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Similarities of Racial Oppression in the Past and Today

Posted on March 18, 2017

It’s extremely disheartening to know that African Americans throughout history — and today — feel that there is a lesson to be learned in “how to live as a Negro”, just as Richard Wright had felt. Each day, Richard felt that it was a new learning experience — to learn to avoid racial oppression. He even describes the numerous jobs he takes as an opportunity to broaden his “Jim Crow education” without experiencing it first-hand. He witnesses the mistreatment of blacks from white oppressors and learns to not repeat the same mistake. And many of the experiences Richard faced within the story are also similar to certain situations today. He described a time when he made deliveries to a white neighborhood late at night, only to be stopped by the police who suspected him of some incriminating act — only to find nothing. Even today, certain black people will learn from the “mistakes” of other black people who have fallen victim to police brutality, racial profiling, and other forms of racial oppressions so that they do not experience it themselves — many black people will feel the need to learn out of the fear that their life will be endangered if they do not.


In “Black Men and Public Space”, I believe this is a solid representation of what many black men go through today when walking in public. The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that he described the first person he scared, knowing that it was because of his skin color, as a “victim.” Normally in criminal acts, there is a suspect and a victim. Here, the white woman is clearly being portrayed as a victim to the suspicious black man walking on the street. From this alone, I could see that there was a time when a black man was suspected of a crime for simply walking on the street, and not looking “civilized.” Heck — that still exists today. When I say civilized, I mean that all black men had to be wearing “business clothes” instead of “jeans” — that’s what Staples had to do. He mentioned having to wear business attire and whistle a melody from “Beethoven and Vivaldi” to relieve the fear in people when walking on the streets. Even today, black men who are seen wearing a hoodie, jeans, hat, etc. are automatically suspects of being capable of committing a criminal act — not all black men, but many are. However, if a black man was seen wearing a suit and holding a briefcase, looking “business-like,” not many people would turn to take a second look at him.


  1. Jessica Hautsch

    You make some strong connections between the two stories. In both, there are spaces that are hostile to the men of color, where they are viewed as criminal for entering. I also like your observations about the role that the markers of class play in our stereotypes about black masculinity.

Andy Cen

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