The Necessary Pain of Moral Imagination: Lonely Delegation in Richard Wright's White Man, Listen! and Haiku

Evental Aesthetics 1 (7):63-89 (2018)
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Richard Wright gave a series of lectures in Europe from 1950 to 1956, collected in the following year in the volume, White Man, Listen! One dominant theme in all four essays is that expanding the moral imagination is centrally important in repairing our racism-benighted globe. What makes Wright’s version of this claim unique is his forthright admission that expanding the moral imagination necessarily involves pain and suffering. The best place to hear Wright in regard to the necessary pain of expanding the moral imagination, I would argue, is his poetry collection, This Other World: Projections in the Haiku Manner. To wit, for Wright the necessary pain of expanding one’s moral imagination is the loneliness that results from delegating to others—in the etymological sense of “deputizing or committing”—one’s whiteness qua privilege or social capital. In conclusion, lonely delegation constitutes an imperative template from Wright regarding the painful expansion of our own moral imagination, in the service of social justice for economically oppressed communities of color across the globe.
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