What resentments does Richard harbor against the white people for whom he works in Black Boy?
In Richard Wright's autobiography, Black Boy, Richard tells of his attempts to earn enough money so that he can escape the impoverished life he lives. In all of the jobs that Richard has, he resents the treatment given him by the whites; that is, Richard is incensed by the whites' perception that he is inferior.
When he goes to work in a brickyard as a water boy, the owner's dog bites him. After this incident, Richard asks to see the boss, but is told that the man is not in his office. Later, however, the man walks toward Richard, saying "They tell me my dog bit you." So, Richard shows the man the bite, but instead of concern, the man makes the flippant statement, "I never saw a dog yet that could really hurt a negroe." And, in another case, Richard procures a job working for a woman who asks him if he steals; Richards tells her,"No,ma'am,...I don't steal." But, instead of being pleased at this response, the woman turns and says,
'Now, look, we don't want a sassy nigger around here'
As Richard walks home, he ponders on things that he has heard about whites looking upon Negroes as a variety of children, and
it was only in the light of that that her questions made any sense.
The next morning he reports to work, but Richard does not keep the job because the woman scoffs at his dream of becoming a writer. Richard says that she
had assaulted my ego; she had assumed that she knew my place in life, what I felt, what I ought to be, and I resented it with all my heart. Perhaps she was right; perhaps I would never be a writer; but I did not want to hear her say so.
In many jobs, Richard is tense, trying to avoid curses and ridicule, learning to "
observe their every move, every fleeting expression, how to interpret what was said and what left unsaid.
When Richard procures a job in an optical company run by a Northerner, he has hopes of learning the trade, but the Southern white men will not work with him. At another job, Richard is tricked into fighting another black boy so that the men can gamble on them. In another he works at a hospital, but when he expresses interest in the experiments that the doctors are performing with laboratory animals, his interest is repelled.
In all his jobs as a youth, Richard writes that he went to work to "face the whims of the white folks." He cannot truly be himself; he says, that he "had begun coping with the white world too late," for he cannot make "subservience an automatic part of [his] behavior."