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...