Racism In Invisible Man

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At the beginning of the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the narrator lives a relatively simple life in which he “visualized [himself] as a potential Booker T. Washington” (Ellison 17). However, once the narrator is expelled from the Negro College he was attending, he begins to rethink his identity and recognizes the complexities of racial discrimination as he is introduced to society in New York. The passage from chapter seven which highlights the narrator’s bright expectations of Harlem helps to advance the theme of racism in the Invisible Man by providing a bridge from outward racism in the south to the hidden racism of the north.
While in Oklahoma at the Negro College, the narrator lives a limited life in which systematic African American
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This hidden racism is made apparent to the reader when the narrator describes that “[he] had never seen so many black men angry in public before, and yet others passed the gathering by without even a glance” (Ellison 159). Instead of the outward racism displayed in the south, the northern whites mock blacks as if they were invisible in society. Ellison continues to advance the idea of the invisibility of racism when Brockway from Liberty Paint states, “Our white is so white that you can paint a chunka coal and you would have to crack it open with a sledgehammer to prove that it wasn’t white clear through” (Ellison 217). Ellison uses the symbolism of coal being painted white to emphasize that instead of being openly racist as they are in the south, northern whites attempt to hide blacks from society by make them assimilate to white culture. By showing that racial equality in the north is only an illusion, Ralph Ellison is able to properly highlight the reality of hidden discrimination towards African
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