Microaggresions in The Citizen

Towards the end of section VII of The Citizen, Claudia Rankine describes a situational first-person event in which a micro aggression takes place. “Yesterday, I begin, I was waiting in the car for time to pass. A woman pulled in and started to park her car facing mine. Our eyes met and what passed passed as quickly as the look away. She backed up and parked on the other side of the lot. I could have followed her to worry my question but I had to go, I was expected on court, I grabbed my racket” (Rankine, 157).  When first reading this quote, it was quite puzzling to me and it captured my immediate attention. After closely analyzing it, it was fairly obvious that what Rankine did here was make a connection to the troubles suffered by Serena Williams throughout her tennis career. This statement can be interpreted to mean that throughout Serena’s career, she was constantly dealing with adversity from her critics. Even besides the fact Serena is the one of the most decorated and natural talents the tennis world has ever seen, it’s as if her success on the court is insignificant because of the racial backlash she receives. After doing some research online, I found that racism in sports goes beyond just Serena herself. According to studies from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, “Acts of racism in sports in the U.S. increased from 31 in 2016 to 41 in 2017. Internationally, there were 79 racist acts in sports”.

Rankine then wraps this story up with the following; “Did you win? he asks. It wasn’t a match, I say. It was a lesson” (Rankine 157). What I found interesting here is that Rankine is again making a comparison into how Serena’s career has been illustrated. These quotes are again describing how Serena’s on field and off field behavior is more significant than the match itself, and I feel that Rankine was demonstrating how Serena must cope with the micro aggressions she encounters. By stating “It was a lesson”, it shows that being quiet and just going out there and playing is unfortunately the only effective way she can go about her business.

Another interesting note I took from this section was that it again mentioned another event in which moving on and being silent was the overall message. In the middle of section VII, Rankine states the following, “Trayvon Martin’s name sounds from the car radio a dozen times each half hour. You pull your love back into the seat because though no one seems to be chasing you, the justice system has other plans. Yes, and this is how you are a citizen: Come on. Let it go. Move on” (Rankine 151). This was interesting to me and I made a connection into how parking scene concluded. This represents another way in which in today’s society, if you are on the receiving end of a microaggresion, letting it go and moving on may be the only effective way to manage your feelings of being racially targeted. You see all around the world today extreme levels of backlash towards people who express their racial encounters have it be on social media, TV, first hand experience, etc. Even professional athletes such as Serena Williams, or in this case an innocent citizen, portray how racism is something that will always be present in their lives, and that accepting it may be a coping strategy.

Discussion questions

1) With Rankines use of Serena Williams as a target of micro aggressions, it represents how sport can illustrate the racial tensions that exist in our world today. As someone who enjoys playing and watching sports, I too have seen many different examples of racist encounters happening.

Q: Have you ever witnessed first-hand a racial event taking place have it be by playing sports, or watching it on TV?

2) A theme I noticed during this section was of accepting defeat and moving on in terms of dealing with micro aggressions. As noted with the Trayvon Martin example and the parking situation in which Rankine states “I had to go, so I grabbed my racket.” This showed to me that
Rankine was making a claim of acceptance of the hardships of our society and how racism is not going away anytime soon.

Q: Do you agree or disagree with the way Rankine demonstrated these examples by the way she expressed walking away and ignoring it?

One thought on “Microaggresions in The Citizen”

  1. Hi Matthew! I like how analyzed the text and noticed how though Rankine gave another account of microaggressions in society, it closely resembles an experience of Serena Williams. It is so sad that some see that this is her experience but don’t understand the damage. This is is a woman who has wanted to be successful since she was about 14 years of age and she is held back and judged over and over again. The racist white society is willing to do anything to keep her down but she is still the best in the world, and that makes them mad.

    In terms of your second discussion question, I do agree with the way the author uses specific examples to highlight ignoring and walking away from these racial pressures. Rankine says, “Trayvon Martin’s name sounds from the car radio a dozen times each half hour. You pull your love back into the seat because though no one seems to be chasing you, the justice system has other plans. Yes, and this is how you are a citizen: Come on. Let it go. Move on” (151). As a person of color, you learn from a very young age that you being a target comes quicker if you give yourself attention for an attack. Something like wearing a hoodie killed young Trayvon Martin. Having a dead light killed Sandra Bland in police custody. You are told and trained over and over again to do as your told, take your pain and keep it pushing. It’s the best way to keep you safe and history continues to solidify that idea.

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