African-American Literature in Richard Wright's Native Son

In general, the white’s domination over black people as implied in Native Son can be deduced from the following quotations: “They got things and we ain’t”, “They do things and we can’t, “They got everything,” and “They own the world”.

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The above quotations reveal that the whites have privileges that are desired to the blacks and that the whites can establish laws to regulate black people, to protect their own interests, and to maintain their superiority over blacks’ inferiority. Such conditions resulted in racial prejudice, discrimination, and segregation which lead to the suffering of the blacks. In other words, white domination brings about negative effects on black people in American life. These negative effects can affect the cultural, social, occupational, educational, and political aspects, and also law protection or law enforcement.

Cultural Effect

The first effect of white domination on black Americans is cultural. White domination can be traced back to black American history in America. Thompson explains that initially, black people were indentured servants in 1619, but eventually, they were forced into legal slavery in 1661. They were emancipated for more than 200 years later (in 1863) and have lived ever since in a biracial society established on the doctrine of ‘White Supremacy’.

When slavery was abolished, laws or rules were created by white people such as ‘Jim Crow laws’, `separate but equal’, and some other means to restrict the civil rights of black people such as racial prejudice, discrimination, and segregation. Thus, the black people were regarded as inferior creatures and do not have the right to obtain ‘equality’, in the cases of protection of the law, economic opportunity, political participation, educational opportunity, access to health facilities, and housing.

Inequality, as well as inferiority, have been formed from the early beginning of the existence of black people in America. As inferior, they were forced to be indentured servants; then enslaved, and when the slavery period ended they have renounced the rights of becoming full citizens with equal rights as the whites. Black inferiority and inequality are consequences of the cultural effect of white domination. This is because black inferiority and inequality are created by white people, and are then passed on from one generation to the other. One old generation of white people, for instance, regarded the blacks as inferiors, and this opinion is then passed on to the next generation. Another example is, that a child born to an African couple is made aware of his inferiority by his parents and social environment. This attitude is then maintained by the following generation. The feeling of inferiority and inequality are imposed on them.

Social Effect

The second effect brought about by white domination over the blacks is the social effect. This made Bigger Thomas, a black man, to face difficulties in his social life. There was a social distance between him and all the members of the Dalton family for whom he worked. He also had to obey the etiquette on how he should communicate and interact with them.

“Sit down. You needn’t stand. And I won’t be long.”

“Yessuh.”

“Now, you have a mother, a brother, and a sister?

“Yessuh.”

“There are four of you?”

“Yessuh, there’s four of us,” he stammered, trying to show that he was not as stupid as he might appear. He felt a need to speak about aspects of life such as in their social relationship with the whites, in finding jobs, and in education.

In portraying the hardships faced by the blacks, Richard Wright introduces Bigger Thomas, a black man who felt inferior in the environment of white people. When Bigger worked in the Daltons, he was aware of his status as a black man. So he ignored Jan’s and Mary Daltons’ offer of befriending him. He behaved and acted in accordance with his status as a dominant man in both class and racial systems. He found difficulties in getting a good job, felt powerless, and was always in wrong. ‘Culture’ influences human behavior. Inferiority and inequality of black people are the cultural effects of white more, for he felt that may be Mr. Dalton expected.

Effect in Employment

White domination brought about another effect which was in employment. Bigger’s experience as reflected in Native Son depicts the difficulties faced by the blacks in acquiring a job. Bigger was accepted to work for a white family after the relief recommended or guaranteed him. In other words, the relief practiced “employment screening”.

Black workers can easily lose their jobs when they do wrong. Bigger was afraid of losing his job when he was befriended Mary and Jan. Whereas, Jack, a black worker, stated that he lost his job because Bigger killed Mary. This implies that if a black man does wrong, another black man also endures the effects. The whites consider that he would commit the same crime against other white women.

The industrial capitalists and managers were so powerful that Richard Wright in his Native Son states that “nobody can commit a crime against a family like the Daltons and sneak out of it.

Conclusion

Richard Wright is an eloquent naturalist writer. He is the first black novelist writer who writes vigorously the works of literature dealing with the subject that has been regarded as a taboo thing. His works of portraying the oppressed Negroes have made a deep impression on the readers for over the world. He considers that novels are good public relations, and are as the weapons in his effort of being a literary spokesman for the oppressed Negro minority in the United States. His novel of Native Son has the message of the author is carried out through the Antebellum literature, Civil rights movement Description, Landmark and Sweeping Civil Rights Legislation and the relation of World War II and Civil Rights and intrinsic elements of the novel such as the full description of Cultural logic of racism, Suffrage, White domination, Discrimination, Segregation, and Black-White Relationship in Native Son and of course some Effects of White Dominations.

References

  1. Hazel Rowley, Richard Wright: The Life and Times, University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 177.
  2. Carol Polsgrove, Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement (2001), p. 82.
  3. Goldstein, Philip (2007). ‘From Communism to Black Studies and Beyond: The Reception of Richard Wright’s Native Son’. In Fraile (Ed.). Richard Wright’s Native Son. pp. 26–27.
  4. Corkery, Caleb (2007). ‘Richard Wright and His White Audience: How the Author’s Persona Gave Native Son Historical Significance’. In Fraile, Ana (Ed.). Richard Wright’s Native Son.
  5. Taylor, David A. ‘Literary Cubs, Canceling Out Each Other’s Reticence’. The American Scholar. Phi Beta Kappa Society. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  6. Maxwell, William J (1999). New Negro, Old Left: African-American Writing and Communism between the Wars. New York: Columbia University Press.
  7. ‘Richard N. Wright (1908–1960), Bio-Chronology’, Chicken Bones: A Journal for Literary
07 July 2022

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