Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Ethics of Living Jim Crow – Richard Wright

I thought that this was a thoughtful and provoking piece. As I read through, I thought of how Wright’s perspective both changed and stayed the same. In the first section, I felt the speaker’s innocence and how shocking the brutality of the lesson was; yet later, in the optics lab, he seemed almost prepared for the attack. I enjoyed (not really the right word, is it?) to see Wright’s maturation as he progressed through the lessons. I liked that the lessons became more and more specific throughout the sections, from very general rules to very specific behavioral regulations.

It was also interesting to see the ways in which he never progressed. The most glaring is the fact that he never stopped resenting his treatment by whites any point. He learned to play along, but never buy in to the lie. One manner in which I was surprised to see him never progress was how he never reflected upon the conflicting rules that he faced yet made clear his awareness of this. Such was the case with Morrie and Pease. While he was faced with a Catch-22 situation, he never directly judged the men who forced him into the situation and beat him, yet he never speaks of either of them as “Mr.” in his narrative. Throughout the story, he never gloats on the vileness of the white peoples’ behavior, and rather presents it in a matter-of-fact method, which made it all the crueler to me.

The end of the passage was also very significant to me, as Wright exposes the power which allows for the racism to continue. If it wasn’t for the power structure which allowed this type of behavior to exist, it wouldn’t. It speaks volumes because the civil rights movement finally found success when the government and powers that be finally confronted racism.

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