For those of you who don't know, it is the anniversary of the publication of "Invisible Man," Ralph Ellison's masterpiece. "Invisible Man" tells the story of an unnamed narrator who struggles against the perspective of stereotypes that society puts on him as a black man. Eventually, after he loses basically everything, he comes to the conclusion that he will always be invisible; no one will be able to see past his race for who he is as an individual.
I had to read this novel for a literature class last semester, but I was still stunned at how relevant this topic is. Just turn on any news station with a story on police brutality and the headline will be sure to say a black man was killed. As if that is the only aspect of the victim's identity that matters! Black, white, and any other shades of skin tone seem to have become our favorite adjectives in defining human beings' worth and justifying how we behave toward them.
We are blind. It's easy and simple. We cannot see each other for who we really are and only notice each other through the opaque veil that W.E.B. DuBois described that separates races, genders, sexualities, and people of different religions.
We like to say that because segregation was abolished, because it is now (theoretically) publicly unacceptable to be a racist, that we have evolved, but we are still blind because the first thing we see is skin color. And until we stop allowing everything that truly matters about a person to fade behind that arbitrary identifier, there will be no change.
But unlike the narrator, who at the beginning and end of the novel decides to accept his invisibility and live in resignation in a "hole" in the ground, all of us at the intersection of race, class, gender, religion, and sexuality have to refuse to accept this resignation and fight the power.
In reality, the hierarchical system that we live in wants us to fight each other for idiotic reasons like differences in gender and race so that we stay ignorant to the true problems, to the true sources of authority. Think about it: if we as "normal" people fight those in our same tier or even lower on the food chain, we don't see who is at the very top, and so we keep them safe in their white houses or mansions while we struggle against people who are actually victims too.
Let's acknowledge the importance of Ellison's prophetic work and make sure to open our eyes once in a while in order to really try and see the boundaries that separate us.