Literature Review Sample: The Oppressive Jim Crow Laws

Date:  2021-06-25 13:01:47
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The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, by Richard Wright shows racial inequality at its climax while also explaining his distressing experience about discrimination and oppression. The autobiography is race conscious. Thomas Dartmouth, who was a white man born in New York in 1808 devoted himself in theatres, claiming he was inspired by a slave. He name a act, Jump, Jim Crow, and the name Jim Crow was born. Wrights work focuses on Jim Crow Laws, which were oppressive laws against the blacks. It is a term that was used to refer blacks as Negroes (Little, n.p). As such, Jim Crow Laws, which were born by Thomas Dartmouth, were local and state laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern states of the U.S. (Little, n.p). For instance, in 1900, black voters were not allowed to vote, as constitutional conventions required people to vote, "by reason of race or color" (Richard 299). Voting was only meant for whites blacks were disallowed from voting, which shows a form of oppression in political lines. Jim Crow Laws isolated the blacks, even when it came to voting, meaning that it was a political statement, and thus, this relates to Wrights book in that it highlighted how oppressive the whites were. Therefore, it can be said that Richard Wrights, The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, illustrates and reflects his cruel childhood lessons of learning how to live in a society where whites are associated with the vise of 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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Wright realized how powerful and superior the whites were such that they inflicted social pressures on blacks. The social pressures in his autobiographic sketch was highly experienced in the workplaces. There were social pressures in the community work places, for example, in the optical company, portering in a clothing store, hall-boy in a hotel, and at a branch in an optical company. White dominance which is connected to discrimination and oppression is exposed in many instances. When Wright goes to apply for a job at an optical company, he says, I was very careful to pronounce my sirs distinctly, so that he might know I was polite, that I knew where I was, and that I knew I was a white man (161). Wrights mom was paid less and given less privilege of working in higher jobs as stated: "My mother could no longer feed and clothe me on her cooking job"(161). Also, blacks were forced to respect the whites for them to feel accepted in the society. When Wright applied for the job at the optical company, he had to respond with "yessirs and nosirs"(161), and he was also "very careful to pronounce my sirs distinctly"(161). Wright statement that this is a white mans work around here, and you better watch yourself (162) shows that the blacks were oppressed at the white mans workplaces. White employees wanted blacks to behave like a typical black man who was expected not to disobey any white person. Therefore, this shows that the blacks were oppressed at the workplaces by forcing to behave in a manner that shows they were inferior to the whites. Therefore, blacks were significantly exposed to social pressures, which significantly shows oppression. If they did not submit to the pressures, they would be punished. They were subjected to violence, which directly oppressed them as they feared them dearly.

The whites forced the blacks to behave in a certain way, which was dictated by the whites failure to which, a black would be punished. For instance, they were forced to work very hard. For example, Wright points out, When I was just a bit slow in performing some duty, I was called a lazy black son-of-a-bitch (4). Further, Write mentions how "to get to him I had to go between two narrow benches and stand with my back against a wall" (4) shows how disrespectful they treated him, and he did not complain about it but lived with it. It is a form of oppression because Pease could have just let him pass without obstructing him. In addition, his mother had given in to the oppression, and Wright highlighted this by stating, and they were absolutely right in clouting with the broken milk bottle (160). For this reason, if a black did not act in the way the whites wanted, one was punished, and this included being fired from jobs, or exceeding boundaries. We also get to learn that Wright was fired mainly because he exceeded his boundaries when his folks said, he must never again attempt to exceed boundaries (163). He was fired because he did not act within the set boundaries. In another scenario, Wright says, I watched out of the corner of my eye, never slackening the strokes of my chamois upon the brass (3). For this reason, the blacks had to fear the consequences, as revealed when the Negro maid asks Write adter he was humiliated by the white night watchman after he tried to defend her when he touched her buttocks, Dont be a fool! yuh couldn't help it! (168). The statement shows that the Negro maid knew that Wright could not go against the whites, which is a form of oppression because it forced him to behave in an inferior manner. In addition, Write highlights oppression when he says, Outside, I walked ahead of the girl, ashamed to face her. She caught up with me. (5). It reveals how much he is inferior to white people that he would not look straight up but watch in a way that no one would notice him and so that he would not be hurt. For this reason, Wrights work shows 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 and behaved in a manner that was approved by the whites.

Physical abuse was another form of oppression. Not only did the whites emotionally hurt their feelings but they also hurt them physically. Write mentions how severe the broken milk bottle had injured him as it "bled profusely"(160). The maid knew that Wright had no power against the whites, and in if he would have opposed them, he could be subjected to violence, for example, Wright says, Later the woman stumbled out, bleeding, crying, and holding her stomach (3). She was beaten because she did not behave as the whites expected. Wright highlights how Americans were dominant by showing the way American reacted when confronted with black that forces the black to choose a manner in which they react. As such, beating is a form of oppressing others, and thus, the whites, through physical harm and beating, oppressed the blacks.

Wright resists oppression because instead of accepting the situation and acting similarly to the other blacks, he learned to resist the whites. He did not observe oppressive library rules as he says, I obtained books in the following manner: I would write a note to the librarian, saying: "Please let this nigger boy have the following books." I would then sign it with the white man's name (11). For this reason, he does not support oppression from the whites. In the example where he borrows a book using a white mans name, highlights that whites, would not have tolerated it for an instant (169). In essence, this is covered by other literary texts where students lie. Erevelles wrote, They learn to lie about their names from their parents. They see their parents lie about their names at home to get away from creditors and from police and then their kids do it in school too (Erevelles 84). It shows that other blacks still did not oblige to the oppression. Besides, he says that No doubt if any of the white patrons had suspected that some of the volumes they enjoyed had been in the home of a Negro, they would not have tolerated it for an instant (13). 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, and thus, this shows that he knew how whites oppressed the blacks.

In conclusion, Wright resists oppression because instead of accepting the situation and acting similarly to the other blacks, he learned to resist the whites. He did not observe oppressive library rules. 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, and thus, this shows that he knew how whites oppressed the blacks and took advantage of them. This is proved by other literary texts where blacks were used as slaves, for example, Erevelles wrote, black body is at the height of its profitability for the slave masters (Erevelles 86). However, Wright is very instrumental in opposing the oppressive means and methods that the whites employed to make the blacks inferior. However, he was not successful in resisting the oppression because he still behaved in an oppressive manner because the only way he broke the oppressive tendencies of the whites was when he was disguised as a white. Even so, he was instrumental in showing how blacks were willing to fight oppression. As such, Wright highlights how revolution to resisting oppression from whites was born. The text can be interpreted as a political statement meant to diminish blacks, but blacks finally defeated oppression in what is known as the civil rights movement.

Works Cited

Erevelles, Nirmala. "CrippinJim Crow: Disability, dis-location, and the school-to-prison pipeline." Disability incarcerated: Imprisonment and disability in the United States and Canada (2014): 81-100. Print.

Little, Becky. Who Was Jim Crow? August 6, 2015. Web. June 6, 2017.

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

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