Invisible Man

We are a small community with big opportunities, a place where everyone has a voice and contributes. In honor of Black History Month, freshman Mariama Lemon read an excerpt from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man at a morning meeting last week, and shared her thoughts on the topic of invisibility and social labels. Below are her remarks and an excerpt from her reading.

Two summers ago, I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. An invisible man is someone who is not recognized for their character or their intellect, rather they are judged by what’s on the surface like physical appearances. When I read this book, I did not know how much it would impact my life in the upcoming years. When people say certain things like “you don’t belong,” or “you can’t do that because you are a girl” it only reinforces this invisibility. I only become invisible when people judge me by my gender, the color of my skin or the scarf around my head, instead of the content of my character and the ideas in my head.

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.

Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a bio-chemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves.

Excerpt from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This invisibility that I have is not mine alone, it’s shared. The truth is, though, we are not invisible. People choose not to see us. I may not have all the answers, but all I ask, all I want, is to be seen.

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