This sample of an academic paper on Racism In Native Son reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below.
W. E. B Du Bois is an American Sociologist and civil rights activist whose essay “The and “The Criteria of Negro Art” support the notion that art is an effective way for underrepresented individuals to represent themselves, get their voice heard and in the process resist oppression. He states that all “art is propaganda” (Du Bois 160). Furthermore, he argues that even though all art is propaganda but all propaganda is not art. For art to be considered propaganda, it has to be two-sided and not just one-sided.
He states how African Americans are displayed in the media is really biased because the people who put the image of African Americans out are mostly White and for the outside world to better understand Blacks, the Blacks have to take action and start using their creativity to express themselves. Du Bois’ theory of propaganda and African American media portrayal is supported by events in Richard Wright’s novel Native Son. Native Son is a novel about a poor 20 year old African American young man, Bigger Thomas and his struggles in Chicago’s South Side ghetto in the 1930’s.
The novel focuses on Bigger and how he struggles with his poverty stricken condition, his family, friends, racial and economic oppression. Bigger is portrayed as a moody man whose ambitions, goals and perceptions of how his life should be are cut short by racism. He feels trapped by the feelings he is unable to express and he resorts to violence when these feelings become too hard to bear. Throughout Native Son, Richard Wright uses the influence of popular culture/media (mostly movies, magazines and newspapers) to show how Bigger forms his identity.
Popular Culture Example
In movies such as the one Bigger and his friends go see, Whites are portrayed as elegant, attractive, and cultured, while blacks are portrayed as jungle savages, illiterate or servants. Evidence of this media influence on Bigger is seen when he gets a job with the Daltons, he is completely unable to be himself. All he can do is act out the role of the subservient and poor black man that he has seen in countless popular culture representations. While working for the Dalton’s, he accidentally kills their daughter and his life takes a drastic change afterwards.
Bigger’s actions and thoughts throughout the novel shows that the media portrayal of different racial groups of people can have a great influence in shaping one’s identity of themselves and of those around them. Unable to further his education because of the harsh racial limitations placed on African Americans in the 1930’s, Bigger is troubled by the fact that he cannot work the kinds of job he would have worked to help support his family and take them away from poverty.
Anger, fear and frustration are constant feelings bigger deals with on a day-to-day basis because he feels as though he has no control over his life and his situation. He and his friends commit petty crimes to make ends meet. He cannot stand watching white people in movies having all the fun and enjoyment which he really misses in his real life and he constantly hates the White people because he thinks they are the reason for his situation. As he says to Gus, “They don’t let us do nothing… [And] I can’t get used to it. Bigger says this to Gus because he feels trapped.
Although he realizes that the racial prejudices placed on him limit him from attaining his full potential, he still cannot get used to it and he tries as much as he can to change it although he goes about it the wrong way. The media continually portrays Blacks as animalistic brutes who lack any human sense, and it therefore becomes unavoidable that blacks such as Bigger will react with violence and hatred toward the White society.
The misrepresentation of the black people as being savage and barbarian in their behaviors establishes false stereotypes among the whites and consequently constructs walls of fear and suspicion between both sides. Also the misrepresentation of whites as always happy, extremely rich, and comfortable, hardens racial stereotypes. The media’s inability to reflect the good part side by side with the bad part of both sides gives room for white’s ignorance to oppression they are producing and mistreatment of the black American and also hatred and spite from the Black Americans.
This one sided portrayal of both races is also what Du Bois argues in his article Criteria of Negro Art. Du Bois argues that although all art is propaganda, one-sided propaganda gives the public an incorrect and sometimes negative view on both parties which leads to racial profiling and discrimination. Du Bois believes that when the media portrays images of both Whites and Blacks, they need to give the public accurate depictions and show both the good and the bad side of both parties so as to let the public know and decide who they feel a certain way towards.
He feels that art, should serve the purpose of securing people’s rights and not cause oppression like it did in Bigger’s case. The Media often restricts people from discovering the real others around them. They cover up reality with hypocrisy and hide truth behind selfish exaggeration. In the beginning of the novel, we notice that Bigger’s failure to conceive whites as individuals is partially due to his being influenced by the misrepresentations of movies; to him, they are all the same, frightening and untrustworthy.
This portrayal is not singular to the film Bigger sees, but is replicated in nearly every film and every magazine. Not surprisingly, then, both blacks and whites see blacks are inferior brutes—a view that has crippling effects on whites and absolutely devastating effects for blacks. However, when he meets Max away from the media, he begins to perceive whites as individuals and merely as stereotypes. The same happens with Max who begins to develop a sense of understanding of the black society as he comes across Bigger.
By introducing us to such a great meeting between blackness and whiteness, Wright intends to show us that it is only through getting to know one another – but not through any other means of media – that better understanding can be too broadly established against the absurdity of the stereotyped images (Keillor). We also see another clear picture of the negative influence of media on people, during Bigger’s trial. The newspapers coverage of Bigger’s case is heavily imprinted by racial prejudice and intolerance. Bigger falls victim in the hands of media which seek to benefit from his situation.
Wright portrays the media as one of the forces that leads to Bigger’s execution, as the sensationalist press stirs up a furor over his case in order to sell newspapers. The newspapers and reporters use Bigger as a form of entertainment and portray him as a violent ape-like creature. something to be caged. due to the debatable as the final scene is, in which for the first time Bigger calls a white man by his first name, Bigger is never anything but a failed human. He represents the black man conscious of a system of racial oppression that leaves him no opportunity to exist but through crime.
He even admits to wanting to be an aviator and later, to Max, he admits to wanting to be a great number of things. He can do nothing but be one of many blacks in the ghetto and maybe get a job serving whites; crime seems preferable. Not surprisingly, then, he already has a criminal history, and he has even been to reform school. Ultimately, the greatest thing he can do is transgress the boundary the white world has set for him. He can violate what those who oppress him hold sacred and thereby meet the challenge they set in establishing their boundaries.
This recalls to our minds the necessity of reforming media so that they can attain neutralism in their portrayal of the human relations regardless of their racial or cultural identities. We are in dire need of those media nowadays whose main objective lies in promoting oneness among nations of the world and transcending beyond the boarders of nationalism and racism. Wright scatters images of popular culture throughout Native Son, constantly reminding us of the extremely influential role the media plays in hardening already destructive racial stereotypes.