20 February 2017
Racism and its Multidimensionality: a Road Block in the Path to Self Discovery
Ralph Waldo Ellison’s Invisible Man describes the plight of a black man growing up and coming to terms with his identity. The “invisible man” is not literally invisible, rather invisibility is used to describe the cultural implications of blackness and his inability to fit into stereotypical black molds. Some of the stereotypes that the narrator encounters are indisputably racist and subjugating. However, some stereotypes are idealized in both the black community and by outsiders, perpetuating the narrator 's feelings of being lost. Racism has an overwhelming presence in this novel, but so does more…show more content… [...] They shouted hostile phrases at me. But I did not understand.” (Ellison 31) The biting and malicious laughter that the narrator describes is the perfect example of the racism that the narrator must overcome in the conquest to find his true self. He is publicly humiliated in order to achieve something honorable and to attain a higher social status. Another example of blatant racism is delivered through imagery. At one point in the novel the narrator takes up a job at Liberty Paints. At this job they only make paint in one shade, “Optic White”. This shade alone would not be a cause for concern, but when coupled with the company’s slogan, the color’s discriminatory nature is clear. The narrator explains the brand’s advertisements, “Ahead of me a huge electric sign announced its message through the drifting strands of fog: Keep America Pure With Liberty Paints.” (Ellison 196). Purity, historically speaking, connotes whiteness. Keeping America “pure”, or more modern, making America “great again”, essentially means to keep America white. Black men working at a company producing only white products is symbolic of the system of white supremacy.
Another type of racism that the narrator has to combat throughout the duration of the novel are the more subtle and “unintentional” attacks. These exhibitions of racism may not be intended, but they happen nonetheless. A common stereotype surrounding black men, is a fictionalized idea of hyper masculinity and nearly