by Richard Wright
Black Boy Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Section.Chapter.Paragraph)
Then how could one live in a world in which one’s mind and perceptions meant nothing and authority and tradition meant everything? (1.7.43)
Tradition is great when it involves delicious holiday treats, but sometimes it’s not so awesome. For example, when the tradition is that black people are slaves.
"You’re just a young, hot fool," he said, confident again. "Wake up, boy. Learn the world you’re living in. You’re smart and I know what you’re after. I’ve kept closer track of you than you think. I know your relatives. Now, if you play safe," he smiled and winked, "I’ll help you to go to school, to college."
I went home, hurt but determined. I had been talking to a "bought" man and he had tried to "buy" me. I felt that I had been dealing with something unclean. (1.8.75)
It’s a devil’s bargain. Just like Richard’s principal, society offers rewards for good behavior—rewards like popularity, or wealth, or fame. But there’s always a price.
Yet, all about me, Negroes were stealing. More than once I had been called a "dumb nigger" by black boys who discovered that I had not availed myself of a chance to snatch some petty piece of white property that had been carelessly left within my reach.
"How in hell you gonna git ahead?" I had been asked when I had said that one ought not steal. (1.10.58)
Society has two things to say to oppressed people. 1) Stealing is bad. 2) You have to steal to get ahead. Gee, that’s a pickle.