Term Paper: Public Passions in the Ethics

Pages: 9 (3168 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Topic: Black Studies  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] In any case, he was "never, under any conditions, to fight white folks again" (Wright 6)

When analyzing this situation, Wright's idea of himself and how the world worked were instantly changed because of his mother's reaction. Richard felt that his rights were violated, and that a "grave injustice had been done me" (Wright 3). He argued that the cinders were harmless at most they will only leave someone with a bruise, but broken bottles leave a person cut, wounded and helpless. He felt that was immoral to use them, and that his mom would agree and comfort him, but she did not. Just the opposite, she reinforced the lesson that the white kids were allowed to throw the bottles and that he should have never thrown cinders to begin with. His mother's decision to take sides with the white kids made him feel unequal to them. She said that "I ought to be thankful to God as long as I lived that they didn't kill me," a lesson he learns again and again throughout his youth (Wright 6). A black man could be beaten and killed for not saying "sir" to a white man, or for looking improperly at a white woman, reading a book or attempting to learn too much about a job. Indeed, he would be lucky" to escape with a beating and under no circumstances was he permitted to fight back. That lesson taught him that the whites were allowed to do something and he could not simply because of his skin color. This thought made him feel inferior as he began to learn that he must act how the whites want him to act. Black children had all learned these lessons at a very young age, going back to the times of slavery, and very little had changed in the South even in the 1920s and 1930s.

Wright felt far more comfortable not living near whites at all, as he did in the Mississippi Delta where all the teachers, schools, churches and stores were owned by blacks. In fact, Wright's only positive statements about America refer to areas like these, where he felt safe by being able to avoid contact with whites completely. Only when he needed a job did he have to deal with them again, at an optical company in Jackson, Mississippi (Wright 10). Richard even believed the boss when he asked "Boy, how would you like to learn something around here?" And actually had visions of "working my way up" (Wright 12-13). His white coworkers, Pease and Morrie, did not seem inclined to teach him anything about lens grinding, however, and even beat him up when he asked. They thought he was trying to "git smart" (Wright 25), acting like he was a white person, and warned him 'this is white man's work around here, and you better watch yourself" (Wright 35). Then they accused him of failing to call Pease "Mister" and of calling white men liars when he denied it, which was even worse. After beating and insulting him, they gave Richard one minute to leave the factory alive, and so in this case he learned that blacks we not allowed to learn skilled or professional work in the Jim Crow South. All jobs like these were closed to them, just as they had been since the times of slavery. Nor was his family sympathetic, and showed how beaten down they were by this racist system that when working for whites "you got to 'stay in your place'" (Wright 60).

Richard then got a job as a delivery boy for a clothing store, and on the first day saw the white owner and his son beat a black woman bloody because she had not paid her bill. Immediately afterwards, a white policeman saw her doubled over and stumbling down the street and arrested her for being "drunk" (Wright 67). He had just stood by twirling his nightstick as she was being beaten up, though. From this he learned that the law was purely and simply a tool of oppression against blacks, and that they could expect no protection from the white authorities. Essentially, whites were allowed to get away with assault, rape and murder of blacks, and in fact other blacks working with him stated that she was "lucky" not to have been raped (Wright 72). One day, when his bicycle had a flat tire, a group of young white men who had been drinking offered to let him ride on the running board of their car, but then one of them smashed him between the eyes with a whiskey bottle when he forgot to say 'sir" to them. Instead, they left him beaten and bloody in the middle of the road, saying that he was "lucky" they had not decided to kill him (Wright 85). This was another lesson in deference and respect that all whites demanded of blacks in the South, which had always been the case going back to slavery times. If a black made even one slip or mistake in showing deference, the consequences could be fatal. Blacks in the South were intended to be an unskilled, uneducated labor force, and all whites had the right to impose harsh discipline on them if they ever forgot that their status was at the very bottom of society. Not only were their human rights denied, but their very humanity.

For Wright and Du Bois, blacks were in a condition of slavery and colonialism in the United States, and their oppression was so great that only a radical revolution and restructuring of society could liberate them. Du Bois joined the Communist Party officially in 1961, although he had long subscribed to its ideas of public ownership of the means of production, socialized medicine, free education for all and opposition to all religions (Johnson 134). He became a citizen of Ghana and died there in 1963, receiving a state funeral. During the last two years of his life, he worked on the Pan-Africanist Encyclopedia Africana while his wife Shirley Graham Du Bois became the first head of the Ghana Broadcasting Company. She later "became disillusioned and left the country" after the U.S.-backed military coup in 1966, which put largely put an end to the Pan-Africanist aspirations of the new state (Pierre and Shipley 73). Du Bois had long been interested in Pan-Africanism and decolonization, organizing six Pan-African congresses in 1900-45. He first met Kwame Nkrumah at the London congress in 1945, where they served as co-secretaries, and Nkrumah invited him to Ghana. By that time, Du Bois was thoroughly disillusioned with the United States and probably just wanted to spend the remaining years of his life as a free man in a society where he was not always the minority.

Both Wright and Du Bois were disloyal to America and had very good reason to be, for they had spent decades trying to change the United States but had seen very little change in all that time. Blacks were still second class citizens in the 1950s and 1960s where they were citizens at all, and continued to suffer from poverty, segregation and disenfranchisement despite the fact that they had loyally supported the U.S. In both world wars. Wright and Du Bois became disillusioned with the United States and finally gave up on it. Interestingly, they did not go into exile in the Soviet Union of Eastern Europe. Du Bois had always been leery of white Communists and socialists from the early-1900s, although he certainly shared their antipathy for capitalism and imperialism almost all his adult life. Instead, he chose to live out the remainder of his life in the first African country to become independent of European colonialism, which indicates that his loyalties were first and foremost to his own people and to a form of socialism that would improve their lives socially, politically and economically. Richard Wright also chose exile in France, even though he was no longer a member of the Communist Party. In the 1950s, even being a former member would have been sufficient to destroy his career, especially if he had refused to name all others he had known to be Party members. Even abroad, Wright continued to be highly critical of U.S. foreign and domestic policies, and in fact never in his life wrote a "single sentence of unreserved praise for his mother country" (Fabre 177).


Fabre, Michael. The World of Richard Wright. University Press of Mississippi, 1985.

Fanon, Franz. Black Skin, White Masks. Grove Press, 1952.

Fanon, Franz. The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press, 1963.

Johnson, Brian. W.E.B. Du Bois: Towards Agnosticism, 1868-1934. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefiled Publishers, 2008.

Lewis, David Levering. W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2000.

Maver, Igor. "Post-Colonialist Literatures in English ab origine ad futurum" in Mauer, Igor (Ed). Critics and Writers Speak: Revisioning Post-Colonial Studies. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006:… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  Buy the full, 9-page paper:  $28.88


2.  Buy + remove from all search engines
(Google, Yahoo, Bing) for 30 days:  $38.88


3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)


4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Ethics Policies on 3 Companies Term Paper

Defend the Ethics of Your Values Essay

Aristotle's Ethics Essay

Personal Ethics Essay

Strategic Public Relations Research Proposal

View 201 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Public Passions in the Ethics.  (2011, May 9).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/public-passions-ethics/5477600

MLA Format

"Public Passions in the Ethics."  9 May 2011.  Web.  19 June 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/public-passions-ethics/5477600>.

Chicago Format

"Public Passions in the Ethics."  Essaytown.com.  May 9, 2011.  Accessed June 19, 2019.