Ralph Ellison’S Novel
Although many people think that being different is a good thing, there are people who think that it is not good. According to Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, people react negatively toward those who are different. due to the fact that it has been taught by society, they want to feel superior and they’re afraid of change.
I chose this topic because I’m interested in the reasoning behind treating people who are different from you badly. You don’t wake up one day and say I’m going to this and that to this person just because I want to. It’s been conditioned and intertwined into society that we must act a certain way towards people. This can be proven by the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellington, Audre Lorde’s essay, “Age, Race, Class & Sex: Women Redefining Difference” and other sources by showing that it’s been taught by society, they want to feel superior, and they’re afraid of change.
According to Ralph Ellison’s novel, the protagonist talks about a fellow black man and how he was or acted. When Trueblood didn’t act a certain way, the protagonist called him a “disgrace upon the black community” (46). His full name is Jim Trueblood and he accepted his black heritage and wasn’t afraid to show it. But as a consequence he was treated as a pariah for not following the social norms which was to do whatever the white men told you to do.
This supports my claim because in that that time, (1940’s where there was still segregation), it was taught by society that black people should act a certain way to be accepted by white people. But Jim wasn’t like that. He did the things that he wanted and for that he was treated as an outcast. Trueblood was also a singer but some people didn’t like the way. According to the novel, “We were embarrassed by the earthly harmonies… dared not to laugh at the crude… animal sounds Jim Trueblood made…” (47). Jim was made fun of the way he sang because he didn’t sing “normally”. He was accepted by neither the black people and the white people. So the people reacted negatively to him being different.
As I said earlier, people react negatively to difference because they want to feel superior. Based on Audre Lorde’s essay “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”, in reaction to someone’s difference, people choose to “ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we [the oppressed] think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate”. This means that people put other people who are not like them down so that they can feel more power or be more superior. So the people who are made to feel inferior, feels as if they must copy the people who are in power just to fit in so that they won’t bother them.
The white men made it so that if we are different from them, we are not considered their equals. According to Lorde, people view or treat differences as if they’re opposites such as “dominant/subordinate, good/bad, up/down, superior/inferior”. So basically people react negatively to other people’s differences because they want to feel superior.
The article, “What We Should Know About Why James Earl Ray Killed Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968” supports my statement that people react negatively to differences because they’re afraid of change. I say that because King Jr. was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and the most visible spokesperson who actively spoke up against inequality.
He wanted to change things so that people of color can have more freedom or more rights. But some people didn’t like that; they wanted things to stay the same. According to the article, “… The FBI stalked King and his cohort in order to, as Sides put it, “ruin and smear the civil rights movement”. This means that people were afraid of the change that was slowly approaching. So they tried everything they could just to stop it; even going as far as to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr. They thought that after his death, everything would stop. However, they were wrong; if anything, it just motivated people to see King’s work done. This reinforces my thesis statement, which I stated in the beginning.
The article, “How Invisible Man Eerily Foreshadowed the Events of Today” supports my standing that people react negatively to differences because they want to feel superior. People created the stance, “Separated but Equal” (even though it really wasn’t all that equal). The people that were in power were not happy that colored people were finally free. They were afraid of what would happen once they’ve lost their power. How can they feel better about themselves if they have no one to put beneath them.
They also weren’t happy that they lost control of their former slaves, so they tried to do something about it. “… enabled those in power to insist (and believe) that relegating the nation’s black population to second-class citizenship was not only compatible with justice but could also be accomplished without inflicting psychic damage on the perpetrators of discrimination themselves”. This mean that the people in power were able to make themselves more superior than black people all without making themselves look bad or getting into trouble. This source reinforced my statement.
In reference to what I stated above, the novel, Invisible Man supports my claim that people react negatively to difference because they are afraid of change. I say that because once people realize that you’re not like them, they tend to ignore you so that they won’t have to acknowledge that fact. The protagonist said that he is invisible “… simply because people refuse to see me… they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination…” (pg. 3). He says this because in his time, people didn’t want to accept the fact that black people were gaining more freedom.
They were afraid of this, so those who didn’t follow the rules set up by white people, they were ignored. They weren’t treated as humans, just outcasts. If they were not acting the way that white people wanted them to, they weren’t of importance just so they won’t have to acknowledge that the change of white people were losing their power over black people. This how the novel supports my claim.
Another source that supports my claim is the article, “Miley Cyrus’s Bad Reputation Scaring Other Celebrities Away” proves my statement. The article is mainly about celebrities trying to stay away from Miley Cyrus. It’s because Miley decided that she wanted to do the things she wanted instead of doing what she has been told.
People started saying that she’s doing it for attention. “Some people see her behavior as a clear cry for help”. Since Miley started “acting out”, she started to get a bad reputation and no one wanted to be seen with her. People have been taught to stay away from people who don’t follow social norms and do things a certain way. According to the article, Cyrus said, “I’m with artists sometimes and I’ll take a picture of them or whatever. They make me delete it”. We shouldn’t bring people down just because they aren’t acting a certain way. This shows that it’s been taught by society to ridicule those who don’t follow social norms because they are different.
Another article that strengthen my claim that people react negatively to differences because they want to feel superior is “Red, Brown and Yellow Perils: Images of the American Enemy in the 1940s and 1950s”. Based on the article, the Japanese bombed the Pearl Harbor, so they started to hate or discriminate those who were Japanese or looked like Japanese person. In the article, it said, “Anti-Japanese sentiment was often expressed through sub-human or non-human imagery”.
This means that in order for the Americans to feel more superior they didn’t consider the Japanese human. They did this so that they wouldn’t feel guilty about the actions they would take against them. The Americans also moved those of Japanese heritage out of some states because they weren’t really Americans. In reference to the article, “ … President Franklin Roosevelt approved the removal and incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans…”. Just because they were different, they were treated badly. This is how the article enforced my statement from earlier.
The article, “The End Is in The Beginning: The Riddle and Interpretation of Ellison’s Invisible Man”, also supports my stance on people reacting negatively to differences because it has been taught by society. During the time of segregation, it was taught by the white folk that black people had to act a certain way to be accepted or to blend in with society. According to the article, “He was considered an example of desirable conduct”. This means that the black man did everything in accordance to the white people because it’s been taught to him that if he wants to get anywhere in life, he has to listen to those in power (while people).
He had to act meek and never question anything. “… he was praised by the white men for his desirable conduct”. The white men were encouraging this behavior because they themselves were taught that they were superior to black people. To make sure that they stayed in power, they rewarded those who did things in their favor. This was measure used so that all the black people can act a certain way and if they didn’t they wouldn’t be able to move up or improve themselves. This is how the article play a role in my thesis.
The movie or short film, “Southern Justice: The Murder of Medgar Evers” supports my claim that people react negatively to differences because they wanted to feel superior. I say that because the film was set in the 1900s where segregation was still around (white people separated themselves from black people because they thought themselves higher than them). The people of Mississippi didn’t like the fact that black people were gaining power because they were used to thinking that they were superior. They even formed the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to terrorize Black people and made sure that they wouldn’t rise to power. Those who tried to fight for their rights received many death threats. Some of the black people living in Mississippi were tortured and lynched of they did something that called the attention of the KKK. Therefore, the majority of white people in Mississippi were racists and believed that black people or people of color should stay beneath them. Those were the things they did just so that they can feel superior.
All in all, there are many examples of people treating differences as a bad thing. There are other reasons why people don’t don’t like others that are different from them but I just focused on three. I think that being different is a good thing but there are others who think not and we should be wary.
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