In Black Boy, Richard says that "Somewhere in the dead of night my life had switched onto the wrong track, and, without my knowing it, the locomotive of my heart was rushing down a dangerously steep slope."
In what way is Richard on the wrong track?
This passage comes at the end of Chapter 8 of Black Boy, a chapter in which Richard has striven to find his own voice and express an individualism. But, as he says, he becomes
...aware of the thing that the Jim Crow laws had been drafted and passed to keep out of my consciousness; I was acting on impulses that southern senators in the nations's capital had striven to keep out of Negro life....
Richard does not think of himself as inferior, nor does he feel that his imagination and spirit should be restricted. Yet, he begins to understand that he is "on the wrong track" and he is headed into what can prove to be dangerous situations for him, both with whites and with blacks as he opposes the stereotype that is set for him. For, he is not to have an imagination and strive to overreach his station in llife. In fact, his classmates and teachers have scolded him, "Why do you ask so many questions!" or "Keep quiet." But, Richard has been "heedless" of these warnings, these "red lights" as his desire to better himself drives him.