Racism: Black, White and Today

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).

Questions:

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.

15 thoughts on “Racism: Black, White and Today”

  1. Hey Emily! Great job with this blog post! I thought the way you started it talking about the cover of the book and the use of the colors black and white was really cool. I never thought about how simple minded that could be and how using only the colors black and white could symbolize a big idea. As time goes on I do think that racism is getting better, but I do not believe that it will ever fully disappear. I think some people are very close minded and raised to think unequally and therefore belief whatever their parents tell them. I think the image of the torn up hood was used un order for your mind to wander and think about all the different negative ideas that image could bring up.

  2. Hey Emily,
    This is very interesting blog and excellent work developing the topic of racism and showing the correlation to the book. When I first looked at the cover of the book, it reminded me of Trayvon Martin and I thought the book was going to be about his situation. Your analysis on the cover of the book was fascinating, especially how it described how simple minded people are when black and white comes into play. While reading the book, one of the quotes that grab my attention is on page 5 when she 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 statement shows the racism portrayed in the book but, also shows the form of acceptance to be considered on the white side. Nonetheless, this book so far is a mere example of racism and well many simple minded individuals that think racism is getting better is wrong. It’s become a silent killer that has been covered by silent individuals, this book I hope can introduce it and make many uncomfortable.

  3. Hi Emily, great post. After reading the first few pages, I realized how racism is very prevalent today. I was shocked by some of these scenarios because of how subtle the racism is. I would never make comments like some of the people did. What really got me was the lunch meeting that turned sour real quick. On page 13, the scenario is explained, “She wanted her son to go there as well, but because of affirmative action or minority something-she is not sure what they are calling it these days and weren’t they supposed to get rid of it?-her son wasn’t accepted.” She basically blamed the reason her son didn’t get in was because people of color were given the opportunity to an education. Not only that, but she’s saying that because they’re of color, it’s the only reason they were accepted. I was truly in awe when reading that because for years minorities have fought for the right to an education and even when by law everyone is free and equal, white’s will always feel superior.

  4. Hey, Emily. Your analysis of the cover of the book, to start, is very intriguing and detailed. The point you made about the contrast of the white cover and black, torn hood along with the black, bold letters of the title was very intricate. The way you further connected it to racism in society was absolutely fascinating- especially in your sentence where you compared the rips in the hood to how the black race feels in society compared to the white race. I, too, found it extremely distasteful reading the first few pages where the black student, who, despite being intellectually superior to Mary Catherine, is only noticed when needed, or when she “smells good”, or when she “looks more white”. I was wondering the same- why can’t she be noticed for who she is? To be honest, I hadn’t truly looked at the pictures with close attention until you brought them up with your contrast argument, and I agree completely with you. Your blog was very well done and brings up very valid, strong arguments.

  5. Hey Emily, very well thought blog post! In my opinion, I don’t see the society completely shifting away from the black on white outlook when it comes to different races. This is extremely unfortunate and unfair, as everyone should be treated equally no matter what color their skin is. As I was reading Citizen, I began to notice that star tennis player Serena Williams is a great example of this. There are instances in the early 2000’s when she faces discrimination by the officials in charge of her tennis matches. The chair umpire made five bad calls against Serena, which is no accident. Then later in her career, with a different official, Serena is discriminated against when the umpire says one of her screams interfered with her opponent’s concentration. Serena exclaimed “Aren’t you the one that screwed me over last time here? Yeah, you are. Don’t look at me. Really, don’t even look at me”(32). Despite it not being the same official from years earlier, Serena is clearly frustrated with the constant discrimination she faces when she is playing tennis. And this is why I can see that the black on white outlook has not disappeared, and in my opinion isn’t going to disappear any time soon.

