Invisible Man Essay, Research Paper
Paper #1: Invisible Man This paper will discuss the concepts of master status determining characteristics, stratification, and hierarchy in regard to Invisible Man, an autobiographical text written by Lawrence Otis Graham. He wrote about his experiences as a successful black lawyer posing as a busboy in an attempt to understand the all white country club society and why he is excluded from it. This paper will be organized in the following manner. First, I will give a summary of the article and the important interactions that occur in this situation. Second, I will analyze what characteristics determine the master status in this situation. Third, I will show how stratification contributes to enforcing the master status and the characteristics that determine it. Lastly, I will examine the hierarchy in this situation, especially the hierarchy of the employees of the country club. Analyzing this story in the context of these concepts helps the reader fully grasp the many interactions among the characters involved in this situation. At the time the article was written, Lawrence Otis Graham was a thirty-year-old black lawyer. He graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He worked for a corporate law firm in Manhattan, New York and had written eleven nonfiction books. Graham was raided in a well-off family. Much of his financial comfort came from the Memphis trucking firm owned by his grandparents. He grew up the only black kid on his high school tennis team, in his orchestra, and attending his Roman Catholic confirmation class. His wife was a successful black Harvard educated lawyer. Despite his many successes in life, Graham had often wondered why he could not join one of the several country clubs that were in the nearby town of Greenwich, Connecticut. To gain a first hand sense of the exclusive the country club scene, Graham created a new resume for himself and applied to work at eight such country clubs. He erased all his college degrees and portrayed himself to be a high school graduate who dropped out of college after two years. He also changed his age to 23 to be consistent with his college dropout story. Graham decided to target the eight country clubs in Greenwich as the subjects of his experiment. Over the phone the country clubs had told him that they were seeking waiters and that he would be perfect, but after meeting him for interviews, the clubs decided what they really needed were busboys. Graham finally settled on the Greenwich Country Club which boasts such members as a former president, hall of fame baseball players, big shot lawyers and many other executives and businessmen. The first day of work Graham’s supervisor, Mr. Ryan asked Graham to park in back, enter and exit through the back entrance. Graham is directed to work in the Men’s Grill, where women are not allowed except on Friday evenings. Women and children dine in the nearby Mixed Grill. Graham asks if men can eat there too and Ryan laughs and says, ” Of course they can, time and place restrictions apply only to women and kids.” Upon introduction to the serving staff Graham realizes that all the waiters are white and the rest of the staff is black or Hispanic. During their lunch break Carlos, one of the Hispanic busboys, takes Graham to the ” Monkey House.” This is the facility that the employees live and dine in. It is so named because the serving staff used to me completely black so club members named it so. During his first day Graham encounters several racist comments made in his presence, as if he were not there. When filling some iced teas, Larry overhears some older white men saying. ” These Negroes wouldn’t even be thinking about golf, they can’t afford to join a club anyway.” And later a middle aged white woman says. ” My goodness. Did you hear that? That busboy (Graham) has diction like an educated white person.” During the rest of his of his two weeks working at Greenwich Country Club, Graham encounters many discriminatory and racist practices. The most common of which is referring to ” the Negroes,” and ” the Mexicans.” The people in the country club commonly over-generalize about certain ethnic groups and make stereotypical comments. An example of this is conversation between a mother and her newly wed daughter, They are discussing housekeepers and the mother recommends to hire black housekeepers because “they can at least speak English, while you can’t trust either one of them.” Graham also discovered pollicies that were discriminatory against minorities. One such policy was the employee golf privileges. When Graham first heard about this he was quite surprised, but if turns out that that golf privileges were only extended to staff at the waiter level or above. This happed to be all the white employees and no minorities. Graham consistently observed discrimination and racism during his employment at Greenwich Country Club.Graham’s experience in Greenwich Country Club provides a perfect example of master status determining characteristics. Master status determining characteristics is defined by in Anderson’s Streetwise, “Some statues, in our society as in other, override all other statuses and have a certain priority. Race is one of these.” (P. 165) This basically means that some people attain certain privilege that comes with race. In the case of Anderson’s Streetwise, the privilege gained through race was respect via fear. However in Graham’s experience the black race did not posses the master status determining characteristics, it was the whites which did so.At the Greenwich Country Club where Graham conducted his experiment being white was the definite characteristic which determined master status. The first example of this is the fact that there are not any non-white members of this club. This excludes many people, including Graham, who are not white, but have the means to join such a club. Graham possess all the qualifications including Ivy League education, working for a big corporate law firm, big house, large income, and successful career, that would make him a prime candidate of the country club. The only factor that bars Graham from joining such clubs is his race.
