In this century there is a false sense of racial integration as a significant proportion of the population has been led into believing that America managed to wipe out racism in the late 1900s. The false relief could be attributed to the elimination of laws that were meant to separate the white and minority population in the mid-20th century. Although such steps were milestones in the quest to unite Americans, their effects are limited to institutions that have to abide by the national laws. However, the reformations have not changed peoples perception regarding racial prejudices as some blacks are still consciously or unconsciously mistreated because of their color. Even though the victims get hurt, they often choose to ignore the pain as it is often interpreted as immaturity or ignorance hence offering no practical solution. Therefore, the victims often decide to be resilient of any humiliation they face from friends, colleagues as well as strangers.
Claudia Rankine in her book, highlights that, racial prejudice still exists in the United States by pointing at some of the most important sectors which include pop-culture, sports, and economy (Helmintoller). Rankine analyses racism in the present day America from multiple angles through the combination of both the first and second persons perspectives. The use of the most recent incidents for example Serena Williams case makes the author's argument concerning the existence of racism in America authentic. This paper will analyses racism in America as presented by Claudia Rankine in the Citizen.
Cultural concerns of race and racism in the Citizen
Culture can be defined as a set of rules that establish some form of connection within a society. Such laws tend to govern the morality of each by separating what is acceptable from that which is unacceptable in a particular community. Other than establishing relations between different people, culture acts as a constant reminder of the societys past. In the Citizen, the author quotes several instances in which a black person undergoes humiliation and unfairness because of his/her color. For example, Hennessy Youngman who gives a tutorial on how people can become successful in Arts separates whites and blacks by quoting that it is much easier for the former to become successful compared to the later. He goes ahead to explain his concept by using the issue of slavery,In case a black person paints a flower, the white viewers would look at the work as a black property rather than a work of art (Rankine). In other words, it is much difficult for a black artist to attract audiences who can applause his/her work; this is not the case with white artists.
It should be noted that slavery was eradicated in 1865, yet its effects are still being felt to this date. For instance, in the 1st part of the book the speaker points out the many instances that a 12-year-old girl was humiliated by her peers. Even though the young lady was unhappy with the comments she gets from her classmates and friends she fails to rebuke them in any way but instead struggles to forget and move on. The whites behavior towards blacks depicts the notion that the later population is inferior to the former. For instance,you have a white persons features and why must I hire a non-white yet there are many qualified people (Rankine). The two statements demonstrate the societys mentality that has segmented the two population the majority and the minority according to aspects such as physical appearances and intelligence. The whites who are the majority believe they are superior to the blacks and colored population.
Claudia insists that most of the racial prejudice felt by the blacks are unconscious; this can only be explained by the ingrained perceptions that have not been affected by racial reformations. Blacks rarely express themselves because they lack the sense of belonging while the whites believe that certain comments such as you look like a white person are compliments. Although most blacks often decide to ignore various hurtful instances, they rarely forget them. Therefore, the American culture is in a tensed state because in reality blacks and whites still exists in separate worlds.
Textual features that have been used to express themes and perspectives in the Citizen
The author created a platform in which any reader is intimately connected to the text because the events that have been quoted are real. At the beginning of the book you is the center character whose experiences are being narrated. It should be noted that you could be anyone reading the text and thus can be considered universal. In other words, any audience can personally feel the injustices of racial prejudices. Rankine's also established a connection between the American past and the present by using Hennessy Youngman concept regarding becoming a successful artist. Such a relationship is important given that culture is often passed from one generation to the other and thus can explain societal perceptions regarding color that has created unnecessary fear. The use of the second persona allows the writer to address the entire black population of a single person. you are in a speeding car when he tells you that he is being forced to hire a colored person even though there are many qualified writers (Rankine). Rankine uses the statement to express the ugly nature of racism which sweeps across institutions thus failing to recognize personal attributes.
Intersection of the citizen and the contemporary issues
In the recent years, police brutality against the black population has steadily increased, for example, Eric Garner and Michael Brown are some of the blacks who were killed by police. Although racism is not a new issue in America, a good proportion of the population often view it as other peoples problem. Such people often create some form of protective mechanisms that allow them to live in an illusionary world whereby racial prejudice is a past-tense (Helmintoller). Segregation of the issue to a small group of the nation makes the matter appear irrelevant thus hampering resolutions. Therefore, poets need to employ strategies that can make racism evident to everyone including those who have not experienced it or are unfamiliar with its destructive effects (Bass). Serenas case is not different from the unjust deaths of blacks face by the police which can be explained by the preformed perceptions and fears among the two races. The police force believes that blacks are naturally aggressive; therefore, whenever a white police confront a black person there is tension as the former feels endangered by the later and vice versa.
Generally speaking, the racial reformations that were adopted in the 20th century have been nothing but cover ups of the problem. Therefore, the matter is being given minimal attention because most people no longer recognize its existence. The blacks who have attempted to express their emotions have been termed immature or uncivilized which has discouraged the rest from speaking out. In spite of the silence, victims of racial injustices are still hurting and desperate to be heard; this is a brewing danger to the entire American society.
Bass, Holly. "Claudia RankineS Citizen". Nytimes.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 18 July 2016.
Helmintoller, Alexander. "Racism Transformed Into A Given: 'Citizen: An American Lyric' By Claudia Rankine - ZYZZYVA". Zyzzyva.org. N.p., 2014. Web. 18 July 2016.
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyrics. Graywolf Press, 2014. Document.
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