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Josh's Paper

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 8 months ago

  Hiben 1 Ms. Boeser College Writing 14 January 2008

Richard Wright's Black Boy: American Racism

Racism is so deeply embedded in American society that many whites do not recognize it as the serious problem that it is (Feagin). The autobiography of Black Boy by Richard Wright shows us American racism in our history towards African Americans. If we compare our society's past to our present, one thing that comes to mind is to ask ourselves how much have our racist feelings really improved? Although issues with race and relations have improved since the publishing of Black Boy, issues of racial discrimination, segregation, and stereotyping are still unsolved in our culture. To this day we have spread our racism among more than just the foundation of black to white, but to all people of color. Although the segregation law of America has been diminished, the white culture of the United States have initially developed minds, ideologies and practices that the white culture is somewhat superior to the rest of the people of color in our nation. The autobiography of Black Boy, current events, and personal experience will help us see the racism of our 21st century American culture. In his autobiography, Black Boy, Richard Wright captured one of the most powerfully moving personal narratives of a journey of life to rely on himself for self-discovery and self fulfillment. Young Wright, living in the South in the first decades of the twentieth century where segregation, discrimination, and alienation of African Americans was very much alive (Smith).

Hiben 2 Through his journey Wright faced daily discrimination for his skin color. Fighting deprivation of food and water, Wright struggles for an education, acceptance of peers, and the understanding of racism against his skin color. Overcoming all obstacles Wright became the main precursor of the black arts movement of the 1960s (Clark). His autobiography helps represent the black pride that he had through his struggles, and the hatred whites carried towards blacks. Robert Felger explains Richard Wright to be, "perhaps the very first writer to give the white community explanations and themes that cut through its prejudices and forced it to look at the reality of black life in America" (Clark). One experience Richard Wright shares through his life of racism is when he was a child, he sold a white supremacist newspaper to people on the street for money for a job to support the family. Having no idea it was propaganda for White Supremacists because he was illiterate at the time, people mocked him for his efforts of achieving some sort of income for his family. To understand the racism in the autobiography of Black Boy and the early 20th century we must look to the present to see how much we truly have improved on our actions and ideas of racism. A high school in Georgia held its first "united" prom, with white and black kids dancing together and, gasp, holding hands in 2007(Schoetz). Finally breaking their high school tradition and integrating both black and white students to one prom will be remembered by a "special event." After reading Black Boy and reflecting on the racism that America has put on itself, we need to step back to see where we are at the present time. Even though the United States constitution states that everyone one is equal in America, no matter what skin color, we have to look at our society and the ideas, practices, and actions we all take when it comes to racism. Looking at this Georgia high school, for the first time the students decided to have it's first

Hiben 3 integrated prom in it's history. America's youth still struggle in the year of 2007 to make a decision to have a dance with both people of white and colored skin. A scary reality also hits when Disney, finally in it's hundred years of being around, makes it first black skinned princess in it's history of movies in 2007 ("Disney First: Black Princess"). America has much improved since the publishing of Black Boy, but how far has equality come in our American society? One way to look at the lack of equality and the effects of racism in America is to look at the Judicial side of America. The court systems, hate crimes, whose charged and how. Here are some examples of some hate crimes that were charged differently or not at all in a racial aspect. In February 1984, Ly Yung Cheung, a 19-year old Chinese woman who was 7 months pregnant was pushed in front of a New York City subway train and decapitated. Her attacker, a white male high school teacher, claimed he suffered from "a phobia of Asian people" and he was overcome with the urge to kill this woman. He successfully pleaded insanity. If this case had been investigated as a hate crime, there might have been more information about his so-called phobia and whether there was a pattern of racism. But because she was Asian and because she was a woman, it was not investigated as a hate crime( "Racism, Hate Crimes, and Pornography"). At an incident like this we see the definition of discrimination, and the mind set of some white American's and how they feel about people with color. Our court system was wrong to not accuse this man for what he did, but let him off for insanity. On December 7, 1984, 52 year old Japanese American Helen Fukui disappeared in Denver, Colorado; her decomposed body was found weeks later. The fact that she disappeared on Pearl Harbor day, when anti-Asian speech and incidents increased dramatically, was considered significantly in the community. But the case was not investigated as a hate crime and no suspects

