In Native Son, what may account for the difference in the perception that poor whites treat blacks worse than rich whites?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that it is a question like this one that allows for the most powerful levels of Wright's analysis to take hold.  In being both a person of color and one who was mindful of the role of economic class in social perception through his work with Communist publications, Wright was able to dissect social reality through the sharp instruments of both race and class.  In being able to reflect both in his work, Wright is able to make the argument that both interact and converge within one another.  Wright is asserting that it is not merely a problem of race that is a challenge in America, but rather one of class, as well.  For example, the Great Depression was an instant where both factors were convergent on the experience of African- Americans like Wright.  Consider that nationwide, the unemployment rate jumped from 15% in 1929 to 25% in 1933. Between 25 and 40% of all blacks in major cities of the country were on public assistance. By 1934, 38% of blacks could not find wage earnings higher than the subsistence provided by public relief.  The Great Depression highlighted the reality that race and class play formative roles in the experience of American consciousness.  Rich whites were able to feel secure enough in understanding that African- Americans were not going to threaten their economic standing.  This could not be the same for poor whites who were in just as much competition for the same positions for which people of color could compete.  Wright's accounting for the difference in treatment comes from the vantage point of economic class as being vitally important in the experience of American consciousness.

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