Racism in Wright’s Black BoyThe theme of Richard Wright’s autobiography Black Boy is racism. Wrightgrew up in the deep South; the Jim Crow South of the early twentieth century.
From an early age Richard Wright was aware of two races, the black and the white. Yet he never understood the relations between the two races. The fact that hedidn’t understand but was always trying to, got him into trouble many times. When in Memphis, Wright reluctantly assumed the role society dictated for him,the role of a black boy.
He became a black boy for the sole purpose of survival,to make enough money to eventually move North where he could be himself. As an innocent child Wright sees no difference between the blacks andthe whites. Yet he is aware of the existence of a difference. “My grandmotherwho was as “white” as any “white” person, had never looked “white” to me. “(Wright pg.Order now
31). This statement shows his confusion about blacks and whites. When, as a child Wright learned of a white man beating a black boy he believedthat the white man was allowed to beat the black child. Wright did not thinkthat whites had the right to beat blacks because of their race. Instead heassumed that the white man was the black boy’s father. When Wright learned thatthis was not true, and that the boy was beaten because of his race, he was unable to rationalize it.
Even as he got older he didn’t see the color of people. In one instance Richard and a friend are standing outside a shop when some whitepeople pass by, Richard doesn’t move to accomodate the white people because hesimple didn’t notice that they were white. As a child, Wright ultimately learned to fear white people. However, hestill did not understand the social differences between the races.
Wright’suncle was killed by white people, and Wright’s aunt and another uncle wereforced to flee from the whites. When Wright asks his mother about these incidents she tells him , “Youkeep your mouth shut or the white folks ll get you too. ” As a teenager Wrightlearns that a friend’s brother was killed by a white man. When he hears aboutthis killing he seems unable to do anything other than sit and think about theincident. Subsequently Wright’s perception of the relations between blacks andwhites becomes even more negative. The whites he encounters while working areresentful of him.
They not only beat him, but try to force him to fight otherblacks. Wright sees that the whites he encounters will do anything possible tobelittle black people. Wright begins to live his entire life in fear of doingor saying the wrong thing and thereby subjecting himself to the wrath of thewhites. He realizes that even a minor mistake in action or word could lead tohis death.
For most of his life, Wright had dreams of leaving the South. As ayoung teenager he says, “I dreamed of going north and writing books, novels. The North symbolized to me all that I had not felt and seen. ” (Wright pg.
186 ). In Black Boy Wright admits that his goal was not to go North, but to escape theSouth. Wright believed that the North was a haven from the racial prejudicesand injustices that characterized the South. His ultimate and all consuminggoal was to reach the North.
To achieve this he betrayed his moral beliefs,doing things and succumbing to powers and beliefs that he said he never would. For the first time in his life he stole. More importantly he allowed himself tobecome a “good nigger” by mindlessly obeying the whites and pretending to haveno identity and no intelligence of his own. He did all of this to reach theNorth and hopefully the life he had always wanted. There are many themes in Black Boy.
All of them are directly orindirectly the product of racism. Wright is hungry because his mother, a blackwoman, cannot find a job that pays well. Wright tries to rebel against therestraints society placed upon his race. He feels isolated because he questionsthe relations between the races and because he will not submit to the demandsof a racist society. I liked this book because it tells of the experiences thatmany people will never encounter.
It has enlightened me. Before reading thisbook I could not have imagined the horrific truths of only a short while ago, ina place not so far away. Everyone could gain something from this book, for me itdemonstrates that the human race was not, and is not as civilized as it appears.cEnglish