Although The Intuitionist began about an elevator inspector determining the cause of an elevator crash, it quickly grew into a novel exploring racial uplifting and the dynamic of racial stereotypes. Through the end of the book it was clear, Whitehead is getting at something much deeper than a fictional novel about finding the perfect elevator.
In class this past Tuesday, April 14th, we talked about racial stereotypes and how Empiricists do not acknowledge any other race, only acknowledging the stereotypes. I believe this argument was solidified in the final section of the novel. Fulton invented Intuitionism as a joke, a response to the Empiricist way — “They were all slaves to what they could see. But there was a truth behind that they couldn’t see for the life of them” (Page 239). The Empiricists were blind to the truth behind life, only seeing surface and the color of skin. Fulton was not concerned with elevators, he wanted to shine light on the Empiricist way that was more than just the way they inspected elevators.
The Empiricists are not the only ones in the novel guilty of racial stereotyping, Lila Mae is guilty of this also. She admits that she wrongly blamed Pompey simply because of his colored skin and we also pointed out during class that she treated the other servers as workers below her because of their skin color. Even though Lila Mae sees racial stereotyping from a different viewpoint than the white Empiricists she is still guilty.
I am reminded of a question we during the first class of reading The Intuitionist, “Why is Whitehead writing a novel about racial equality so many years after the Civil Rights Movement?”. Although many years have past a call for racial equality is still prominent and a headlining topic. There are recent things in the news that bring attention to this same argument and some hit close to home such as the petition to rename Tillman Hall. Racial stereotypes and the inability to see past skin color are real and prominent today and will continue to be so unless someone fights against them.