too-young and too-new America . . . insists upon seeing the world
in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the
low, the white and the black. . . . It hugs the easy way of damning
those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different,
and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.
Am I damning my native land? No; for I, too, share these faults
This passage appears in the middle of
Chapter 15, as Richard sketches some of the
faults he finds in America. His greatest complaint is that his country
is superficial and self-deceptive, qualities that result in intolerance
and exclusion. When Richard admits that he shares “these faults
of character,” however, he compares America to a person like himself,
growing up and working through the growing pains of adolescence.
Indeed, Wright refers to the “too-young” America, and immediately
after this passage calls America “adolescent and cocksure.” Richard
discerns these traits in America because he knows what it is like
to be cocksure and adolescent himself. In his view, the problem
of racism does not lie entirely in such private places as peoples’
minds. Rather, it is a function of problems deeply embedded in American
culture that will take time to change.