I Choose Exile

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I Choose Exile is an essay written by author Richard Wright, which provides a detailed account on his encountered discrimination as an African-American while attempting to purchase a home in New England, and his eventual decision to emigrate from the United States to France in 1947. Wright submitted the essay to Ebony magazine in 1951, but it was met with a negative response due to fears that publishing the piece would "offend advertisers".

Summary[edit]

Wright begins the work by explaining the rationale for his eventual disenchantment with the United States. Early on, he states that he "needs freedom" and that some individuals "need freedom more than others..."; this seems to be a reference to the forms of racism prevalent in the US in the early half of the 20th century and implies that the existence of such a phenomenon interferes with the freedom of individual Americans, particularly those of color. Wright states that he has found that more freedom exists in one "square block" in France than in the entire continental United States, in that he sees individualism and racial diversity to be looked favorably upon. Wright then adds his observation that the United States is "inescapably different" from that of Europe and thus, it will never share such progressive characteristics.

Final days in the United States[edit]

In his description of his final years in the United States, Wright reports becoming increasingly disenchanted with the American social structure, which he perceives to be collectivist, especially in regard to race. He states that in the wake of being financially prepared to buy his first home, his endeavor proves to be a difficult decision. Wright wishes to move to a countryside setting, but hesitates as he reports that the lynching of many African-Americans have taken place largely in rural towns, also adding that the South was "unthinkable". Wright eventually settles on the idea of buying a home in New England for the reason that he views the area to be comparatively progressive. He finds disappointment, however, upon learning that the owners of his home of interest do not wish to sell their property to him. It is at this point that Wright decides on leaving the United States for France, permanently.

Emigration[edit]

Moving to France proved to be a tedious process for Wright, particularly in regard to obtaining a passport. The year being 1946, he states that the United States government was persistent in denying him the ability to emigrate, and hesitant to even supply him a valid explanation for the decline. In a state of strong determination, Wright states that he "began to pull every political string in sight...", eventually seeking the help of the office of Evalyn Walsh McLean, which he reports was at the time "rumored to be sympathetic to fascism". Wright continues by stating that he did not care about their alleged political sympathies, and used their help to eventually obtain his passport. Referring to this as the "irony or ironies", Wright says that he was not sad when his boat left the site of the Statue of Liberty.

In Paris[edit]

Wright is quite strong and specific on his opinions of his new home in France, stating that Paris is "racially free", where racial differences are looked upon with fascination as opposed to disdain, citing his purchase of a home from whom he describes as an "Aristocratic woman" who did not seem to consider skin color a factor in her decision to sell it to him. He continues by reporting that "no anger or surprise" is apparent when "a dark face stands in the doorway of a French home". Wright concludes that Paris, despite suffering from years of war, has attained a high regard for equality and individualism, taking "...the grim along with the beautiful", and rationality. He states he wishes to make Paris his permanent home, concluding that the French motto is "SOIT RAISONNABLE", or "be reasonable".