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

Stop-and-Frisk, This is what it looks like

 

“To understand the universe you need to…” was the practice sentence that my Portuguese professor presented to us in class and my first response was the language itself. I believe understanding language is critical to how we communicate with one another. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric demonstrates how the absence of quotation marks impacts the understanding of her writing.

Rankine’s prose creates a unique way of reading and understanding her work, especially in the poem “Stop-and-Frisk” in which she sets the stage for a play on words, truth, and dichotomy:

“This is what it looks like. You know this is wrong. This is not what it looks like. You need to be quiet. This is wrong. You need to close your mouth now. This is what it looks like. Why are you talking if you haven’t done anything wrong?” (Rankine 108).

The apparent dialogue is stripped of quotation marks. This style of narration zooms out of the direct confrontation between two people and allows readers to examine what the narrator is voicing. The presence of the word “You” highlights the familiarity of stop-and-frisk, and the contrasts from sentence to sentence suggest the internalization of these occurrences.

The presence of the sentences starting with “You need to…” can be the words of the cop, but it can also be the thoughts of the victim who’s vocalization has become criminalized. Pairing these commands with the words “this is wrong” illustrates the process behind the narrator deciding on what move to make next. Throughout this small part of the poem, repetition, and the ambiguity of dialogue alludes to the systematic oppression that creates these encounters. This internal dialogue can show just how normalized it is to fear encounters with police in the black community.

Just as black bodies are criminalized, black voices are repeatedly dismissed in their efforts to narrate their own experiences, on the streets and in classrooms alike. In her depiction of Stop-and-Frisk, Rankine’s structure of language forces readers to listen more closely to the narrator’s voice by contrasting each sentence with the one preceding and/or following it. We as readers are able to find deeper understanding of the complexity of communication in Stop-and-Frisk, all without the use of quotation marks. 

Image result for stop and frisk

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. “This is what it looks like.” Citizen: An American Lyric. Graywolf      

         Press, 2014.

B2

Seething Salad: How Alliteration Helps Establish Tone in “A Woman You Do Not Know”

Claudia Rankine’s poem “A Woman You Do Not Know,” as part of her 2014 poetry collection Citizen, covers an uncomfortable lunch meeting between two women, one of color and one not, who had once attended the same college.  The white woman mentions her son did not get accepted into their school on account of affirmative action or “minority something,” but is instead attending another prestigious school (13).  The second to last line of the poem ends with the second-person perspective line: “This exchange, in effect, ends your lunch” (13).  It is in this short sentence where the literary device of the alliteration has a powerful effect on the overall tone of the piece.   

The sentence is separated by commas into three short segments, each including a short “e” sound in the words “exchange,” “effect,” and “ends.”  These repeated sounds in conjunction with the short breaks in between them create a need to slow down while reading the sentence.  In effect, the repeating commas and e’s make the verbal diction of this line uncomfortable and abrupt to speak out loud.  The way the alliteration helps split the sentence into fragments and makes the spoken delivery short directly associates to the literal meaning of the line: that the subject gives up hope of having a positive lunch with the woman before the food even arrives.  The woman’s passive aggression against affirmative action and the notion that the poem’s second-person subject got to attend the college and her son never will helps bring out a tone of passivity, as if you have to suck your teeth or bite your tongue just to make it through the lunch you already gave up on.  The three “e” words themselves, exchange, effect, and ends, are also key moments in how the poem evolves.  The two individuals exchange just a few words before there is an effect of underlying racism in the air that in turn puts an end to any real amicability between the two.

B2

Works Cited

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

The Battle for Citizenship in America

The famous African-American baseball player, Jackie Robinson once said, “The right for every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time.” That was in the 20th century, and today in our 21st century, the issue is still crucial. The poet, Claudia Rankine writes on the significance of citizenship and the the struggles faced  by blacks in obtaining first-class citizenship in America in her collection, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014).

Let’s specifically focus on the no-title poem on page 14 about the argument the beginning character called “a friend” makes about the two identities, “historical self” and “self self” in lines 2-3. The ‘self self” identity is further broken down as black self and white self which transitions from a friendship with no conflict to one of conflict throughout the poem because their history creates different identities and placement in their shared America.

