A Personal Opinion on the Effects of Latent Racism in Citizen: An American Lyric

In Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine exposes the racial prejudices that perverse daily American life. Each prose poem sheds light on the average day of a non-white American citizen by describing various interactions that have occurred to non-white individualst Each narrative depicts different forms of racial micro—aggressions which are small offensive expressions of racist viewst These micro-aggressions are a subcategory to the division of racism which Ta-Nehisi Coates coins as “elegant racismi” “The elegant racist knows how to injure non- white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt”.

This mode of racism is less overt and easily deniable. People can try to deny it, but sadly elegant racism lurks in our country which is outwardly considered a post»racial society “Far too many of us who are white erroneously believe that we do not have to take the issues of racism seriously, While people of color understand the necessity of being able to read the white system, those of us who are white are able to live out our lives knowing very little of the experiences of people of color “(Kendall 4).

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Rankine attempts to personalize the issue of racism to all Americans alike. Using the format of a collection of prose poems in her novel, Rankine supplies the reader with the experience of life as a non-white Americant Each story by different narrators seems fragmented and unconnected to the other, They do not necessarily join together into one narrative; however, when pieced together they weave a picture of daily occurrences.

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The reader experiences being in a classroom, a car, Starbucks, the subway, a checkout line, a café.,,, “Another friend tells you you have to learn not to absorb the world”. This sentence is ironic being that Rankine’s method of writing causes the reader to absorb various events in the life of a non-white in order to see the racist world they are required to live in.

The reader is transported into the lives of each of the narrators by living out their routines. This grants the reader with the ability to accurately sense what it is like to experience racism on a regular basis. Claudia Rankine uses a second method of personalizing the issue of elegant racism by using the second point of view. The reader is addressed by the narrator as “you.” “You”, the reader, are experiencing the effects of micro-aggression. “You” are not alone, we all share the same offensive experiences If the reader is white, he/she is still “you.” How would you feel if this were happening to you religiously? “Hold up, did you just hear, did you just say, did you just see, did you just do that?” (Rankine 55). All these experiences, thoughts and feelings are those of the reader. By recounting the events in the second person View, Rankine psychologically allows the reader feel like the victim of the micro-aggression, relating all of the readers to elegant racism. A third technique used by Rankine, is the present tense throughout the novel. Writing in the present tense inserts the reader into the narrative. The reader is experiencing the stories as if they are occurring as they are being read. “When you are alone and too tired even to turn on any of your devices, you let yourself linger in a past stacked among your pillows” (Rankine S). The reader visualizes himself as the one who is reminiscing about a racist encounter, In each of the prose poem, the identity of the “you” is left vague. No race, age or gender is carried throughout all the narratives. This allows any reader to potentially be the “you” in any of the stories. Every person who picks up this novel can relate to one or more of these stories. “What did he just say? Did she really just say that? Did I hear what I think I heard?“ (Rankine 9) This quote is taken from a prose poem in which the “you” is not characterized in any way.

Is the subject receiving a racist remark orjust bearing witness to one? This is not specified in the text, so the person can be of any race. This assists the white readers to see and understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of the racial micro-aggressions Hopefully, this will stimulate the desire to do and be better, to not be the antagonist in the story, to not do unto others what they themselves have just experienced Claudia Rankine interrupts the flow of the prose poems to in to discuss the racial discrimination Serena Williams contested with during her matches. Rankine brings Serena Williams as an example because she exemplifies an American athlete Any American can relate to her, as she is someone who has accomplished her dreams, However, as Rankine describes Williams is “thrown against a sharp white background” (29) She competes as a non-white in a white system and is a victim to prejudice because of it, “Neither her father nor her mother nor her sisterr.“ could shield her ultimately from people who felt her black body didn‘t belong on their court, in their world” (Rankine 26), Rankine brings the example of Marianna Alves, a tennis chair umpire, who makes five bad calls against Williams and is excused from officiating Everyone else watching the match saw that all the calls were incorrect. Any person can relate to someone standing in the way of his/her goal. “Though no one was saying anything explicitly about Serena’s black body, you are not the only viewer who thought it was getting in the way of Alve’s sight line.” Here, someone is blocking another person from executing a goal merely because of the color of her skin Rankine describes an event where Serena Williams does not respond to an act of discrimination, and viewers comment on her silencei “She has grown up, another decides, as if responding to the injustice of racism is childish and her previous demonstrations of emotion was free-floating and detached from any external actions by others”.

This commentator is basically insinuating that the problem of racism should not be dealt with, leaving it undiscussed and lurking in our society, By quoting this, Rankine is expressing the need for everyone to be involved in vanquishing the dragon that is racism, Non-whites can and should address racist acts. However, they should not do it be doing this on their own. Rankine is saying that the micro-aggression is not “detached from any external actions by others” (35). Whites are completely responsible for the offensive comments or acts they choose to commit, knowingly or nott Racism is a matter to be dealt with by non-whites and whites alike. Claudia Rankine brings in many prose poems where there is another character who sits idly by while the subject is discriminated against. The reader, who becomes the subject, begins to wonder why the friend or passerby is not standing up for him In the narrative that takes place while the subject is standing on line, the man at the register only addresses the non-white shopper asking if her card will work. The friend, who was not asked and witnesses the events, chooses not to comment and help out in any way. “She says nothing. You want her to say something- both as witness and as a friend. She is not you; her silence says so” (Rankine 54) Rankine is criticizing the friend for not being able to relate to her friend‘s ploy, She sees herself as different as the victim of racism, so it is not her problem to get involved with. By making the reader the victim, the reader cannot help but get frustrated at this friend, This relates the reader to the concern of racism. “Another element of this privilege is the ability to see white people as normal and all the others as different-from-normal” (Kendall 7). Racial prejudice exists when whites consider themselves the ideal, the normal. Rankine quotes Zora Neale Hurston’s line “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” (25). If we discern the “background” of our society as white, then obviously everyone else will stand out and be discriminated against. Although we would like to live in ignorance and believe racial harmony exists in our society, veiled racism lies underneath. Rankine raises awareness that racism is an issue that affects us all. The problem of racism is a communal responsibility, being that we all lend to the problem we are all responsible to try to mend it.

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A Personal Opinion on the Effects of Latent Racism in Citizen: An American Lyric. (2022, Jul 19). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-personal-opinion-on-the-effects-of-latent-racism-in-citizen-an-american-lyric-essay

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