different races. Something as important as whether or not you would have a place to lay your head at night was determined by your social class, but more predominately by the color of your skin. As the colonies of America flourished, so did the slave trade.
In a society where your social standing was based solely upon the color of your skin, slavery as
it existed in America was based upon the principle that a slave was not an individual, but rather as an item of property. Many colored individuals came to realize that in order to gain any sort of footing in a white dominated world, they must, to a certain degree, play along with this game of inequality.
As we can see in the narrative “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow”, by Richard Wright, Wright
learns early on in his life that the advantages you have in life in colonial America, because of and decided by your race are inherently unequal. In order to get anywhere in his life, Wright learns to somewhat play the system that the white man has created. As a young boy, playing a child’s game in the cinders that surround the colored people’s houses by the train tracks, Wright gets his first glimpse of this inequality.
“I never fully realized the appalling disadvantages of a cinder environment till one day the gang to which I belonged found itself engaged in a war with the white boys who lived beyond the tracks. As usual we laid down our cinder barrage, thinking that this would wipe the white boys out. But they replied with a steady bombardment of broken bottles.” (Wright 1.) This quote represents the predetermined inequality that colored people in colonial America came to experience at an age even as early as childhood. The simple fact that the white boys who lived beyond the tracks had something more substantial to throw than cinders, which only ever left bruised, showed that the colored people, even in this seemingly small way, are ultimately at a very large disadvantage.
As cleverly as Wright so often managed to play the system that white men had put in place for the colored people in Jim Crow era America, sometimes, out of pure malicious intent, Wright could not escape the persecution brought on by the color of his skin, as was often the case for many colored people during this time.
“Negroes who have lived South know the dread of being caught alone upon the streets in white neighborhoods after the sun has set. In such a simple situation as this the plight of the Negro in
America is graphically symbolized. While white strangers may be in these neighborhoods trying to get home, they can pass unmolested. But the color of a Negro's skin makes him easily recognizable, makes him suspect, converts him into a defenseless target.” (Wright 4.) In this era of intense racism in
America, public figures that are responsible for the protection of the common citizen, choose only to selectively protect the people, based upon the color of their skin. Although Wright is doing nothing more than simply performing the duties of his job, and certainly was not committing any crime, or even acting suspiciously, he is stopped and forced to the ground by a police officer for no other reason than the color of his skin.
This was an extremely common occurrence in colonial America, where nothing more than being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with a decidedly wrong skin color, could land you in all sorts of trouble from a mugging, to a beating, or even arrest.
On a similar note, it was very rare that a colored individual was treated as a person at all. It was more common as a colored person in colonial America to be treated as a piece of property, or a means of entertainment. This concept shows itself very clearly in the short story “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison.
“I was told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal to…