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Racism in Native Son Essay

  • Submitted by: papacheikh
  • on September 2, 2013
  • Category: Social Issues
  • Length: 3,549 words

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Below is an essay on "Racism in Native Son" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Rowley 1

Constructions of Race in Richard Wright‘s Native Son In his chapter ―On National Culture,‖ from The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon asserts that in the act of colonization, ―Every effort is made to bring the colonized person to admit the inferiority of his culture … to recognize the unreality of his ‗nation,‘ and, in the last extreme, the confused and imperfect character of his own biological structure‖ (1587). In other words, Fanon contends that the native is made to feel inferior, disconnected and flawed by the colonizing race. In America, white oppression of the black race acts in much the same way. Richard Wright‘s 1940 novel Native Son exemplifies this connection. In the novel, Wright constructs white racism as shaming, condescending, condemning, dominating and dehumanizing as a way of critiquing white racist mentality and its effects on the black race. This is shown in Bigger‘s encounters with Mr. Dalton, Mary and Jan, Buckley, the media and Boris Max. By setting up the racist constructions, showing their consequences and illustrating how these constructions can be transcended, Wright depicts a multilayered view of racism in America. Wright uses the character of Mr. Dalton to construct white racism as shaming. One way this is manifested in the novel is through the white gaze. Though Mr. Dalton thinks of himself as sympathetic to the black cause (which in and of itself already has a condescending association), the way in which he looks at Bigger makes Bigger feel ashamed: ―The man was gazing at him with an amused smile that made him conscious of every square inch of skin on his black body‖

Rowley 2 (46). Wright here shows how Mr. Dalton‘s amused and therefore impliedly superior gaze is a form of white racism. In The American Optic: Psychoanalysis, Critical Race Theory, and Richard Wright, Mikko Tuhkanen discusses the way in which the white gaze shames the black subject: ―The look attributed to Mr. Dalton racializes the black man‘s body such...

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