Citizen by Claudia Rankine introduces the fact that there is racism between the black race and white race. When looking at the book that is in front of you, what colors do you see? There are black bold letters spelling out Citizen and there is also a black hood from a sweatshirt. This hood looks ripped and torn which can resembles how the black race feels compared to the white race. When you continue to look at the book, you may notice that its strictly just black and white, along with some grey areas. While flipping through the pages, you might spot some colored pictures, but there isn’t enough to brighten the book up. This continues to show that society doesn’t see in color very often. Rankine does a great job showing how simple-minded people can be by having the two main colors be black and white.
At the beginning of the text, we are introduced to a twelve-year-old girl. We learn that she is of the black race and is attending a Catholic school. On Page 5, it states: “You never really speak except for the time she makes the request and later when she tells you-you smell good and have feature more like a white person.” This girl is very intelligent as we learn and to learn that she is only spoken to when she “looks more white” is very distasteful. Why is this individual invisible only up until someone needs to “use” her intelligence? Why isn’t this student praised for her academic achievements and why does race have to play a factor in this? In the same sentence it is also states “when she tells you you smell good.” Does smell define race? And why is her smell so important to Mary Catherine? Sister Evelyn didn’t catch Mary Catherine who was cheating off of the black student. Is she trying to help the white student get away with cheating? Or is she too nervous to embarrass the black student? The black student never stood up for herself or told Sister Evelyn that Mary Catherine cheated off of her work. Did she just want to feel excepted when she was finally spoken to? This induvial is often ignored because of the fact that she is the only “different” student.
As we continue our journey through part 1 of the text, we learn that racism happens in every day life. On Page 15 it states, “You tell your neighbor that your friend, whom he has met, is babysitting. He says, no its not him. He’s met your friend and this isn’t the nice young man…” Did the neighbor actually go outside of his house to see if it was the friend or did the neighbor make an assumption based on the race of the babysitter? Why was he so quick to judge; if he were in the babysitter’s positions or even the homeowners position, would he like to have had a bad assumption “glued” to him just because of his race?
Overall, after reading each “scenario” in this text, it has really opened my eyes even more with how quickly whites are to judge somebody of a different race. Is it because it has been “engraved” into our heads as a young child or is it because we are to ignorant to finally let the stereotypes go and just accept people for who they really are? With the way society is changing today, I hope that one day black citizens don’t have to feel hurt or have to be cautious when going to a restaurant with a woman that is an alumnus from their college (Rankine 13).
As time goes on, do you see racism and the stereotype of the black race going away or do you believe society is going to continue to look at different races with the black and white outlook?
Why do you think Rankine used a picture of a torn-up hood on the cover instead of a different object?
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2014. Print.