In the 21st century … We are colorblind

Freddie Gray

In the 21st century, the color of your skin can determine the numbness one feels to racial profiling, micro aggression, and cop sirens. In the 21st century, expecting to be pulled over in a car because of your skin color is a reoccurring lived experience. In the poem “Stop-and-Frisk” attributed to the collection Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), Claudia Rankine uses recurring patterns and rhythm to illuminate the deep roots of systematic racism within the criminal justice system which black Americans have been forcefully grown accustomed to.

“Each time it begins in the same way, it doesn’t begin the same way, each time it begins it’s the same. Flashes, a siren, the stretched-out roar—” (Rankine, 107).

The patterns of wording in Rankine’s poem potentially mirror the repetitive nature of the systems of which she and black identifying Americans are oppressed by. Despite the changing narratives previous to, or following, “same,” the ending remains unchanged. Rankine’s use of repetition challenges her audience to consider the inevitability of this racialized injustice. Rankine’s use of repetition positions her audience to glimpse into the perpetual racialized experience which the protagonist is subject to, despite change in narrative.

“And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description” (Rankine, 108).

In the second quote, Rankine’s repetition of “the guy fitting the description,” places similar emphasis on the inevitability of “the guy” being subjected to racial profiling. Rankine’s deliberate identification of the offender under the vague title of “the guy” further exaggerates the ambiguous nature of racial profiling common within the criminal justice system. The confidence which Rankine positions her audience to anticipate the racial oppression of the maybe, maybe-not offender in her poem provokes her audience to reevaluate the passive acknowledgment of America’s racialized criminal justice system.

Trayvon Martin

Work Cited

Rankine, Claudia. “Stop-and-Frisk.” Citizen: An American Lyric, Graywolf Press, 2014.

B2

Race : The Elephant In The Room

 

Why don’t we talk openly about race? I think this image presents just a few reasons why. But within the history of the united states, race is subject that is barely explored in depth, whether it be in the media or between friends in conversation. It is hard to talk about race, and it is also difficult to understand the real reason why. Claudia Rankine’s collection of poems in her book, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), explains and presents exactly why peopler so afraid of these conversations, and she does this without any of the frilly poetic elements you would expect from an collection of poems. Rankine is to the point, and states bluntly why, without needing to soften the blow – because it is time that we recognize this deafening silence and tune into the static, white noise that has been the soundtrack of the American life for centuries.

Within the opening of Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), Rankine includes a poem that exemplifies the difficulty of having conversations about race. She frames this issue by addressing the reader directly and inserting them into a conversation between a black and a white friend, allowing. The reader to choose who they align with. Through this, Rankine formulates her poem into a personal experience for the readers and furthermore forces them to think about their own interactions, and their own shortcomings or obstacles within racial discourse.

Rankine introduces the concept of one’s “self” and ones “historical self”. “Self” meaning the way in which one views and presents themselves aside from their race, and “historical self” meaning the way in which one is labeled categorized or perceived due to the historical context of the color of their skin within American history. Rankine’s use of diction in relation to the convergence of a black and a white persons’ “historical [selves]” is both broad and specific, but through this duality, Rankine creates a moving statement within the text that pinpoints the difficulty of racial discourse.

“However, sometimes your historical selves, her white self and your black self, or your white self and her black self, arrive with the full force of your American positioning”

The use of broad diction in reference to the phrase “American Positioning” forces readers to pause and think about the impact of the writers choice. What is my position? Where does my historical self put me? The word position has several different meanings. When we think of position we often think of a literal place in which exist, where we literally stand. Or, we think of position in terms of advantage or disadvantage, where we stand compared to others. Rankine’s choice of diction brings to light all of these implications and definitions and forces readers to confront that their “American positioning” will never be defined by their “self” but by their “historical self”, because race in America will always be at the root of all interactions, friendships, schools, institutions, and governments. It forces readers of all ethnic backgrounds to acknowledge that they are physically positioned in a nation that is designed to oppress, and that they are either in a position of advantage or disadvantage.

