I thought of my grandfather and quickly dismissed him. What had an old slave to do with humanity? Perhaps it was something that Woodridge had said in the literature class back at college. I could see him vividly, half-drunk on words and full of contempt and exaltation, pacing before the blackboard chalked with quotations from Joyce, and Yeats and Sean O’Casey… I could hear him: “Stephen’s problem, like ours, was not actually one of creating the uncreated conscience of his race but of creating the uncreated features of his face. Our task is that of making ourselves individuals. The conscience of a race is the gift of its individuals who see, evaluate, record… We create the race by creating ourselves and then to our great astonishment we will have created something far more important: We will have created a culture. Why waste time creating a conscience for something that doesn’t exist? For, you see, blood and skin do not think!
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man