“The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch,” highlights societies power system in the south through the personal accounts of Richard Wright. Within this system of power, a constant barrage of demeaning acts and hostility is displayed from a white governed society, justifying even the most illicit of acts on the premise of white peoples superiority over black people.
Wright’s experiences begin in childhood, where the first delineations of society were drawn upon as a young boy brawling with the neighboring white communities young boys. He exhibits innocence in the matter, even when he is fought unfairly by the white boys he remarks, “I felt a grave injustice done me.” His mother gives him a different perspective when she punishes him for the brawl while instructing Wright in “Jim Crow Wisdom”. She exclaims that Wright is never to fight white folks and ultimately he should be grateful that they did not kill him. His experiences of childhood soon come to symbolize the inferiority complex that is imparted to him through the construct of “Jim Crow” society and thus reflects the inequality and fear that perpetuates the white dominated system.
This proceeds into young adulthood, where he encounters more notions of “the Jim Crow” social structure inequality. Over time he learns a “different form” of Jim Crow. As a way of dealing with the inordinate racial prejudices of society he conforms to illicit measures. In order to take books out of a library, Wright forges a note claiming that he is just a delivery boy for a white man. In many ways his ingenuity in circumventing the injustices of Jim Crow were common to the black community. In Wrights own words he says, “…I learned to lie, to steal, to dissemble. I learned to play that dual role that every Negro must play if he wants to eat and live.”
Ultimately social structure rests upon the superstructure that initiates the formers construction. Ideologies are influenced and often swayed by the histories of the past and its ideologies. Like Wright, many others used a covert form of resistance that could not uproot the fallacies that resulted in and upheld Jim Crow society. To truly begin a counter to this system of injustice, a change in those ideologies must begin. Ideas of mans equality regardless of race would take many years to be fully fulfill. Some other structures of racial stratification, such as slavery, were removed through war many years before the experiences of Richard Wright. Yet their replacement was still subject to the same ideologies of blacks inferiority that espoused slavery in the south prior to the Civil War. Active resistance would have to advocate a different ideology, one that would be political and social, mindful to avoid instigating violence or use of subversive tactics, which only allow two conflicting differences to abide together. Only a change in the ideas that justify the social construction can a fruitful resistance be achieved.