Rankine’s choice of diction is a small yet central component to the piece as the vague nature of the word forces them to confront themselves, but simultaneously the bluntness of the statement and connotations that are aroused demonstrate exactly why there is a fear associated with racial discourse. People are afraid – especially white people – are afraid of realizing the position that was built for them. And minorities, specifically African Americans in the case of the poem understand this position yet have to live in a nation that will not acknowledge this injustice aloud.

Blog Post 2

Caroline Berezin

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen. Graywolf Press, 2014. (Book)

Is It Still History If It Reoccurs?

The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin and the unjust acquittal of George Zimmerman would forever remain in history as the momentous incident that would spark the emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and its conversation about racism and systemic violence towards black people in America. Claudia Rankine’s poem “February 26, 2012/In Memory of Trayvon Martin” in her collection, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), portrays the emotion of a black individual detailing the position black Americans stand in, both historically and in modern day society.

In her poem, “February 26, 2012/In Memory of Trayvon Martin”, Rankine structures her sentence about the history of the black American as a continuous list, using multiple commas, to depict both the consistent history of violence towards black people and its ongoing presence in modern society. This is evident in the sentence,

“Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and when we open our mouth to speak, […]” (Rankine 90).

In incorporating a long and continuous sentence with multiple commas, it portrays to the reader just how long and the multiple discriminatory acts black people have had to deal with. The beginning part of the sentence, “[…] the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities […]”, reads like an ongoing list of the historical racism black people faced beginning with slavery and the racist aftermath. Additionally, this excerpt draws our attention to how this racism towards black people is not just one point in time, but it repeats over history. The list begins with “passage” and “plantation”, which signifies the start of unacceptable treatment towards black people, and continues with “Jim Crow segregation”, “poverty”, and “inner cities” to further exemplify that even after slavery, there was still poor treatment towards black people and it continues as evident through socio-economic status and affected neighborhood.

In reference of the Trayvon Martin poem, this excerpt that reads like a passage is significant because it is exemplifying that there is a long history of prejudice and racism towards black people, and yet society is still trying to portray them as the enemy. This poem allows reader to feel the continuity of unfortunate treatment black people have had to deal with and continue to deal with every day. Trayvon’s death is the crux of this poem because he was just a young black boy living his life, when George Zimmerman decided to implement his own prejudiced views and take his life away.

B2.

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen : An American Lyric. Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press, [2014], 2014. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?                        direct=true&db=cat00326a&AN=dico.1363424&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Blog Post #2: Close Reading

Blog Post #2 Due: Fri 2/8, 5pm  //  Comment #1 Due: Mon 2/11, 9am

Cover of Rankine's poetry collection, CitizenThis post is designed to get you flexing your close reading muscles ! Here, you’ll provide a detailed close reading of one specific literary device in one of the assigned poems from Claudia Rankine’s collection, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). Use the steps detailed below to develop a fluid and cohesive argument about the significance of this literary device within the selected poem.

Introduce the selected poem. Remember to include key publication details: poem title in quotation marks, author’s first and last name, the full collection title in italics, and the year of publication (see how I’ve done some of this above).

Introduce (name/describe) the literary device you plan to analyze. Focus on only 1 specific literary devices.You might choose from any of the following:

  • Similes, metaphors, and/or symbols.
  • Alliteration, consonance, internal rhymes, recurring patterns, and/or other poetic devices.
  • The structure of sentences, words, and/or images (remember to clearly identify these).

Frame a cohesive quote illustrating the selected literary device. Remember to provide enough context to situate your reader within the relevant section of the text.

Describe what specific effects this device produces. What associations, implications, connotations, or connections emerge from this device and surrounding elements within the text? You will need to re-quote / reference specific elements of the text in this portion of your close reading.

Explain how the device produce these effects. What lead you to notice these associations, implications, connotations, or connections? What body of images, images, and meanings are you drawing on in order to suggest these effects? Again, re-quote / reference portions of the text as needed to illustrate your claims.