Race as the master status-determining characteristic is further emphasized in the speech of the club members. The men who talked about how blacks couldn’t even afford to join such a club are a good example. Ironically, he just assumed that his race was superior and that no blacks could afford to join such a club, even though Graham was standing right there pouring iced tea. The middle-age women who commented on Graham’s English is another example of white being the master status determining characteristic at the Greenwich Country Club. By saying that Graham, “has diction like an educated white person,” the woman is assuming that only white people are educated and speak English well. Ironically Graham probably has a higher level of education than this women does.Being white is not the only master status-determining characteristic at the Greenwich Country Club. Being male also determines status over being female. This is shown in the example of the Men’s Grill, where only men are allowed. Females are to eat with the children in the Mixed Grill, thereby enforcing the stereotype that it is a woman’s place to take care of the children. Graham’s supervisor Mr. Ryan confirms this in his statement, ” time and place restrictions apply only to women and kids.” By placing restrictions on women and children, this shows that being male is a determinant in status.Greenwich Country Club displays caste, patriarchal, and class stratification. Dr. Lofland’s handout, “Hierarchy as Social Location,” defines social stratification as “a system of ranking individuals in a hierarchical fashion which is a function of and has consequences for their access to, and possession of, the things valued within their society/social order.” In the situation of the Greenwich Country Club, the things valued within the society are membership to the club and the freedom to move about in the club. Patriarchal stratification is defined in the handout as, ” System of gender and kin ranking marked by supremacy of the father in the clan or family in both domestic and religious functions, the legal dependence of the wife or wives and children and the reckoning of descent in inheritance in the male line.” In the Greenwich Country Club being male allows one certain privileges that cannot be otherwise attained. Being female forces one to face restrictions such as only being allowed to dine in the Mixed Grill. This is a situation where patriarchal stratification is present.Caste stratification is defined in the handout as, ” particularly rigid systems of “ethnic” or “racial” ranking in which people are divided into hierarchically arranged groups, membership in which is determined by birth and is immutable.” Allowing only white members at the Greenwich Country Club is an example of caste stratification. Being white is something that one has to be born into; it cannot be changed so there is no way to join the club if you are not white. This does not allow anyone from another race to join despite his or her qualifications. Class stratification is defined in the handout as, ” systems of family-group ranking involving the perpetuation of stark inequalities in income and wealth from one generation to another. Class systems are characterized by 1) a number of strata which, in terms of power and privileges of stratum members, constitute a hierarchy; 2) the theoretical possibility if, as well as some actual interstratum vertical mobility (upward and downward); 3) informal barriers which restrict the amount and form of social interaction between strata. An example of class stratification is the comment by the white male that ” these Negroes wouldn’t even be thinking about golf. They can’t afford to join a club anyway.” This man reasons that blacks can not join a country club because they cannot afford membership, in some aspects this is true but there are also many wealthy blacks like Graham. Class stratification keeps some blacks out of country clubs because of economic reasons. The concept of hierarchy can be observed in Graham’s experiences at Greenwich Country Club. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines hierarchy as, “a group of things or individuals organized by rank or value.” The hierarchy that exists among the club member is evident. White males take priority over females and other races. This is exemplified in the fact that there are not any non-white members. It is interesting to see that even among the workers a hierarchy exists. This hierarchy is based upon race, which determines position of employment. The upper management of the country club is all white. The waiters are the next highest ranked, and they are all white too. Finally the busboys and grounds staff are the lowest ranked in regards to occupation and they happed to be all minorities such as black and Hispanic. This is also evident in the fact that all the white waiters get priority in the “monkey house,” the place where employees live and dine. So even among the workers a hierarchy can be observed.Lawrence Graham’s experience working at the Greenwich Country Club is a good example of social interaction. Master status determining characteristics, stratification and hierarchy are all used to organize the social structure of those who are involved with the country club. Using these concepts to analyze the situation allows for a greater understanding of the complex interactions and the forces that motivate them in this illustration. The article Invisible Man was written in 1994, showing that this kind of discrimination still occurs in America, however by using sociological concepts to analyze the underlying motivations allows an understanding that can lead to change.