Invisible Man masterfully illustrates the inequality created by ingrained practices of discrimination and racial injustice in American society. Ralph Ellison is able to convey the deep and powerful message that Black people are eliminated socially and economically as unwanted members of society as he takes you through the journey of an invisible black man in America. He shows how integration is an illusion, how African-Americans are incarcerated and isolated from society, and how higher education alone isn’t enough to level the playing field.
The economic barriers that prevent African-Americans from obtaining true equality in American society are made visible in the book Invisible Man as the protagonist goes about looking for a job after getting expelled from his college. Despite his scholastic background and letters of “recommendation” , the unnamed protagonist is forced into a job in which he is overqualified and underpaid for because he is black. Working for a paint refinery he obtains a job with ease working with black engineer both of them earning a lower wage than normal simply for being black.
This disparity in income earning is evident even in the 21st century over a half decade from the books publishing. In 2015, The New York Times reported that college educated Blacks earn less than college educated whites, experiencing lower lifetime earnings (Patricia Cohen, 2015). Absurdly, when it comes to wealth, families headed by Black college graduates, on average, far worse than families headed by white high school dropouts. More recent research has uncovered that even when one’s Black parents have “made it”, Black boys are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in adulthood (Emily Badger et al.
, 2018). And if that’s not bad troubling enough African-Americans experience a much hard time obtaining job than their white counterparts. In today’s society an African-American with the same qualifications as White-Americans is 50% less likely to get a call-back for a job interview simply because they are black. These inequalities and statistics that plague African-Americans stem from centuries of discriminatory practices and the lack of opportunities to create and establish wealth. Unlike people such as Mr. Norton, a rich white man who has generations of established wealth from slavery, African-Americans did not have the same opportunity to establish this early and lasting wealth being victims of slavery. Even when slavery came to an end discriminatory Jim Crow laws prevented blacks from obtaining the same jobs as whites and thus from obtaining the same economic status. It was not until the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and 70s that these discriminatory practices were addressed and grieved. However, decades after the Civil Rights Movement, it is evident that there is still much to be done to combat the effects that these practices have wrought upon African-Americans.
Not only has America created and established economic barriers that prevent African-Americans from achieving economic equality, it has also created and established social barriers and inequalities that are a means of eliminating African-Americans from society. The book addresses the mass incarceration of African-Americans through the Vets at the Golden Day. At greatest risk of imprisonment are high school dropouts. Of these dropouts, African American males in Los Angeles County face a 90% risk of being imprisoned. Even with a high school education this percent only drops to about 20%. The social injustice and inequality caused by the mass incarceration of African-Americans are both sizeable and enduring because they are cumulative, intergenerational, and last but not least invisible.