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