by Richard Wright
White People Who Are Nice to Richard
Mr. Falk, the Hoffmans, and Mr. Crane. That’s it. In the whole book there are exactly four white people who are nice to Richard. Four. Mr. Crane is Richard’s boss at the Optical Company who encourages him to go north. Mr. Falk was a coworker who let Richard borrow his library card. Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman were Richard’s first white bosses up North, who he suspected of hating him even though they liked him.
All of these people have a common denominator: they’re not actually white. Remember how Richard has to learn to "act black," and how his grandmother looks just like a white person? How "blackness" and "whiteness" are more about the way you act and the role you play than the actual color of your skin? Well, Jews and Catholics were grudgingly allowed to use the white water fountains and snag the good seats on the buses, but they weren’t exactly accepted by mainstream Southern white society. Both groups even made it onto the Ku Klux Klan hit list.
Yeah, Mr. Crane isn’t Jewish or Catholic, but he is a Yankee, and, let’s face it: in the South, Yankees are practically a persecuted minority.