Native Son: The Effects of Racism in Past and Present Day 

In the novel Native Son by Richard Wright, he explains the different lifestyles that whites and blacks live. For instance, whites can live how they want with extreme benefits, whereas blacks aren’t as fortunate because of their treatment and conditions. Whites are given many exceeding opportunities that overshadow those of blacks in their society. Because of this, blacks are looked upon many as freaks, being poor and not as equal as everyone else, which leads to racism. Racism is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

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Bigger Thomas is a 20-year-old man and is the main character in Native Son. He comes from a background where he lives in Chicago with his mother and siblings. They are vastly poor and not educated to the least bit, dropping out of school in the eighth grade. “Due to his lack of education, Bigger had to work menial labor.

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Thus, he was forced to live in a one room apartment with his family. He felt trapped all his life, resenting, hating, and fearing the whites, whom he felt controlled his life.” ( Bigger saw whites as indisputable, not being denied in their beliefs. With this, whatever whites thought was right, was right and nothing could be changed to think it wasn’t wrong. With whites being always so overbearing and controlling, it caused Bigger to be insecure with himself, living a life “defined by the fear and anger he feels toward whites for as long as he can remember.

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Since the whites have relied on the blacks to do their “dirty” work for them, it has made the blacks turn against them to portray a message. The message they are wanting to show is the fact that they aren’t slaves, nonetheless be treated as one. Each and every individual has their own voice and meaning. That shouldn’t be taken away from anyone. African Americans try their best to obey the prim and proper of society at all times of day, but it is hard. They believed that following and listening to their rules would eventually pursue a much better life for themselves and their families. Africans Americans, including Bigger Thomas, know they deserve more but it’s hard to believe it when being constantly dehumanized by the majority of society. Bigger always had trouble conveying that he means something and has his own identity in the world. “Bigger views his own ethnic background with a kind of internalized racial lens — he has difficulty recognizing his own potential as a human being, and he takes an immediate dislike to those members of white society who attempt to help him.” (

“Throughout the novel, it is evident that Bigger Thomas experiences the daily effects of racism. Bigger faced constant racial oppression growing up, resulting in his psychological corruption.” ( An example of this would be on page 12 in Wright’s Native Son:

“Holding up Blum ought not take more than two minutes, at the most. And it would be their last job. But it would be the toughest one that they had ever pulled. All the other times they had raided newsstands, Iruit stands, and apartments. And, too, they had nc’^^er held up a white man before. They had always robbed Negroes. They felt that it was much easier and safer to rob their own people, for they knew that white policemen ne\cr really searched diligently for Negroes who committed crimes against other Negroes. For months they had talked of robbing Blum’s, but had not been able to bring themselves to do it. They had the feeling that the robbing of Blum’s would be a violation of ultimate taboo; it would be a trespassing into territory where the full wrath of an alien while world would be turned loose upon tliem; in short, it would be a symbolic challenge of the white world’s rule over them; a challenge which they yearned to make, but were afraid to. Yes; if they could rob Blum’s, it would be a real hold-up, iri more senses than one. In comparison, all of their mother jobs had been play.” (

With the quote stated above, it shows how Bigger and his friends are planning a robbery that will take place in a store that a white person owns, but soon starts to think of the consequences that potentially are involved if convicted. If the men were caught for their wrongdoing, they would suffer tremendously and it would not be good for their name and black reputation. It wouldn’t benefit them and once again, whites would still see them as the “bad” people in society. But if the black men would have robbed a black owning store, the resulting consequence would not be the same nor look as bad.

“Richard Wright had given many elements which show the racial discrimination and persecution of blacks in his novel. These elements are not visible. They are sending as a hiding message in a shape of symbols.” ( A few examples of symbols presented to the audience include the the rat and apartment setting for the Thomas’.

Through the rat, it is used as a form of racism that portrays the living situation of the Thomas’. You usually don’t find a huge rat in wealthy household, showing that African Americans aren’t as fortunate and beneficial as the common white. “Wright includes that many Negro children being bitten by rats in contrast white children live in a high situation. Thus, they do not see rats, and may be they do not know how they look. Rats invade only those poor black people who have many holes and garbage in their houses.” ( The line from Native Son that resembles the rat entering the Thomas’ apartment and biting Bigger: “A huge black rat squealed and leaped at Bigger’s trouser leg and snagged it in his teeth, hanging on.” (page 9) (

The apartment setting for the Thomas’ isn’t in the best condition or quality. They live in a one bedroom apartment which is common to rats and also has to suit Bigger, his mother and siblings. With this symbol, you can see the differentiation between whites and blacks. In Native Son you can see how Bigger reacts to the bigger houses he sees.

“He went out and walked south to Forty-sixth Street, then eastward. Well, he would see in a few moments if the Daltons for whom he was to work were like the people he had seen and heard in the movie. But while walking through this quiet and spacious v/.ulc neighborhood, he did not feel the pull and mystery of the thing as strongly as he had in the movie. The houses he passed were huge; lights glowed softly in windows. The streets were empty, save for an occasional car that zoomed past on swift rubber tires. This was a cold and distant world; a world of white secrets carefully guarded. Ht: co^uld feel a pride, a certainty, and a confidence in these streets and houses. He came to Drexel Boulevard and began to look for 4605. When he came to it, he stopped and stood before a high, black, iron picket.” (Page 37) (

Whites and blacks see racism very differently. The reason for this is because of your background. Every individual comes from different places and hears multiple bias things. This includes outside sources, family, friends, etc. For blacks, they see racial prejudice as an ongoing occurrence for them. Constant comments are mentioned on a daily basis thing for them. While reading an article published by The Guardian titled ‘This is what it feels like to be black in white spaces’ by Elijah Anderson, it expressed how “almost every black person in America has experienced the sting of disrespect on the basis of being black. A large but undetermined number of black people feel acutely disrespected in their everyday lives, discrimination they see as both subtle and explicit.” ( In Anderson’s article, he is convinced that African Americans still feel as if they have to work twice as hard to get somewhere in their life.

For whites, they are starting to feel discrimized too. Don Gonyea, a publisher from NPR wrote an article stated ‘Majority of White Americans Say They Believe Whites Face Discrimination.” In the article a poll was released from NPR. A 68-year-old American citizen of the United States named Tim Hershman claimed to the fact that “if you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it, and basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you’re white, you don’t get it. If you’re black, you get it.” ( The white population are starting to feel that they are starting to be brought down and they don’t specifically approve. They want to have and be the best at everything brought to them.

As a nation, Americans are trying their best to eliminate racism once and for all. Some of them include the following: “don’t laugh at racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic and other stereotypical jokes or assumptions, make an effort to get to know people different than you, learn about other people and their culture, think before you speak, be a role model, don’t make assumptions, explore the unfamiliar, be a proactive parent, support anti-prejudice and anti-racist organizations, and work on projects with members of groups different from your own.” ( With completing the steps listed above, it helps to conclude racism. Racism occurs way to much nowadays in society and doing the steps that were listed, it can change ones views on the topic completely.

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Native Son: The Effects of Racism in Past and Present Day . (2021, Oct 12). Retrieved from

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