(part 3) the ethics of living jim crow

Why am I sharing this essay? I invite you to read my introduction from 6/27.

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THE ETHICS OF LIVING JIM CROW
An Autobiographical Sketch
Richard Wright, published 1938

4
Negroes who have lived South know the dread of being caught alone upon the streets in white neighborhoods after the sun has set. In such a simple situation as this the plight of the Negro in America is graphically symbolized. While white strangers may be in these neighborhoods trying to get home, they can pass unmolested. But the color of a Negro’s skin makes him easily recognizable, makes him suspect, converts him into a defenseless target.

Late one Saturday night I made some deliveries in a white neighborhood. I was pedaling my bicycle back to the store as fast as I could, when a police car, swerving toward me, jammed me into the curbing.

“Get down and put up your hands!” the policemen ordered.

I did. They climbed out of the car, guns drawn, faces set, and advanced slowly.

“Keep still!” they ordered.

I reached my hands higher. They searched my pockets and packages. They seemed dissatisfied when they could find nothing incriminating. Finally, one of them said:

“Boy, tell your boss not to send you out in white neighborhoods this time of night.”

As usual, I said:

“Yes, sir.”

–to be continued–

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