Ras the Nationalizer: Ellison’s Consideration of Black Nationalism as an Iconoclastic and Conformist Social Movement College
America’s inability to conceptualize the possibility of sincere African American nationalism and loyalty towards the United States after WWI prompted a disillusioned community, who yearned for validation, to look towards radical politics as its antithesis, and thus a vehicle for their social aspirations. Ellison’s Ras attempts to find this antithesis in propagating Black Nationalism, even when it required his face to “gleam with red angry tears” (Ellison 370). These red angry tears, character Ras’ as man whose emotions blind him and betray him. Although the red, alluding to blood, suggest his tears are caused by his awareness and comprehension of African American societal tensions and thus the capacity to offer a resolution for them, this awareness is muddled by the fact that his tears are also angry. This anger blinds his sacrifices, as he begins to antagonize all those who fail to idealize Black Nationalism. These very prominent tears also make his face gleam and reflect light, which symbolize lack of complexity and nothingness, suggesting that he too is a product of the white world and that his ideology carries elements that inflict blindness onto others. Ellison explores the duality of the Black Nationalist movement as both...
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