Analysis of Discrimination and Oppression in "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow" by Richard Wright

Date:  2021-06-25 12:14:15
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Richard Wright wrote down what many other authors missed in his autobiographical sketch named, The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, by depicting racial inequality at its climax while also elaborating on his traumatic experience about discrimination and oppression. The autobiography is philosophical, social, analytics, and race conscious. Besides, Write in his writing identified himself with the American ideological values of self-realization, justice, as well as equality. Wrights fiction is autobiographically shaped and Jim Crow, who is used as the protagonist in the text and has a lot in common with him. In essence, from reading the autobiography, it is clear that Wright possessed his traumas into his literary works, which is a strategy he capitalized on to make his protagonist, Jim Crow, as well as the story line more interesting. Jim Crow Laws segregated the blacks, even when it came to voting, meaning that it was a political statement. For instance, in 1900, black voters were reduced to only 5,320 in Louisiana, and by 1910, only 730 blacks had been registered, which was less than 0.5% of the eligible black men. Further, in 27 put of 60 parishes, even a single black was not registered, and in more than nine parishes, only one voter had been registered (Richard 12). No blacks had been registered in North Carolina and other Southern states (Richard 27). Therefore, it can be derived that Richard Wrights, The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, is illustrative and reflective of his cruel childhood lessons of learning how to live in a society where whites are associated with vices of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression against blacks, thereby creating social pressures, forcing them to act in certain ways, but Jim Crow effectively defies the pressures, as established under the Jim Crow laws.

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Wrights work is an autobiographical sketch of how Negroes experienced a society where whites were the dominant race. Essentially, the whites viewed themselves as superior to the blacks, and for this reason, they acted in ways that highlighted their superiority and thereby forced the blacks to act in certain ways, and more particularly, as inferiors. The way in which the whites were dominant are portrayed throughout Wrights work and is also highlighted by the way the attitude fosters a social atmosphere that subsequently forces the blacks to choose the manner in which they interacted. White dominance, which can be referred to as discrimination or oppression in the book is shown in many instances. For example, it is depicted when Write applies for a job at an optical company, and he says, I was very careful to pronounce my sirs distinctly, in order that he might know I was polite, that I knew where I was, and that I knew I was a white man (Write 4). Whites demanded respect from blacks, and in most instances, they were obliged to be respectful, which is a form of oppression because the whites did not behave in a similar manner. In addition, the whites expected the blacks to know their inferior position in the society, which showcased an extensive discriminatory, oppressive, and prejudicial practices that whites exercised to show their appetite to maintain dominance over the blacks, which is stated by Writes statement, this is a white mans work around here, and you better watch yourself (Wright 5). His employees wanted him to behave like a typical black man who was expected not to defy ant white person. Wright constantly highlights that blacks should never have been allowed to blur the boundary between the blacks and whites. In fact, Wright knew that attempting to defy that whites were superior. Further, the book highlights oppression and discrimination when it asserts that the blacks who defied those boundaries, specifically in the South were often lynched to death. These extreme punishments showed that whites were more inclined to maintain the status quo of superiority, and blacks were forced to oblige to avoid violence and punishments.

In response, the blacks accepted their role in the society, that of having an inferior social status, which was accompanied by a defeated attitude as they believed that only by doing so was the only survival means. Even his mother had given in to the discrimination and oppression, and Wright highlighted the importance of accepting oppression by stating, and they were right in clouting with the broken milk bottle (Wright 2). For this reason, the mothers importance was to highlight that Wright had grown in a society that had accepted discrimination and oppression from the whites. Also, we also get to learn that he was fired mainly because he exceeded his boundaries when he told his folks that, he must never again attempt to exceed boundaries (Wright 7). For this reason, it is clear that it was a form of oppression against the blacks because if they did not behave in a particular way, being inferiors and respecting the whites and not expecting the same back, was a major form of discrimination and oppression. For this reason, the blacks had to fear the consequences, and thus, they were accustomed to an atmosphere of futility, which is captured by the Negro maid when she asserts, dont be a fool, yuh could not help it (Wright 13).The maid comprehended that Wright had no power against the whites, and in cases where he would oppose them, he could be subjected to violence. For this reason, Wrights work portrays that the only way that the blacks would maintain peace and tranquility and their places in the society was when they fully obeyed the commands they received from whites, even if it meant being embarrassed.

However, Wright does not go along with what the society wants of him. Instead of accepting the social institution and acting similarly to the other blacks, he learned to defy the whites. It is stated that my first lesson in how to live as a Negro came when I was small (Wright 1). The lesson was mainly to learn how to live harshly and cruelly, as the whites demanded, but as the script ended, it was clear that, through his Jim Crow education, he had learnt to live in oppression because he dared to ask whether he could borrow a book from the library using a white mans name. His actions show how different he was compared to other blacks; he did not fear them. Even though it was a small act of defying the whites, it still highlighted that he was unwilling to accept the status quo. He even expresses anger towards his mother when she does not support her in helping the Negro maid. Therefore, he revealed that he could not t live in such a world where blacks are oppressed. In the example where he borrows a book using a white mans name, highlights that whites, would not have tolerated it for an instant (Wright 14). In his mind, he understands that he is breaking the rules, but he still acts contrarily. For this reason, Wrights different thinking methods and ways, best described as the methods of Living Jim Crow are further presented towards the end of the chapter. Wright states that there are many times when I had to exercise a great deal of ingenuity to keep out of trouble (Wright 14-15). As such, Wright clearly knows that defying and not respecting the ways of the whites would automatically land him into trouble, mutilation, or even death, but he chooses to defy the rules anyway, even though he used clever means to avoid unexpected turn of events, such as avoiding confrontations and pretending to drop packages. Essentially, it is important to note that, as opposed to other blacks, he refused to give the whites satisfaction of demeaning, oppressing, and discriminating against blacks. He does not accept discriminatory and oppressive actions from the whites, and he instead defies them on numerous occasions. For this reason, Write successfully resist the discrimination by not following the white mans rules.

For this reason, Wright is very instrumental in opposing the oppressive means and methods that the whites employed to make the blacks inferior. Wright displays many of the blacks, inclusive of his mother, to adopt a submissive stance to the whites. They do not defy their rules and adopt an inferior societal role to the whites. In essence, this was the case mainly to avoid being abused or beaten to death among other severe punishments. However, he does not conduct himself as the other blacks. He is successful in resisting discrimination. He progressively learns how to live and defy the oppression exercised against the blacks by the whites. Even when he was little, he tried not to observe the status quo. Therefore, it can be concluded that Richard Wrights, The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, is illustrative and reflective of his cruel childhood lessons of learning how to live in a society where whites are associated with vices of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression against blacks, thereby creating social pressures, forcing them to act in certain ways, but Jim Crow effectively defies the pressures, as established under the Jim Crow laws.

Works Cited

Richard H. Pildes. Democracy, anti-democracy, and the canon, 2000, pp. 12-27. Print.

Wright, Richard. The ethics of living Jim Crow: An autobiographical sketch. 1937. pp10-15. Print.

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