Friday, February 1, 2013
African Americans “have been made to feel a sense of difference. So deep has the white-hot iron of exclusion been burnt into their hearts that thousands have lost the desire to become identified with American Civilisation” – Richard Wright, ‘Blueprint for Negro Writing’
In Black is a Country Nikhil Pal Singh mentions many individuals deemed integral to the struggle for African American civil rights throughout the twentieth century. One name that appears frequently is that of Richard Wright, a man Singh describes as an “up-and-coming black protest [writer]” The author alludes to the significance of Wright as a “New Negro” who provided crucial voices of protest from within the arts world. As an African American born in the Jim Crow South at the turn of the twentieth century, Wright’s writing and experiences encapsulate several key themes we have seen throughout our analysis of Fanon and Bell.
Although most notable for his fictional biography Native Son, Wright’s semi-autobiographical novel Black Boy provides an insight into the crippling psychological oppression of segregation upon black children. Reflecting the structure of a slave narrative, Black Boy indicates the author’s realisation from a young age of the inferior status imposed upon him by society. The most prevalent theme Wright addresses is the fear white supremacy instilled in him as a young boy. His analysis of the murder of his uncle represents the emotionally repressive nature of racism, writing that “fear drowned out grief” (Black Boy, p.52).
His discussion of the violence imposed upon African Americans in the South seems to agree with Fanon’s notion that physical force is necessary to overturn the tyrannical system of fear. This is further indicated through his commitment to radical left-wing political ideology which is seen through his involvement in the Communist Party in American Hunger. His beliefs suggest that activism was needed from outside the political mainstream in order to enact agency upon the lives of black people in America. Wright’s far-left views, although anti-Stalinist, reflect the need for revolution in order to overturn white patriarchy.
“black movements were beginning to illustrate a crucial political lesson, namely that the demand for democracy was both irreducible and unpredictable” – Richard Wright
Much like the more radical wing of the Civil Rights Movement, Wright’s ideology was not without criticism. Integrationists such as W.E.B. DuBois reprimanded Wright for perpetuating the divide between blacks and whites, commenting that there was “not a single broad minded, open-hearted white person in his book.” Although DuBois’ argument is in line with the integrationist ideal, one could contend that “open-hearted” whites in the early- to mid- twentieth century South were few and far between.
Posted by Scarlet McNally at 8:25 AM