Explain why these effects are significant to your understanding of the poem. In other words, what do these effects convey about the poem’s content or form? What do they reveal? What do they draw our attention to?

Blog Post #1: Reading Race

Blog Post #1 Due: Fri 2/1, 5pm  //  Comment #1 Due: Mon 2/3, 9am

Cover of Ali Rattansi's book, Multiculturalism: A Very Short IntroductionIn this first blog post, I’d like you to summarize and analyze 2 specific ideas about race/multiculturalism that emerge from 2 different secondary sources that were assigned between 1/24-1/31. You can choose any combination of the following: Ali Rattansi’s Multiculturalism: A Very Short Introduction, Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race, Michael Omi & Howard Winant’s Racial Formation, and the Seeing White episodes.

Introduce each source with key publication information – the full name of author/hosts, chapter/book/episode titles, and year of publication. Summarize one key idea from each source, using a combination of direct quotations and paraphrasing. Then, reflect on and analyze these two ideas by (a) describing what you find useful, compelling, or revealing about each idea and (b) explaining how you see these two ideas connecting, contrasting, paralleling, or diverging from one another. In other words, trace linkages of different kinds between the two ideas to illuminate how/why you they are so compelling.

Remember to follow the structure and format requirements as detailed in the Blog Post Assignment Sheet. I’d also encourage you to check out this example of a thoughtful and effective blog post by a student in one of my previous courses.

“What I Try to Do is Write”: Blog Aspirations & Advice

 

Maya Angelou quote on writing

Maya Angelou on the writing process

I have a confession to make. I don’t really think of myself as a creative or vibrant writer. In fact, I consider my writing pretty ordinary. By contrast, I’m in awe of the lyrical and seemingly effortless writing of my friends and colleagues. At times, this assessment of my own writing can stop me in my tracks – it makes writing seem almost impossible and it saps all the joy from the act and art of writing. Does this sound at all familiar to you? I’m guessing it does because I think we’ve all been there – either at some point in time or on a fairly regular basis. But, as Maya Angelou explains, we need to try to write…even if it’s “the most boring and awful stuff.” And so here, on our course blog for ENGL 221, you’ll all engage regularly in this practice of writing. This will be an ongoing and collaborative effort to move past the “boring and awful stuff” in order to find your muse, develop your voice, and expand your ideas.

Throughout the semester, you are responsible for uploading 6 posts (300-400 words each). Each post will offer a polished, focused response to a specific prompt, based on one of the assigned primary or secondary texts (prompts will be posted here as well). These short writing assignments will help you develop ideas and arguments for in-class discussions and upcoming course assignments, while also honing your critical thinking and writing skills. For each week that a blog post is due, you will also upload one comment (150-250 words) in response to a peer’s post. Unless otherwise specified, blog posts are due on Fridays by 5pm, and comments are due by Mondays at 5pm.

Jimmy Fallon

Refer to the blog post and blog comment assignment sheets (uploaded to Moodle) for details on the assignment requirements and how they will be graded. At its core, your blog post should develop an interesting and original response to the assigned prompt. Close reading of the assigned text should be detailed, specific, nuanced, and creative. Let your voice flow freely, but be sure to cite and analyze specific quotes from the assigned text. Focus on developing clear and fluid sentences, effective and creative transitions, and use at least one image or gif to amplify your ideas.

Writers at the 2018 AWP conference

Writers at the 2018 AWP conference

For tips on crafting an effective blog post, see this list of “10 Crucial Points.” And for some great examples of student blog posts for Dickinson English courses, check out Prof. Kersh’s 2017 course, “Writing in and for Digital Environments.” You might also enjoy checking out her students’ projects and their posts on what makes a great blog.

Remember that this is a space in which we’ll be collectively developing clear, vibrant, and analytical writing. In order to do so, we need to keep in mind that writing is a labor, a practice, and an art! It is also the medium through which we will think carefully and critically about multiculturalism.