  6. Hi, I really liked your blog post and I think you brought up a lot of good points. I don’t think that racism is going away or that it will go away anytime soon unfortunately, but I do think it is changing. The quote on page 10 says, “he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.” There was no name calling or blatant racism in this interaction, but it is still there. I think racism now is very quiet and discreet, its not as much name calling and segregation as it used to be. I think because of that, the fact that its more discreet, people don’t notice it as much and don’t think it’s there. But that’s only because they aren’t paying close enough attention.

    1. Great points about how racism is sometimes subtle and discreet, Mackenzie. It seems important to consider the microaggressions presented in Rankine’s text alongside more blatant conditions of injustice and inequality evident, for instance, in the racial wealth gap in the U.S.

  7. Hey Emily! Great work with your blog post I really enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately, I feel like racism is going to continue due to the ignorant people we have in this world. Those kind of people will have kids and teach their children their views and I feel like the cycle will continue. A part in the book that I found alarming was on page 18, when the therapist specialist opened the door to see an African American standing there and freaked out. She yelled, “Get away from my house! What are you doing in my yard.” I feel like this was so disrespectful and goes to show even at a persons place of work they will cast judgment on to someone just because the color of their skin is different.

  8. Hey Emily, great post! I appreciated the way you connected your analysis of the cover and the consistent use of black and white back to the theme of racism. I believe it is very evident that racism still exists in today’s world, but like Mackenzie said it more often times now comes in an indirect and faint manner. On page 18, Rankine describes a situation where a patient arrives for the first time at the home office of their therapist for an appointment. The woman’s immediate reaction to seeing her patient next to her house was howling “Get away from my house! What are you doing in my yard?” It is indisputable that if the person had been white, the doctor most likely would have assumed that they were a patient and not have verbally attacked them. I feel like this type of situation specifically is a reoccurring issue where white people’s initial thoughts or reactions is to assume those of color are doing something illicit. The doctor never calls any names or specifically says she is panicked because the person is of color, but it is obvious what is happening. I agree that unfortunately racism exists and is not leaving our world anytime soon.

  9. Emily,

    You bring up some good points in your blog post, great job. Racism is a difficult topic today and always has been. Not only is racism prevalent in society today, it is overabundant. African Americans are not treated with the basic respect that everyone should be given. Asking if society will change is a big question, I sure hope it does. Yet, that involves changing a lot of minds who are still stuck in their historical ways. Unfortunately racism cannot be fixed with a snap of the finger, and without people acknowledging the problem, progress will be slow.
    The cover I feel speaks many things. Rankine talks throughout the lyric of African American people being thrown against a white background. “As offensive as her outburst is, it is difficult not to applaud her for reacting immediately to being thrown against a sharp white background” (Rankine 29). The cover is another reiteration of something black, being thrown against the sharp white background. It raises the thought of power. The power held by the color black and the power held by the color white. But does one always have to be more powerful? Why can’t they be equal. Once again Rankine says, “… and through it all and evident to all were those people who are enraged they are there at all- graphite against a sharp white background” (Rankine 26). Rankine sends a powerful message with this quote. People think that “they,” referring to African Americans, are not rightfully welcomed to anything having to do with white people. She talks about graphite on a “sharp white background” knowing that graphite dirties white paper, and the white paper can never be returned to its original state once it’s been written on. Rankine sends many powerful messages through her white background scenarios.

    Malley

    Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2014. Print.

  10. Hey Emily, I think all the points you made in your blog post summed up the first two sections that we had to read. Especially the point about the cover. I think the cover and the pages throughout this novel really set a tone for the book. Citizen is a book mainly of black and white which conveys the separation between the two races and the hoodie underlines a problem that we have had in the past. I did some research on the black hoodie, some say that the image of the hoodie is supposed to represent the inner city youth fashions, some say that the hoodie represents a man that had gotten killed in 2012 and the hood had represented his death and inequality of the black race. I personally think that the hoodie represents the KKK. Inequality is still a big part of our society in different ways than the past. More often than not people won’t come out and say it vocally but it shows in different aspects in life, whether it’s trying to get a job or trying to buy a home or equal pay. Racism is very much prevalent in our society. “He says no, it’s not him. He’s met your friend and this isn’t that nice young man. Anyway, he wants to know that he called the police” (15). Man apologizes but insists he goes in the back yard to make a phone call. You see this too often. Singling out people of minorities because they look “suspicious”. This goes hand in hand with the question you posed on If racial issues are going away or are they still intact with today’s society and unfortunately it’s still around. In some aspects more than centuries ago.