Hiben 4 were ever apprehended ( "Racism, Hate Crimes, and Pornography"). Another example lies at Ohio State University, two Asian women were gang raped by fraternity "brothers" in two separate incidents. One of the rapes was part of a racially targeted "game" called the "Ethnic Challenge" in which the fraternity men followed an ethnic checklist indicating what kind of women to gang rapea"in this case, Asian women. Because the women feared humiliation and ostracism by their communities, neither woman reported the rapes. However, the attacks were known to a few campus officials, who did not take them up as hate crimes or anything else ("Racism, Hate Crimes, and Pornography"). The conclusion to these examples is to not only show evidential facts that racism and hate crimes are still evident in our society, but to also help the reader understand that the white culture of America's mind set and ideas are still against the fact of people of color. Our ideas, thoughts, and actions go against equality of all people, but sometimes slip for the people of our white culture. Attending Jefferson High School there are many acts and racial thoughts against people of color. One prime example that is known is that the black people of our school sit at their own lunch table every day. It's not illegal or a horrible thing, but the segregation of our high school is completely evident every lunch period. It is not that the white kid's don't want to sit with them or vice versa, but in reality they would rather sit with people just like themselves and not bother to go outside the comfort zones everyone is used to. The noise of gossip surrounds the hallways and racial jokes are always at a high for a lot of laughs among white kids. The way the majority of Jefferson talks is negatively of people of color. After reading Black Boy and looking at the hallways I walk through everyday, I feel that Richard White's philosophy and ideas are not too far off if the white culture. Who can blame the students at Jefferson when the media that surrounds

Hiben 5 them doesn't really promote equality too well. In Black Boy, Richard talks about how he feels that white and black people segregate themselves because that is what is comfortable. To surround yourself with people like yourself. The idea of this is shown in our present television sets every day. The Black Entertainment Channel (BET) separates itself from other television networks to specifically speak to the colored people of America. Not having all television display all colors of life, but African Americans specifically singling themselves out for their own entertainment channel. Other channels being a majority of the white culture, such as the Country Music Television. It is not to point fingers and blame others for separating, but to realize that it is a two sided ordeal.

"Our too-young and too-new America . . . insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black. . . . It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness. Am I damning my native land? No; for I, too, share these faults of character!" (White, Chapter 15). Richard White talks about this issue in his autobiography to compare himself to America as a person like himself. He also tries to portray racism as not lying entirely in the private places of peoples' minds but rather in the function of problems in American culture that will take time to change for the better. If Richard White were to come back alive to see how American culture is in the present, I must comment on what he would think. He would see our culture and media still deeply embedded with the ideas of racial separation. Through the highschool lunches he would visited, the changing of channels on television, the ideas and views of people he would over hear in conversation, the hate crimes that still occur in our current events in America, would all point

Hiben 6 him in the direction to see that the idea of racism is still well alive in the minds of all Americans. "My life as a Negro in America had led me to feel . . . that the problem of human unity was more important than bread, more important than physical living itself; for I felt that without a common bond uniting men . . . there could be no living worthy of being called human" (White, Chapter 18). In this quote Richard White preaches not about racial differences but about the importance of human unity in general. Richard White was a leader of his culture and America to become united as one whole and not as individuals. His autobiography and words changed the mind set of millions in an important time when it was needed. He hoped for a better future that diminished such racial issues as we once had in America. A nation of unity and not of separation. Looking at our culture today we may notice the American culture has much improved since the publishing of Black Boy but as a culture we still struggle through racial discrimination, stereotyping, and segregation. The future goal is to look at each other as a whole and not individual mind sets to change the fundamental idea of racial issues and to come together unified.

Hiben 7 Clark, Edward D. "Richard Wright." Discovering Authors. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Thomson Gale. 15 Jan. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/srcx/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabI>

"Disney first: black princess in animated film." 12 Mar 2007. MSNBC. 15 Jan 2008


Feagin, Joe R. "Racism Is a Serious Problem in the United States."

Ed. Jeff Plunkett. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Thomson Gale. MN. 15 Jan. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabI>

"Racism, Hate Crimes, and Pornography". Discovering Multicultural America. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003.

Schoetz, David. "Georgia High School to Celebrate 'First-Ever' Integrated Prom." Discovery Authors. 10 Apr 2007. ABC News. 15 Jan 2008 <http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=3026519&page=1>.

Hiben 8 Smith, Sidonie Ann. "Richard Wrights Black Boy: The Creative Impulse as Rebellion." Discovering Authors. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Discovering Collection. Thomson Gale. 15 Jan. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/srcx/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabI>

Wright , Richard. Black Boy. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1945.

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