Over the centuries, the white people have always shown superiority to the blacks. The whites controlled the black community and gave them limited opportunities to spend their life freely. Native Son introduces that slavery and neo-slavery had caused the “development of a psychology of timidity, passivity, and even cowardice among the African American masses” (Wright). Hence, lives of the black people became very different as compared to the white folks. For an example, a woman from both racial groups did not have the same value in society.
A young woman belonging to a white family was given higher status and importance in the society than a black woman. Their living conditions were far more peaceful than the women in the black community whereas a black woman always felt oppressed. Thus, white women were considered to be more significant in the society than black women. A black woman had a total opposite lifestyle than a white woman in the society. In Native Son by Richard Wright, a young woman named Mary Dalton belonged to a wealthy, white family who had everything.
She had servants who helped around the house and even a chauffeur who drove her where she wanted. With one request she says “I want you to drive me to the Loop. But if anyone should ask you, then I went to the University” (Wright 64). She seems to be careless and worry-free. She has no obligations to fulfill and has freedom to do as she pleases. Mary also attended University which means that the white women were given an opportunity to be educated while black women couldn’t even afford the thought of going to school. “People are not paying attention to them” even if they are fairly educated (Thompson, Williams).
On the other hand, Bessie Mears, who is a young black woman, maintained her daily life by working hard. She claims that “all my life’s been full of hard trouble. If I wasn’t hungry, I was sick. And if I wasn’t sick, I was in trouble. I ain’t never bothered nobody. I just worked hard every day as long as I can remember” (Wright 229). Bessie struggled every day to find satisfaction in her life. She worked day and night just to survive each moment. Mary, who had a comfortable and worry-free life, was nothing compared to Bessie’s, who fought for her existence in society.
Mary was known as the white millionaire’s daughter thus giving her the stature in society whereas Bessie was just a poor black woman which had no importance in front of a white woman. After it was revealed that Mary Dalton was murdered, private investigators, newscasts, and journalists began to cause uproar of the whole situation. Detectives interrogated everyone to find out who was the murderer; newspaper journalists issued updates of Mary’s case; and news channels were flooded with the breaking news of Mary’s death.
Everyone got involved in finding the criminal who had killed a young white woman including the city mayor who claims that “every effort is being made to apprehend this fiend” (Wright 244). The police “raid 1,000 Negro homes…numerous Communist headquarters throughout the city [and] …arrest hundreds of Reds” but still don’t find any clues to identify the felon (Wright 255-6). The city was searched and turned upside down trying to find the murderer of Mary Dalton.
A white woman killed and possibly raped by a black man had caused chaos among the society: “Every street car, bus, el train and auto leaving the South Side is being stopped and searched. Police and vigilantes, armed with rifles, tear gas, flashlights, and photos of the killer, began at 18th Street this morning and are searching every Negro home under a blanket warrant from the Mayor. They are making a careful search of all abandoned buildings, which are said to be hideouts for Negro criminals” (Wright 244). The police has promised to catch the culprit and give him extremely harsh consequences including a death sentence.
On the contrary, Bessie Mears, who was also potentially raped and murdered by the same black man, is given no importance. The city which is going over the limits to find the murderer of Mary Dalton is not aware or even concerned of the fact that a young black woman was also killed. Bessie was murdered as brutally as Mary was. Then why wasn’t the city going in their extreme ways to find missing Bessie? She was struck by a concrete brick many times on her head and then her “body hit and bumped against the narrow sides of the airshaft as it went down into blackness” (Wright 238).
A black man killing a young black woman didn’t seem to be unusual to the society. It was the killing of a white woman by a black man that caused the society’s attention. Black-on-black crime data reveals that “approximately 100,000 African Americans have been killed on our streets at the hands of other African Americans in roughly the same stretches of time” (Gabbay). Bessie’s case was insignificant and was merely forgotten. In the case of Mary and Bessie, both were equal victims of rape and inhuman murder. However, their racial differences play a big role in the actions taken on their murder case.
Mary being a young white woman with an elevated status and a higher rank in superiority to the blacks gave the society a reason to express more significance towards her than Bessie. Bessie being a poor young black woman with nothing but the inferiority she faces by the society is not considered worthy as Mary or other white folks. Her existence is like the existence of an ant. She is present and living, but unknown to the world. This leaves the black women in a serious position to question the society, do I not exist?