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“The melting pot did indeed melt,” Ellison writes, “creating such . Whether characterizing the fantasy as a wishful scheme to “banish [blacks] from the nation’s bloodstream” or pondering what US culture would look like had there been “no blacks to give it . Ellison believed fiercely in the American project and in the centrality of black people to it.In his national symbology, black Americans were the last best hope for American democracy’s success, their welfare a perennial litmus test of the nation’s conscience and their protests a vital challenge to “the moral slobbism that has always threatened its existence from within.” While it can be exhilarating to watch Ellison turn the light of his prose upon one of the United States’s most malignant delusions, the essay’s suggestion that those Americans systematically victimized for the perceived quantity of melanin in their skin must still, decades later, fight to stem the tide of the nation’s descent into “moral slobbism” and the myriad sufferings that attend it is a fact many wish weren’t true.
Ellison shot to literary fame in 1952 with the publication of his first and only novel, , the seminal post-World War II depiction of African American experience.
In the following decades, Ellison refashioned himself as one of the United States’s most incisive public intellectuals, writing influential essays on jazz, democracy, literature, and African American folklore.
To combat racism, however, we need to do more than show its practices.
Le Blanc’s definition of racism serves as a good starting place to understand why and how it exists.
When Ellison wrote “What America Would Be Like Without Blacks,” the nation was reeling from the reactionary violence that erupted in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement.
At the time, conservatives like Daniel Patrick Moynihan were advocating a policy of “benign neglect” on racial issues, while liberals like Stanley Edgar Hyman were lamenting that “Negro hatred of whites is close to universal.” Behind these positions lay the bizarre and enduring suspicion that the only way to achieve domestic peace might be by putting an ocean between black people and white people.
His essay and others in the anthology emphasize that racism means more than simply negative attitudes towards other groups.
Racism is the power one group possesses to dominate and control other races.
But Ellison might say that to pretend otherwise would be a fantasy.
RACE HAS ALWAYS been the most visible source of division in the United States.