s characters. Scholar Philip Nel’s new book, Was the Cat in the Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books, further explores and shines a spotlight on the systemic racism and oppression in education and literature.”

What Phipps Soeiro neglected to mention in her post, however, was her own praise for Seuss’s work.

Seuss also happens to be one of the favorite children’s authors of former first lady Michelle Obama:

Seuss’s books are also a favorite of America’s first African-American president, Barack Obama.


“So how many people have heard of this book, Green Eggs and Ham?” Obama asked ahead of a reading he delivered of the book during the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll event. “This is one of the classics, it’s a great book, and I’m going to try to do one the best renditions ever of Green Eggs and Ham.

Upon completion of his rendition, Obama reminded children attending the event to eat their broccoli.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama hosted the Cat in the Hat at the White House as recently as 2015.

“We love Dr. Seuss in our house,” she proclaimed during the character’s visit.

Melania Trump in her letter to Cambridgeport Elementary noted that Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was a favorite of her and her son Barron’s.

Phipps Soeiro, according to images of her posted online years ago by the school, arguably loves Dr. Seuss as much as the Obamas do:


Yet Phipps Soeiro, according to her letter, at the same time believes that Seuss’s work is rife with racism — something she was apparently unconcerned about when Democrats held the White House. 

Not finished, Phipps Soeiro also penned to the Trump family a list of 10 books she recommends instead of Seuss’s works, which includes the titles, Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic, Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation, Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, and, Red: A Crayon’s Story, which documents the plight of a red crayon that can only color shades of blue until “he lets go of his label,” at which point, “everything turns around, including the other crayons’ minds.”

In her letter to Melania Trump, Phipps Soeiro also points out that her students “have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science.”

Phipps Soeiro later notes that Cambridgeport Elementary, chosen by the Trump administration to receive the books, is privileged to the point where it “doesn’t have a NEED for these books.”

After listing the progressive benchmarks of the city of Cambridge, Phipps Soeiro reminds Trump that the school district “will still struggle to close the achievement gap, retain teachers of color, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution.”

A feature profile of Phipps Soeiro, published in August by the School Library Journal, states that the elementary school’s library “reflects Phipps Soeiro’s commitment to social justice.”

“Titles such as Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl and Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley’s I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark spark discussions about government and fairness,” the profile adds.

Phipps Soeiro’s letter to Melania Trump was published in the family reading section on the website of the Boston-based Horn Book Magazine.

Her letter prompted a flurry of backlash, causing the website’s editors to issue an etiquette reminder. Horn Book Magazine editor-in-chief Roger Sutton also posted a column noting that there was no blowback when the publication criticized former first lady Laura Bush, another Republican.

“I wanted to state that I am very proud that the Horn Book published Liz Phipps Soeiro’s open letter to Melania Trump,” Sutton wrote. “It was polite, constructive, informative, and well-reasoned.”

Sutton added that the backlash against Phipps Soeiro had forced him to shut down the comment section featured beneath her blog.

Sutton also disputed those who criticized Phipps Soeiro over her decision to omit any references to the Obamas’ love of Dr. Seuss.

“Those commenters who said that Barack Obama had praised Dr. Seuss are missing the point,” Sutton wrote. “Dr. Seuss has been used by politicians (not to mention graduation speakers) of all stripes because his books are generally peppy, popular, and can speak to pretty much any message you’re trying to convey. This is evidence of their banality more than anything else. Mrs. Trump’s choice of them, and them exclusively, is unprofessional, and I’m using that word literally, not pejoratively. I wish she had talked to a librarian first.”

Sutton later claimed that “the last thing most libraries need are random book donations.”

Libraries do not need donations of books, whether from you, Mrs. Trump, or Mrs. Obama,” Sutton added. “You know what libraries need? Money. Give them money.”