Racism In Richard Wright's Black Boy

1044 words - 4 pages

Racism in Wright's Black Boy


The theme of Richard Wright's autobiography Black Boy is racism. Wright

grew 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 he

didn'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 and

the whites. Yet he is aware of the existence of a difference. "My grandmother

who was as "white" as any "white" person, had never looked "white" to me."

(Wright pg. 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 believed

that the white man was allowed to beat the black child. Wright did not think

that whites had the right to beat blacks because of their race. Instead he

assumed that the white man was the black boy's father. When Wright learned that

this was not true, and that the boy was beaten because of his race, he was un

able 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 white

people pass by, Richard doesn't move to accomodate the white people because he

simple didn't notice that they were white.

As a child, Wright ultimately learned to fear white people. However, he

still did not understand the social differences between the races. Wright's

uncle was killed by white people, and Wright's aunt and another uncle were

forced to flee from the whites.

When Wright asks his mother about these incidents she tells him , "You

keep your mouth shut or the white folks Ôll get you too." As a teenager Wright

learns that a friend's brother was killed by a white man. When he hears about

this killing he seems unable to do anything other than sit and think about the

incident. Subsequently Wright's perception of the relations between blacks and

whites becomes even more negative. The whites he encounters while working are

resentful of him. They not only beat him, but try to force him to fight other

blacks. Wright sees that the whites he...

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