Today’s last word from Richard Wright
2/22/2019, 6 a.m.
We thank Richmond Free Press reader Rosalyn A. Brackett for sharing the words of author Richard Wright published in his 1945 memoir, “Black Boy.”
As Ms. Brackett wrote, “This particular passage ... touched me at the core as I read it, and considering the events of our world today — particularly the racial disparities — I can see the self-draped cloak of righteousness being ripped from our backs as a country, exposing our fears and deeply buried misunderstandings.”
Indeed, recent revelations by our Virginia governor and attorney general, and the allegations against the lieutenant governor — and the aftermath of it all — make Mr. Wright’s words relevant 74 years after he penned them.
We also see lawmakers running from the facts of their own narrow-minded, prejudiced past, including Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment of James City County, who was managing editor of the 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook that was filled with racist blackface images and racial and ethnic slurs. In comments to the media, he took no responsibility for his actions, leaving a void in articulating a healing plan of action for today.
How, then, can Virginia and the nation ever purge itself of color hate, as Mr. Wright asks.
We welcome your thoughts on Mr. Wright’s passage:
“For white America to understand the significance of the problem of the Negro will take a bigger and tougher America than any we have yet known. I feel that America’s past is too shallow, her national character too superficially optimistic, her very morality too suffused with color hate for her to accomplish so vast and complex a task. Culturally, the Negro represents a paradox: Though he is an organic part of the nation, he is excluded by the entire tide and direction of American culture. Frankly, it is felt to be right to exclude him, and it is felt to be wrong to admit him freely. Therefore if, within the confines of its present culture, the nation ever seeks to purge itself of its color hate, it will find itself at war with itself, convulsed by a spasm of emotional and moral confusion ... Our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.”