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In the final chapters of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the reader may encounter many different obstacles, all of which lead back to the on-going issue of race and white supremacy in the 1930s. Specifically, in chapter 20, an issue is presented that, fifty years later, is still is a major concern. This controversy arose after the questionable death of the former Brotherhood member, Tod Clifton. Clifton was shot and killed by white officers after supposed “illegal activity.” The difference between this unjustified murder and those of today is the reactions and involvement of the public.
Similar to the death of Tod Clifton is the death of Michael Brown— an unarmed black man shot to death for no apparent reason. Many believe that his murder was a result of negative views on his skin color, “Mr Wilson is white. Mr Brown was black. The demonstrators see the case in terms of racism and police brutality”(BBC News). These two deaths resemble each other due to the series of events they triggered. In Brown’s case, his death brought up a movement involving people outside the region and generated a nationwide debate about the relationship between law enforcement and African Americans. Controversy on the issue is immense, many different people support opposing sides, however, not everyone is coming forward with their opinions, “There are witnesses who support what Officer Wilson says happened, but they haven’t spoken to the media”(BBC News). Although these two cases are similar, the reactions of the public are different in each. In the time of Clifton’s death, the public remained rather uninvolved, evidently leading the narrator into serious skepticism of the Brotherhood’s true intentions by saying, “Men out of time, who would soon be gone and forgotten”(ch.20,pg.420), and inferring how the brotherhood doesn’t care bout their members. This skepticism eventually leads the narrator to see the negative effects of the Brotherhood and their ineffective movements.
After Clifton’s death, many gathered for his funeral. The narrator took Clifton’s funeral as an opportunity to regain power; he rallied the crowds in attempt to win back a solid foundation. The irony of this scene involves the Brotherhood’s scolding of the narrator for supporting a dead mans actions of which got him killed in the first place. Eventually Clifton’s death fuels a massive race riot. This riot can be significantly compared to that of Brown’s case; however, the difference between the riot of fifty years ago and the riot of today is the supporters. Back in Clifton’s time, the main supporters shared the same race as Clifton even though the white supremacy had rule over a large majority of the time; “I hear he got white fever and left” (ch.20,pg.415). As opposed to the 1930s, in today’s race riots there are a diverse pool of supporters, ultimately making the protest more effective. These alleged supporters are taking control, “Demonstrators are calling for more action to be taken following the release of a federal report that alleged overwhelming racial bias in the town’s policing” (BBC News), results of these demands lead to solutions such as trials to justify the victims and consequences of guilty law enforcement officers who had roles in the incidents.
In the light of recent events, anyone can see that police brutality is still a major issue. Like Tod Clifton, Michael Brown lost his life to an unjustified cause. Although many things pertaining to this issue have stayed the same, many have changed. As time goes on, these changes will hopefully improve the relationship between African Americans and law enforcement so Clifton and Brown’s deaths can be justified. Overall, racism is still present in today’s society and as the issue becomes more relevant, racism will decrease. Additionally, though racism still exists in 2016, it is far more justified than the 1930s.
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