Keiyanni Jackson

Engl 340

12/3/2017  

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Research paper

Dr.Luftig

 

                                                                        Who
Are You

Being
black is not a thing it is a color yet, so many people strive to be black or to
stay far away from being labeled black. Black is a color it is a skin color,
but it is not a culture or a negative thing. Being black is what a lot of
people strive for yet do not know the meaning of what they ask for. To be black
one must be okay with stares, over sexualizing, always being a minority. Being
black should not mean anything yet it is depicted as someone’s culture now.
Someone will say “I’m blacker than you” because they did not like your song of
choice or clothing. Being black is not something you can be better at. It is
something one just is. Being a black person people automatically assume that
you are angry, criminal, lesser than them. When you may be just the opposite,
you could be the happiest person in the world, never been accused of a crime,
not even a speeding ticket, and you can be quite wealthy, but all people see is
darker skin.

Ralph
Ellison did not want this stereotypical description as opposed to Richard
Wright who thrived in the stereotype, he did not shy away from the assumption
he embodied them and made people realize that he has a right to be the
stereotype and that he is an individual. In the African American community identity is
always evolving. People are always trying to find their niche but there are
some that refuse to pick or identify with a group, some prefer to be invisible,
some by choice and some from not knowing what they are or rather who they are.
Black culture is not just one’s identity it’s made up of many things but before
the evolution of the culture there was this idea that all the African Americans
were like one unit, they dressed alike, ate the same things. They were
essentially the same person, when individuality was allowed in the black
community those who stepped out and were being different and living their truth
they were shunned. So, a lot of African American choose to remain hidden in the
majority if it meant they would not be ridiculed or stood out.  Richard
wright was someone who went with the status quo then struck out as an
individual and prospered as being someone different. Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible
Man” remained hidden in the world and was confused his whole life because he
did not know who he was and feared who he would become if he let himself have
an opinion or a thought that was not a part of the status quo.

            Richard Wright differs from Ellison because Wright spent
his whole life trying to find his identity, he wanted to matter. Wright’s
battle was a power struggle, his identity crisis was learning that he mattered
and that there’s no one race better than another. Wright learning his place in
society is one of the causes for his alcoholism. Wright knew he was not a slave
but could not understand why he was still serving whites and why he was
considered a second-class citizen before people learn anything about him.
Wright had to learn that he was smart and had a skill, that he was more than a
drunken stereotype, he was a man who had a platform, he became a different
voice for the black community, he broke the rules on black writers. Wright did
not just right about “sex and religion” he spoke on the topics that African
Americans were not allowed

 “American white women, Ku
Klux Klan; France and how Negro soldiers fared while there; French white women;
Jack Johnson; the entire northern part of the United States; the Civil war;
Abraham Lincoln; U.S. Grant; General Sherman; Catholics; the Pope; Jews; the
republican party; slavery; social equality; communism; socialism; the 13th and
14th amendment to the constitution; or any topic calling for positive knowledge
or mainly self-assertion on the part of the negro.”

When Wright said this he
already destroyed the delicate balance that black and white writers had
unintentionally set. Wright wrote the truth, ever since birth he was at a
disadvantage, he discovered that black skin in America was a taboo thing and he
had to find where he belonged whether it be with the alcoholics, the scholars
or the angry black men. Wright discovered himself by going through these stages.
He incorporated them into himself, one does not mean you cannot be the other.
Becoming an alcoholic didn’t make him stupid, nor did it make him angry it was
something he dealt with.

            Ellison wanted to remain separate from the problem, from
the stereotypes, the narrator was just existing he was not living. The
“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison had an internal war going on inside him much
like the world around him. The narrator did not want to be the stereotypical
black person he did not believe he fit the description given by society. He did
not know who he was because the world’s label said what a black person was, the
 narrator felt he did not fit the description,
so he could not figure out or understand who he was. Ellison gave insight to
the many blacks who refuse to voice which way they fell on the spectrum of
being black and black enough. The narrator’s indecisiveness made blacks feel
better about wanting to be safe but also be angry even if they did not know
they were. Blending into the shadows does not protect you because just like in
the “Invisible Man” the anger will slip out and it will give you an identity.

 Being invisible is only
helpful for a black person in America only if they are surrounded by other
blacks in America. The treatment of men, women and children with darker skin
tones will always be singled out. Ellison makes it okay for one to not know
your identity. One does not have to know who they are to be against something
in fact by finding things that you agree or disagree with helps build your
identity, one is only invisible until something forces one into the light.

 The
“Invisible Man was a coming of age story. His
journey to self-realization that he was invisible started when the narrator was
called to give his high school graduation speech at a gathering of the town’s
important white citizens. “I spoke louder despite the pain. But still they
talked, and they laughed, as though deaf with cotton in dirty ears” This
internal struggle becomes confusion and the inability to comprehend that he is
invisible to them. This made the narrator confused and trapped within his
uncertainty. The narrator does not realize that he is invisible and tries to
make himself heard during his speech which only brought him humiliation. He could
have taken the first steps to building his identity, but he did not want to be
labeled angry, but he wanted to be heard and when they were not listening it
upset him. He followed their orders and continued in battle royal, which proves
that he had not found his identity but was being molded by others. If he did
realize his invisibility, he could have been liberated from trying to be
invisible.

            Wright and Ellison, makes it okay to be apart or
something while being an individual and making it okay to be finding your
identity. No one can place someone into a category if they do not accept what
they are given. Ellison’s “Invisible Man” had trouble accepting that he did not
want to be the stereotype, but the narrator never strived to find who he was. Remaining
in the shadows does not protect you, it hinders you because you cannot say what
you agree or disagree thus allowing other to place one into a box with a label.
Not speaking up is not always a bad thing but if one wishes to disprove something
about themselves they must be willing to accept that they must have an opinion
and not be afraid of the ridicule and backlash that may come after they have
established their ideas. Wright embraces the black stereotype but by doing so
he has discovered who he is. Those who have been shipped together will be able
to see the difference for they too understand that the stereotype is not them
personally and they chose to accept it as a description for when others see
them. Ellison’s thought process was erratic and without a single focus because the
narrator did not accept the things he discovered about himself. He denounced it
fearing how both sides would see him and outcast him. The narrator’s fear of identity
made him an outcast unintentionally. He did not accept himself and by not
accepting himself he did not give people a chance to accept him. Saying what
one believes does not make one the enemy but rather someone some people can use
to see things differently. The narrator in the “Invisible Man” did not know that
he could be who he was, unaligned, without the stereotypes given by both black
and white because black is just a color and a word. It is not someone’s identity
how one sees themselves is how they project themselves into the world. Wight
embraces the stereotype because he believes that his anger is a part of him and
that it helps enhance his personality. Wright did not hide behind the stereotype
he took the power from it by embracing it making the stereotype meaningless. Social
constructs only exist if one allows them to, they cannot hurt someone if the
meaning is useless. One person cannot be black, but a person can have pride in
being part of a culture that causes an uproar in society.

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