Racism In Richard Wright's Autobiography, Black Boy

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Throughout Richard Wright’s autobiography, Black Boy, racism is an evident theme that forms Richard and his story. Living in the south during the early 1900s, Wright is influenced by the Jim Crow laws every day. Laws like these lay out the only expected forms of interaction between Blacks and Whites each one taking away a piece of a Negro’s freedom. Richard comes into the world as a boy of rebellious nature and pure heart and soon society has consumed him, degraded him and forced him to change. He has no escape, it is in the poverty of his home, the cruelty of the streets, in the pressure of the working world, and even in the beloved North. For something that is always lingering there is no question of whether it changes his life, because it …show more content…
One of the clearest ways that Richard learned about racism was through observing. One example of this is the death of Uncle Hoskins. Uncle Hoskins was the owner of a successful saloon and he was killed by whites who yearned to own the business. As Richard remembers, “There was no funeral. There was no music. There was no period of mourning. There were no flowers. There were only silence, quiet weeping, whispers, and fear” (Wright 54). Following Uncle Hoskins death Ella, Richard’s mother, and Aunt Maggie, Hoskins’ wife, were to terrified to show there face outside. They immediately left their home and began to grieve in silence, indoors. They were unable to see the body or claim his assets, they didn’t even know if the body had been buried. This tragic event is an unavoidable example of racism in the South and Wright watched the effects of it, never able to forget. The second example of racism towards someone else in turn affecting Richard, is a situation with Shorty, a black elevator operator. Shorty in one case told Richard he would get a quarter for food from the next person to walk in the elevator. He then went on to barter with a white man and eventually allowing the man to kick him in the behind for the quarter. Richard was disgusted and asked, “’How in God’s name can you do that? . . . a quarter can’t pay you for what he did to you,’ I said. ‘Listen, nigger,’ he said to me, ‘my ass is tough and quarters is scarce’” (Wright 229). Richard could not fathom what he had seen and how Shorty allowed the white man to degrade him in such a way. The experience was never spoken of again, but one can assume that Richard learned of how people deal with racism differently and also that some white people would even pay to put blacks at a lower level than them. Experiences such as these teach Richard about the world around him and the cruel ideals within

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