Yesterday, we spent some time discussing visibility vs invisibility in terms of race, and we also did a free write on this topic. Since then, I’ve thought about what I wrote and what we discussed in class, as well as thinking back to discussions about Ellison’s Invisible Man from an English class last year. I want to talk further about this issue of visibility.
Looking back to the passages we went over during class on pages 153-156 and other passages in the novel, I interpret the issue of “misrecognition” in the following ways: the surface level facts about a person are clearly visible, the deeper truths about a person are invisible, and those in “control” also control what is visible.
By the surface level facts, I mean the things the white people notice about Lila Mae when she is in the servant uniform. They notice that her skin is black and that she is wearing a certain outfit, but don’t even bother to identify their colleague beyond this. In this sense, she loses her identity much like the narrator of _Invisible Man. _This is where the invisibility fits in – it’s about Lila Mae’s identity in that moment and in her life. For example, when she is confined to live in a closet during college because of her skin, how visible is she compared to her classmates? When those around her refuse to look beneath the surface, then her true identity is lost and she essentially becomes invisible. This leads to my claim about those in control – in this case, the white people – controlling what exactly is visible. The comedy show demonstrates this, when the white members of the audience (and even Pompey) understand that part of the joke is the white people pretending to be black people. In this sense, the truth about the men performing the jokes is “invisible”, or in the very least ignored.
This discussion of visibility through a racial lens reminds me of the above quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I think his quote strongly represents how the skin color of Lila Mae, or anyone, is just a shadow of their true character on the inside.