  11. Hey, Emily!! Great, very insightful post! Each of your points were clearly well thought out and well articulated. As much as I would like to be optimistic about the future of people’s outlooks on race, and I do believe that in some senses our generations and younger generations are helping and working towards changing the narrative about race, it is not going to change over night. I do not think that racism will ever completely go away, as unfortunate as it is, that seems to be unrealistic. I think a great example of this is on page 17, in the quote “The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers”. This quote plays on to what I stated above, that as time goes by, I do believe that people will start sticking up and supporting one another, regardless of race. Even if racism does not go away completely, it is important to take steps in the right direction to get as close to that goal as possible.

  12. Hi Emily, great post! I don’t think we’ll see racism in general go away, at least not in our lifetimes, but I do think racial stereotypes are fading out in favor of more implicit forms of bias. You mentioned in your post that racism might be engraved into our heads, and I think that’s really at the heart of the first part of Citizen. The people the narrator talks to (or about?) are not usually intentionally malicious; most of the interactions happen while they assume the narrator’s subject, a Black woman, would not see anything wrong with what they say. “Why do you feel comfortable saying this to me?” (17), she thinks, because equating whiteness to goodness, like Mary Catherine did, isn’t a conscious decision for most people. Similarly, the thought of the dean making the man “hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there,” (17) stems from the same issue. The man cannot see why him implying that there are no writers of color who are also great writers is an issue. He does not think he is being racist, because the person he is talking to is a woman of color, and he feels okay making these remarks around her.

  13. Hey Emily, I thought this was a great post and a well organized evaluation as to where we are in the book now. I found it extremely interesting that racism never truly dies. Racism has always been around and as the years go by, it becomes more hidden rather than pushed out of society. I think a perfect example of this is when the the white child had not been admitted into the school and the children of color had been and the parents went on to say that the only reason that happened was because of their race. This racism is subtle and hidden because clearly, this family did not agree with the equality of schooling and through this situation, their racist judgement had come out. All people should be working hand in hand to improve society but with thoughts of race in mind, this cannot be possible. All people are equal and deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone. Racism is definitely still present in our world but as you expressed, it is hidden and sometimes hard to spot unless you are truly looking for it and these negative thoughts can bring a whole society down.

  14. Hey Emily! I thought this was a really strongly written blog post. I think it was well organized, and a perfectly outline of the book up to this point. I think that analyzing the cover of the novel was interesting, and a really good way to start the novel. I personally think that the utilization of a hood from a sweatshirt illustrates the purpose of the novel perfectly. I think that the hood is supposed be an allusion to the hoods of the KKK. A black hood, such as this one, can be the attire worn by anyone. But in the case of this novel, once you think about it, the hood could be worn by someone who is racist. This book is about racism, and example of racism in the real world. I think the hood is supposed to represent what the modern day hood of a racist would look like today. It is interesting to make a comparison between racist attire today, compared to racist attire in the past, such as that of the KKK. I think that was Rankine’s intention in utilizing the illustration of the black hood as the cover image. I think that the text on page 15 about the babysitter, and the man who calls the police reflects this perfectly. “He’s met your friend and this isn’t that nice young man. Anyway, he wants you to know, he’s called the police” (Rankine, 15). The neighbor is clearly racist, and the babysitter could easily have looked, or been dressed in anyway. But because he was black, the neighbor called the police. I think that the cover of the novel is important, and interesting to analyze prior to reading the novel.

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