Rankine symbolism when she writes the words “Americans battle.” Symbolism is the use of an object or word(s) to suggest a larger meaning or idea. To better display the symbol Rankine uses, let’s look at the opening line from the poem which says, “A friend argues that Americans battle between the “historical self” and the “self self.” The words ‘Americans battle’ acts as symbols because they produce the effects of historical connotations to slavery and the civil war as an american battle for freedom and equality between blacks and whites. Those two words also imply that it was not peaceful but rather bloody and gruesome because of the word battle. In terms of surrounding text in relation to the symbol, the ‘historical self’ is at battle with the ‘self self’ in the poem.This brings up the association of the civil rights movement and the black lives moment because they are essentially battles between black and whites for freedom and equal citizenship in America.

The symbol of ‘Americans battle’ produces these associations and connotations because the racial history of America is highly memorable and characterizing in terms of the country. Some of the biggest American battles are ones based of race and for citizenship. The word battle placed in front of the word Americans brings up images of bloody conquest, stripping away native land, and forced labor like on cotton plantations. These effects are significant because the American history is one grounded and founded in racial inequality and discrimination. So, when the words ‘Americans battle’ are in the same line as ‘historical self’ and ‘self self’ (black self and white self) the message created of race relations and unfairness helps to convey Rankine’s message. The symbol of “American battles” helps to convey the fight between black and whites for black equality.

Jackie Robinson and Claudia Rankine both note the need to address the issue of black not feeling like first-class citizens in America because they are not despite it being a vital part of feeling like they belong here. Rankine goes a step further by using the symbol of ‘Americans battle’ to showcase the two types of Americans, black and whites, and how the battle for blacks to feel like first-class citizens is one based of historical discrimination and prejudice. ‘Americans battles’ stand for the inequality in citizenship that blacks face and how that creates a conflict between blacks and whites, even those who are friends.

 

Work 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.

“Jackie Robinson Quotes.” BrainyQuote.com. Brainy Media Inc, 2019. 8 February 2019. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/jackie_robinson_140158

B2

A Place You Don’t Know

Can you survive a conversation about race and politics with a person of an opposing race? Many would answer this question with a yes why not? But in reality, many would explode in emotions and scream. Many of this conversations are indeed difficult due to not being able to articulate one’s ideas thoroughly and effectively, and yes containing one’s anger and frustration regarding this failure is even harder. This topic is also introduced in the second poem of Claudia Rankine’s collection of poems, Citizen: An American Lyric(2014). Rankine adequately develops the idea of racial conversations and the negative outcome of them in modern day societal terms.

Rankine develops the idea of racial uncomfortable conversations by the use of authorial intrusion, a figurative language tool that is unusually spoken of but well reaches the readers connection to the text. This literary device is the usage of the second person point of view instead of the more common first and third person by the author. Rankine uses this tool specially in the opening of her second poem as well as throughout the rest of the poem, she sets the stage with this tool and forms the platform to the rest of her poem in which the ideas flow cohesively and understandably in the readers point of view. This can be shown in the quote,

 “A woman you do not know wants to join you for lunch. You are visiting her campus. In the café you both order Caesar salad. This overlap is not the beginning of anything because she immediately points out that she, her father, her grandfather, and you, all attended the same college…” (Rankine 13)

 The usage of authorial intrusion proves to be effective in captivating the essence of the scene and portraying it in a way that readers can clearly and easily create an image in their minds. When an author uses second person, it becomes easier for the reader to imagine themselves in the scene, when readers can imagine themselves in the scene, they can create a better connection with the author. This better connection then leads to better understanding of the meaning behind the poem. In regard to Rankine poem the readers are able to set the uncomfortable setting in their minds for the conversation that occurs within the first line “A women you do not know wants to join you for lunch”. The idea of the not knowing who one is having lunch with creates an unsettling feeling that is deeply generated throughout the poem. In addition, given that a close relationship is depend by the second person perspective between the author and the reader the author doesn’t waste much time explaining in between the line ideas. Rankine lists actions that in the second person context pertain to the reader, the reader understands what the author means because the reader feels like a part of the story. For instance, when the author says “You are not sure if you are meant to apologize” the reader knows a sense of anger is supposed to be felt.

