African Americans have been oppressed in the United States since its birth. Even after hundreds of years, African Americans do not receive the same treatments that an average nonminority citizen would get. Although many things have changed over this remarkable period of time, there is still work to be done. There are differences between African American people and communities compared to the situation of Caucasians around our nation. Many African Americans have an ongoing battle with poverty, racism and being located in corrupt environments.
This has a major influence on the opportunities that are available to African Americans. Without these equal opportunities, these people usually result to crime; seeing no other way out of their hardships. Crime rates among African Americans are higher than any other race proving that these factors harm the race as a whole. There are numerous different examples of where these defeating factors influenced men and women, in some way, to commit unnecessary crimes. In Richard Wright’s, Native Son, these same factors play an enormous role in Bigger Thomas’ life.
Bigger Thomas is the main character of this novel who is faced with poverty, racism and growing up in a harsh setting. With these influencing his everyday life, he is often seen in some type of trouble. The crimes he commits are not only little, petty crimes they also extend out into vicious, disgusting crimes. Bigger Thomas feels trapped in a white world, which suffocates him to live and make decisions to a certain extent. If Bigger received the same opportunities as whites, he would have never been in the extreme situation he was in.
Majority of the African American race that is located in our country are described as in being in poverty. Poverty not only affects African Americans but millions across the world; poverty can make or break these people’s lives. The negative effects of poverty can be very bitter, much like how poverty negatively affected Bigger Thomas’ life. Bigger Thomas and his family of four were shackled by the restraints of poverty. They all lived in a single bedroom apartment that was not the cleanest, despite the upkeep done by the mother.
In the first few pages of Native Son, Bigger and Buddy have the gruesome task of killing a huge rat that was attacking the family. This proved the horrid conditions they had to deal with very early on in the book. The Thomas family had little to no income and for this reason they depended on Bigger. They needed Bigger to acquire a job so they could continue to receive their public assistance. At this time, it was not uncommon for African Americans to struggle with money. After the Great Depression, unemployment rates were high as twenty-five percent.
Between twenty and forty-five percent of all African Americans that lived in major cities were on public assistance. If an individual was lucky enough to find a job, they did not get paid as much as they needed. “By 1934, 38% of blacks could not find wage earnings higher than the subsistence provided by public relief. ” (Native Son. ). Lacking money could and will eventually lead to very dangerous situations, the desire for money becomes overwhelming. Before Bigger receives his job, the small gang of friends that he was involved with would rob newsstands, fruit stands and apartments looking for quick short money.
This could have easily heightened to a more intense robbery, where they would have to use guns against their victim’s. Luckily, for this gang fear over took them so these hooligans never made it to that degree. Poverty creates a whole different life for others. After Bigger receives the job with the Dalton’s, he was told that he was going to receive his own room that he would have all to himself. This makes Bigger ecstatic, he makes plans to bring Bessie to his new room. He is in love with the fact that he will finally get peace and quiet and a place where no one will bother him.
This is something so small that many people take for granted. Although him being gracious for his room, Bigger does not last long in the household, he finds himself in more trouble. After he murders Mary Dalton he goes inside of her purse and steals her money. With this money, he gains new levels of power. He is able to give money to his brother and to his group of friends. After realizing the power, he has with money there is no stopping him now. He is determined to give the Dalton’s a ransom note demanding ten thousand dollars for the return of their daughter, Mary (Wright 177).
His hunger for money over takes him and causes him to make the absolute worse decisions. The greed to have extra money can be the root to all evil. Living in poverty and needing more money can be a very toxic mixture. Corrupt environments and harsh settings also play a major role in the African American life. Many of these environments are not in favor of the people causing people to act accordingly to survive. These places can vary from where one lives to the actual place at a specific time; either way the ending result can be defying.
When the surrounding atmosphere where you live is negative you are more likely to live a negative life. Bigger lived in an upsetting location raising him to act and to think a certain way. “Bigger admits to feeling ‘bottled up’ in the city like a ‘wild animal” (Native son. ). He feels trapped in the city because during this time period he actually was. African Americans were poorly integrated with the whites and the rest of society. In the 1930’s it was still very uncommon to see a white and black freely associating with each other. It was so uncommon that blacks were excluded from the new suburban living areas.
Many efforts were made to try and keep African Americans in these ghettos. Mr. Dalton admits in court that he refuses to rent houses to Negroes if they not are not in a certain part of Chicago (Wright 327). He feels that all Negroes like and should stay together, not even giving them the opportunity to remove themselves from the ghettos. In real life, the Federal Housing Authority practiced ‘redlining’ which was the process of drawing red lines on maps to declare the predominately black inner-city areas and they denied giving loans to houses located in these areas.
This practices contributes to the demise of the inner city (Native Son. ). Richard Wright did not agree with this he found the flaws of this grouping before much of America did. He believed that placing a group of oppressed people in a savage environment, is the perfect way to create more people like Bigger Thomas. He also stated that if the government failed to address the horrendous living conditions of black Americans, then society would be responsible for the resulting violence (Native Son. ). Another time where an environment can be upsetting is during the heat of the moment.
Many people get involved in trouble due to the fact that they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is one description of a harsh setting. Bigger Thomas was caught in a harsh setting that ruined the rest of his life. Not only did it ruin his life it also ruined his family’s life. After his first day on the job he was forced to take the drunken Mary up to her bedroom. He struggled to get her up the stairs and to her room because that is how much Mary was intoxicated. Once he got her there, things started to become aroused but then Mrs. Dalton catches them in the act.
Out of fear, Bigger attempts to quiet Mary by putting a pillow over her head. While doing this he accidentally suffocates and murders her. It was not his intention to kill Mary but he knew what would happened if he was found alone in the room with a white woman at that time of night. “Wright wanted readers to understand how hostile the American environment is to those that have already been excluded by skin color. ” (Native Son. ). Bigger was trying to flee the situation before it started proving that Bigger was in the wrong place at the wrong time; he was doing his best to survive.
The last and final factor that has a massive impact on the life of an African American is racism. Racism has been a problem in our country for decades upon decades. This problem has never gone away, it just spikes and lessens throughout the years. During 1930’s and 1940’s tensions between the two races were tense. It was still normal for African Americans and Caucasians to not particularly get along. Racial slurs were said in conversation like it was normal. It was so normal that even black people used these slurs against each other.
Race relations became intense when blacks grew frustrated with segregation and discrimination. In southern states poll taxes and literacy test were in effect to prevent blacks from voting (Native Son. ). They even made a black pay more for a loaf of bread then a white person would. Bigger describes this in Native Son. They thought of African Americans as a different species of humans and this enraged many people across our country. “African Americans walk along the streets like other people, dressed like them, talking them and yet excluded for no other reason except that they’re black” (Wright 308).
They see blacks so different that the rape and murder of Bessie Mears was swept under the rug like she did not matter. The murder of Bessie was exceedingly more gruesome than the murder of Mary and people simple did not care. Bessie was not white so her life did not matter to the eyes of the white society. Her family was left to mourn for their daughter without any justices served. Proving that white supremacy was so great that a death of a young black women did not matter. As long as the death of the white women received justice, everything was fine.
When African Americans are oppressed by these factors, the consequences are usually tremendous; imposing fear and illogical thinking. The life a Bigger Thomas is an exquisite example of how negative these aspects can be. African Americans should be exposed to equal opportunities to reduce their need to commit crimes. This would be beneficial to them and our country as a whole. If we tried harder to reduce poverty, make corrupt environments better and start treat each other equally we could perfect our country. Fixing these flaws within United States will do great things for our societies.