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Black Boy Essay, Research Paper

Black Boy Essay

The famous American writer Richard Wright had a terrible upbringing. He had to deal with his fathers abandonment, his mothers abusiveness, the anxiety of constantly moving houses, and worst of all the terrible racial prejudice of his time. Wright grew up in the first quarter century of the 1900s in the most racially separated part of America, the South. The problems stemming from his family only added to the problems he faced every day for being black. Whites would abuse Wright in many ways, physically abusive, verbally abusive, and the worst of all to Wright, politically abusive whites. In Richard Wright’s book, Black Boy, he wrote about his childhood in Mississippi. Wright wrote about experiences he had that show the racial segregation of the South. This racial prejudice affected Richard Wright so much, that it changed his life when he was growing up in the South.

Racial prejudice often leads to physical violence. Many times in his book, Richard Wright told about violence happening to himself or other people. All this violence has one thing in common, they happen only because of the black skin of the people. Wright told about a time when he was attacked by a group of angry white teenagers. Their car drove by Richard who was walking to work and offered him a ride. ” All set?’” they asked. ” Yes sir’” Richard answered and, before he knew it, one of the boys threw an empty bottle at Richard, knocking him off the moving car. “Dazed, I pulled to my feet. My elbows and legs were bleeding.” As Richard stood up, the one who threw the bottle told Richard that he should talk with more respect to white people, and told him, ” You’re a lucky bastard, cause if you’d said that to some other white man, you might been a dead nigger now.’” Previously, Richard had only heard stories of racial violence toward blacks, now he had felt it himself. This experience was the first act of violence toward him, and his views of whites in the South were now filled with personal hatred. During Richards stay in Memphis, a thing took place that is perhaps direct physical abuse from someone. Richard’s co-workers schematically forced Richard to fight a black kid working across the street from him. The co-workers threatened him into fighting and to cap it off paid the two five dollars, even though the men made more from a large audience. “Now shame filled me,” Richard thought as he stepped into the ring. The white men turned two friends into enemies. ” Hit that nigger’” they yelled. “I felt trapped and ashamed….I could not look at Harrison. I hated him and I hated myself…Harrison and I avoided each other afer that…” (286-287) The two men had turned two friends into enemies solely for there personal entertainment. Richard felt that he had broken morals, about what he would do for money. Richard vowed he would never let this happen again.

Racial prejudice can also lead to fear, or psychological stress. In the South in the early century many blacks feared for their lives daily. Wright tells stories of his personal fears that he has only because of the prejudices white people inflict on him. Fears would happen while working, while shopping at a store, while at a library, or while walking down the street. When Wright moved to Memphis, he had lots of free time, and filled this by reading books. After a short while, the magazines a other novels were not satisfying Richard anymore. So through Wright’s quest for more literature he finds some by H.L. Menken. H. L. Menken is a controversial writer who wrote about racism in the U.S. The problem was there was no way Richard could have access to these books in the South. If Richard approached a bookkeeper about a book by Menken, he feared she would not let him check it out and worse give him a bad reputation in the town which could cost him his job. Wright wondered, “Now, how could I find out about this Menken? There was a huge library near the river front, but knew that Negros were not allowed….” And if Richard could access these books he thought, “And how could I read them without causing a concern to the white men whom I worked?” Wright’s desire to gain knowledge about racial views of other people was a threat to the white community in the South. However, Wright was willing to risk his job and house for more education about racism. This was not the only time racial prejudices put fear in Richard. While Richard was working for an optimalogist in his home town two other employees began to threaten Richard. One employee asked Richard if he called him “Pease” instead of “Mr. Pease”, which was an insult to him. Trapped, Richard did not know what to say, if he said “yes, I did call you Pease,” Pease would have beaten Richard. On the other hand, if he said “no”, the other employee would have beaten Richard. Because of the fear Richard had of his fellow workers, he quit his job which was well paying. The white men had put so much fear into Richard that without any physical abuse, they got rid of Richard.

Finally, racial prejudice can cause someone to act against their morals and beliefs. Some things Wright did were desperate measures he took to escape the pressures of racial prejudices on him. Wright showed strong morals throughout the book. He had too much pride to break those morals. Wright’s family and the people around him saw this as stubbornness. When Richard had analyzed a situation from every viewpoint, he did resort to cheating or sealing once or twice if it was the only option. Desperate to leave for Memphis, Richard decided he must leave immediately, “Late one night I resolved to make that week the last.” Richard concluded that he could get enough money to finally move to Memphis by stealing. This would be his last time stealing. “…I understood the pain that accompanied crime…I never did feel it again.” Richard resented his stealing but it was the right thing to do at the time for him, and he probably would have done the same thing again. One of the hardest things to do for Richard was getting a suitable job. Most of the jobs available for the young blacks were low paying, service jobs. His bosses could treat him as poorly as they wanted, and pay him as little as they wanted. At one of these jobs Richard worked at a deli as a dishwasher. He worked hard and long hours but still could not earn enough money to leave for Chicago in the North. One day Richard was walking to work and a boy about his age approached him, and asked him if he was looking for some thing to do. The boy showed Richard a large can of bootlegged liquor he had found. If they sold the liquor Richard could get over two dollars-two dollars for just selling some thing he had found. So the boys decided to sell the liquor even though it was illegal and Richard could loose his job. “We agreed to look for a white buyer. We went into the streets and looked over the white men who passed. Finally we spotted one sitting alone in his car. We went up to him.” (260) Richard was afraid of losing his job, and afraid of losing the house he was staying at, but he went on with the selling of the liquor. It turned out that the boy was involved in a scam to sell the liquor and Richard never received any of his money. Yet, Richard had been willing to risk everything he had for a little extra money. In the South in the early 1900s it was hard for blacks to get well paying jobs, and this led to crime often. Wright had very strong morals, and by believing the South was not right, was how he got out of Mississippi by himself as a young child. The limitations set on him because he was black narrowed his opportunities, and some times Wright was forced to do desperate measures to gain money, only because of the racial prejudices against him.

Richard Wright’s book Black Boy was about growing up in the South and the struggles he went through. Most of the struggles he had were not because the type of person he was, or because his ideas about the South, but because he was black. The racial prejudices around him affected Richard Wright so much, that they changed, and molded his life when he was growing up in the South. As discussed, racial prejudices can lead to physical violence, fear or psychological stress, and can cause someone to act against his morals or belief. Each topic has equally worse effects, and Wright had to endure them all among the other struggles in his life. No matter what happened to him in the rest of his life he was a success because of all the struggles he went through. I find it amazing that he dealt with all of his problems in such a positive way and was able to endure the pain of racial prejudice. I think Wright could escape the reality of his world by writing stories or reading books, which would take his mind off the racial prejudices for a while. Wright handled the South perfectly and did not let it handle him like so many other people. Wright’s early life was a success and he can be thought of as a hero for every one.


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