Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Ethics of Living Jim Crow

In “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch” is a chapter writer about the author’s life growing up in the segregated south. This author was Richard Wright and he recalls what his mother tells him about the differences between whites and blacks. His mother teaches her son not to fight the white man and beat her son when a broken milk bottle, thrown by a white kid, hit him. She taught him that blacks belonged in their place and whites had their own, informing him that he did not mix with the whites. From here on out Richard Wright lived in fear of the whites and he would soon learn why his mother wished him to feel this way.
When Richard went to get a job he remembered his mothers word and talked to his white boss with the utmost respect using “yessirs” and “nosirs”. Despite his respectfulness to the white man, his boss chastised him for wanting to learn and asked him if he thought he was white. Richard witnesses countless “Jim Crow” racism throughout his life all so the white man could feel superior to him and his race. At one point he witnesses his boss and twelve year old son beat a black woman and when she ran to a white cop he accused her of being drunk. Richard was searched for being in a white neighborhood, cursed for looking at an attractive white woman, and was forced to forge a white mans signature to receive books from the library.
Nowadays if someone’s mother tells him or her at an early age that they are unequal to others because you look different could scar that person for life. Those words could screw up someone’s self esteem and mental state that they would be in and out psychologist’s offices for a very long time. However, in this case Richard Wright’s mother telling him that he was unequal to whites probably saved his life. Before he knew this he would partake in fights with white kids throwing black cinders as they returned fire with bottles. When he got hit with one of these bottles and told his mother of the happened she beat him for fighting with whites. Though terrible this was an important lesson for young Richard who would encounter racism for the rest of his life, racism that if he didn’t listen to his mother could have got him killed.
What if more black mothers taught their sons and daughters to fight back against oppression? Could they have mad a difference? Possibly, but southern whites would do all they could in order to keep blacks as their inferiors. Though eventually blacks did take this stand it took them along time to end segregation and receive more rights. Maybe if boys like Richard were taught to fight they could have changed things earlier, but this would not come without consequences. Groups like the KKK would murder many blacks and without the significance of media to open the eyes of many white in the north it would be an extreme struggle.

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