It is so easy to believe that the world Richard Wright created in his short stories no longer exists. Race relations and civil rights are taught as part of history courses, and as such, it is easy to fall into the security of thinking, ‘that was the past; now people are not so ignorant’. Wright forms his stories around racial hate and bigotry so upsetting it seems unreal. This week people found themselves questioning ‘what would it take for me to do that to another human being?’ We were left without an answer, the prospect inconceivable. This inability to comprehend that kind of hatred creates a barrier that limits our ability to truly understand this era of racial prejudice. The distance of time becomes a platitude we can use to make the issue feel less pressing. ‘Wright was writing over 70 years ago’ people will argue, ‘that could never happen now’. But it does, and it has.
The Gaston Gazette in Gastonia, NC reported on March 25, 2010 of an incident in Lowell, North Carolina, just 5 miles west of Gastonia. An interracial couple living in Lowell can attest to the very real threat of ignorance and bigotry. A brick a noose and a note were left on the front porch of the man’s home and was discovered by his fiancé the morning of Feb. 23rd. The note on the brick indicates that the act was racially motivated, if the noose did not speak to that clearly enough. This past Thursday morning the man walked outside his home to find the words “We will burn you out” along with a stick figure hanging from a gallows painted onto the side of his house. Seventy years and we still find ourselves presented with a noose and ignorance.