"I don't see color, I swear."
Written in 1960, the book emerged in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. Coincidence? Not freaking likely, given Dr. Seuss' less-than-savory artistic history. Even as he outwardly attempted to stress tolerance and acceptance, in his subconscious, he was still the guy who had no qualms drawing those racist cartoons earlier in his life. He was also surrounded his whole life by ubiquitous damaging caricatures that must have crept into his brain. As a result, everyone's favorite nonsense book of childhood memory is actually filled with racist stereotypes.
The story stresses that "funny things" are everywhere. An ominous warning about equality? The "funny things" live alongside the children of the book and do everything that a person can. They push strollers with babies, drive cars, talk on the phone, and own homes. Why aren't they considered equals? A few specific examples:
The Racist Characters
We like our bike. It is built for three. Our Mike sits up in back, you see.
So the lily-white kids own a dude called Mike who always rides on the back of their bike. Uhhhh ... this isn't even one of those moments where we can say, "So far, so good." This section of the book has only four sentences in it, and within those four sentences we find out that the children own a guy, force him to sit in the back, and keep him around only so he can perform forced labor. Not cool, guys.
You're familiar with the "back of the bus" era of history, I'm sure. But just in case: Before the Civil Rights Movement, there were segregation laws that required African-Americans to always sit in the back if they were riding the bus. They weren't quite as happy about it as Mike seems to be. From December 1955 to December 1956, the Montgomery Bus boycott challenged these laws. Maybe Mike should sit wherever he damn well pleases, or stage his own boycott, except he's not even that far along. First, he needs to be freed from slavery.
Random House Books