Our 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 of character!
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.