Claudia Rankine’s Citizen
Racism is a prominent issue in America. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen discusses racism in America through different accounts, in order to educate those on how it affects the African American community. The book is divided into seven sections that showcase different forms of art: from poetry and prose to colleges and scripts for video installations. Similar to the style she divides the experiences shared from micro-aggressions to larger public national events seen by the world. Although citizen is a book of poetry, it forms is unlike many others, as it is categorized as a lyric. A lyric poem is one that discusses strong emotions in a musical manner. Often in Lyric poems, there will be uses of meter and rhyme to create a song like flow. Despite it being categorized as a lyric Rankine also incorporates other styles of poems such as visual and euphemistic.
Rankine writes that in the eyes of White people, blacks are not an "I" but instead they are considered a "you" as in all you all African Americans. "You" now stands for African American people as a whole, it doesn't really matter who in specific because that's how White people view them, as just their skin tone. “You” refers to the black community as a whole with all of its negative stereotypes. Rankine states "you are you even before you grow into understanding you are not anyone, worthless, not worth you."(Rankine, 139) In this quote, Rankine expresses that before a child even gets to know themselves or their place in this world they are already placed in a spot by society, specifically black children. For example, before a young African American child gets to find out who he is society has already seen his as a threat, a soon to be the drug dealer, and other negative things associated with black men. Furthermore, Rankine discusses how there are different versions of ourselves. She touches upon how one part of ourselves is encumbered by several other identities which have been placed upon us based. That could be based on physical and historical contexts, or in other words from skin color or history of slavery. Not only is the history of your people important to make who you are, but is also how people see you. In this case, Whites often use slavery as a way of viewing African Americans.
Citizen switches between several speakers, although the reader may not be informed of these switches at all. Throughout the book, the stories told seem as though they are collected from a wide range of different people of different ethnicities and genders. At times, the speaker also utilizes the second-person narrative voice, indicating that the reader is actually the speaker. This method helps Rankine establish a unity of people and their collective experiences instead of telling the story of one person, she hopes to show that this is a collective story for many.
Claudia Rankine states on a completely blank white page "because white men can’t pol...