The Ethics of Living Jim Crow(Richard Wright)

The time of rampant racial discrimination was a period in history that was a testimony to the evils of society that illuminates the character of people according to the experiences they faced. This outlook can bring out the best in some people while it could unleash the worst in others. There is no doubt that it is with a sense of tragedy when American history is examined in relation to slavery. There were so many stories of hardships and forbearance that the minority suffered in the hands of the racist atmosphere that was the standard of the time. The perception of impunity, especially true in the predominant white south, made it possible for people to proliferate the conception of bigotry. This is a matter of second nature that needed neither teaching nor guidance as it came naturally simply because it was a common practice and no one dared to refute the status quo. The few who did became footnotes in history and became the fuel to the fire that was the Civil Rights Movement and its subsequent success.
A Negro’s life is governed by a set of unwritten rules that they must follow to avoid crossing an invisible line that separates them. The things that were happening at a time when segregation was the norm of society in the United States are necessary to understand where the country was and how it has evolved through time and tolerance. There are many interesting stories that are worth the time of study to better understand how people lived back then especially the African-Americans. “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch” written by Richard Wright is a great example of how readers can take a closer look on things that were actually happening at that time. The essay is chockfull with anecdotes that describe bigotry at its full force and with its impact on the lives of actual people.
Starting out with the phrase “My first lesson in how to live as a Negro” (par.1), the reader is already introduced into a world that one can only know through first-hand experience and he is left with a notion of empathizing with the character’s life. This puts the audience into a position of peeking into someone else’s life to understand how it was and further grasp its historical value because it is more than just a compilation of stories but a commentary on racism. It starts out from the character’s early childhood with his mother warning him on his disposition and association with other children different from you. This reveals the disassociation and the cycle that starts off at an early age. Children are children without any notion of color or of superiority associated with it. It is through his mother that the he first learned the concept of race and how justice is often reserved for the few. This is not a matter of putting down the child but of educating him for his own good and quite possibly to guard his life.
This trailed along to his adult life where it seemed like no matter how hardworking or competent he is he could never get past along that line that divide him from the others because of the color of his skin. Often it was within the people themselves that there is the recognition of set restrictions and that one does so at his own peril and therefore deserving of any consequence that befalls him. “They told me that I must never again attempt to exceed my boundaries. When you are working for white folks, they said, you got to ‘stay in your place’ if you want to keep working” (Wright, par.60). It does not matter even if you are in the right, these regulates every African-American’s conduct without having the benefit of questioning the merit of any given rule. This by itself makes it apparent why there was a revolution that rejected this burden of society. History attests to the evils of racial discrimination and further manifests that the United States was able to achieve greater things by eliminating it as an acceptable social norm.
Wright, Richard. "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch." n.d. American Staff. 31 October 2011 .