Ralph Ellison's premise in his novel Invisible Man, first published in the early 1950's about a young black man's feelings of being invisible in New York based on his skin color, is that white dominated society renders blacks (and by association, other people of non-white skin colors) "invisible". Do you feel this is as true now as in the 1950's? Why or why not?
I feel that this is not as true now to some extent as it was in the 1950’s particularly, because the accounts offered by Ellison in his Novel, ‘Invisible Man ‘. Definitely, it forges an inference to the Jim Crow laws. They defined segregation between blacks and whites. There have been major changes since then in the way blacks are being perceived in the society today.
For example, Civil rights activists such a Rosa Parks, Lou Hamer and Dr. Martin Luther King created the momentum for a more just society. Precisely, this can be exemplified by Ellison’s introduction of the Invisible character that alluded to his new life. He said, “I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century.” (Ellison 1952). An illumination occurs.
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person on the bus. She was thrown in jail because blacks were supposed to go to the back and whites in front. This sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and other civil disobedient actions by blacks in efforts to enforce social justice which was achieved. This perhaps gives meaning to the illustration of living ‘rent free in a building rented strictly to whites.’ Ellison 1954). It denotes freedom!
Another reason why I feel it is not the same, in the twenty --first century black- white ethnic interactions are less tense. African- Americans have historically elected an African -American for the first time as president. The chant ‘yes we can’ echoed everywhere around the world. Everyone realized the magnitude of change which had encapsulated this nation. Due to this phenomenal gesture blacks embrace the misconception that racial equality had been realized in America.
On the contrary when facts are examined carefully it cannot be confirmed that in the twenty- first century America racial prejudice is no longer a factor which determines how far someone will arrive up the social ladder. It may not be leveled at blacks intensely as was done in the fifties.However, elements of racial animosity still exits between minority groups and may be practiced at the same magnitude as when Rosa parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. This is why I feel that to some extent it still occurs.
The reason why I feel so is that from discrete analysis of post- racial trends, prejudice seemed to have been switched from ex-slave marginalized blacks to minority Hispanics.They appeared to have either flourished or their illegal presence through Mexican trafficking of immigrants across the border has antagonized interest groups. This type of racial profiling is apparent in States like Arizona. The invisible man has changed his garment from dark color skin pigmentation to Hispanic cultural orientation
Also, there has been creation of laws specifically targeting this group. It is done under the guise of immigration reform and confirms that there exists intense racial animosity between Hispanics and whites. A demonstration of this hatred for the infringement of Hispanics into the American Social structure was recently exemplified when the DREAM act failed passing in the Senate after gaining victory in the House. Many white senators did not vote out of mere animosity for this minority group of children brought to this country without their consent by their parents. The majority of Dreamers are undocumented Hispanics.
Brubaker said that racial prejudice is performed by particular agents through institutions. This is the plight of Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man.’ Prejudice is developed through perception, representation, classification, categorization and identification. (Brubaker 2004). The Battle Royal scenes highlight pleasures prejudice brings to the particular agent that institutionalizes it. Conclusively, it is practiced as structured inequality.
Brubaker, R. Ethnicity without Groups. Cambridge: Harvard Press 2004.
Ellison, Ralph Waldo. Invisible Man. New York: Random House, 1992