Overall this literary device truly expands the significance of taking part in uncomfortable conversations regarding race because it shows that discriminationagainst an applicant’s race and his ability to get into a school or not based on his persona and academics is not ok. This poem is honest and informative about how to react to a racist comment in a conversation, because yes walking away is always better then yelling at “a woman you do not know”.

B2

Works Cited:

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

Stopped Again…and Again

You are walking when suddenly you find yourself being pinned to the wall and tapped down. You are scared, but as the side of your face is smushed against the wall reality starts to sink in. You remember you’re just another brown person trying to go about your day with the word “dangerous” branded on your back. The constant stopping and frisking of black and brown people by the police is expressed in Claudia Rankine’s poem Stop and Frisk form her 2014 collection of poems, Citizen: An American Lyric. 

The lines “and you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always fitting the description”(Rankine 105) is repeated 3 times throughout the poem. We first see the lines appear after the first block of text and again at the very end of the poem. This receptiveness parallels the common excuse cops give to black and brown people when they are pulled over or forced to be searched. It’s always the same answer “you match the description of someone we’re looking for”, but what description would that be? A black boy with a hoodie and dark jeans? It’s not like there isn’t dozens of boys that meet that same description, no. In an article published by New York Civil Liberties Unions, the amount of stop and frisks reached an all time high in 2011. Out of the 685,724 stops 88% were innocent. Out of the innocent people who were unjustifiably searched 53% were black and 34% were latino. Rankine allows us to stay on this idea of stereotypical stop and frisks by making these lines to stand alone in its own block of text. Rankine’s use of the word “you” also forces a connection with the reader; it makes them think about themselves and what they would do in this situation. 

For people of color who have or have not been stopped “randomly” by the police, these are incredibly powerful words. My friend and I read this poem aloud and always found ourselves stumbling to say these lines, not only because of the repetitiveness in the sentence, but because of the weight in the meaning. In three short lines Rankine encapsulates the underlying racisms faced by black and brown people imposed by the police officers who are trained to target them. 

Work Cited

“Stop-and-Frisk Data.” New York Civil Liberties Union, 10 Dec. 2018, www.nyclu.org/en/stop-and-frisk-data.

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

How Would You Feel?

Often readers find themselves disconnected from certain works of literature they read in their lifetime, because of this it is important for writers to use many different literary devices to maintain readers intersts by making them feel connected to the piece. Throughout the poem “Because of Your Elite Status” by Claudia Rankine a Jamaican poet, essayist, and playwright who graduated from Colombia University, often utilizes the literary device of second person. In the piece the reader is referred to by using the word you, in two situations where race seems to be a problem. At first you the reader are seated on a plane, assumably a white child boards the plane with her mother and is stunned to see you a person of color seated in the row of three. In the other scenario you are an alumna at lunch with another fellow alumna who tells you about the multiple generations of her family who had gone to the school you both attended.

 

When you are seated on the plane and the white woman approaches with her daughter the poem states “The girl, looking over at you, tells her mother, these are our seats, but this is not what i expected”(Rankine 12). After the child states how surprised she was to see you presumably a person of color in her seat her mother then sits in the middle seat in order to place a barrier between you and her child. Rankine really allows the reader to shift from their daily lives into the shoes of the character who is seated on the plain by directly placing them into the characters life. By doing this the reader is forced to put themselves in the same situation and think about what their reaction would be.

Another instance where Rankine puts the reader in the driver’s seat of scenarios is when the character we are supposedly reading about, an alumna is joined by another alumna who is presumably white. She begins to tell you about how her son was not allowed to attend the school because of programs that were put into action in order to help people of color advance in society; by giving them certain advantages based off of their skin color. The poem causes the reader to think personally on the situation by stating “You are not sure if you are meant to apologize for this failure of your alma master’s legacy program; instead you ask where he ended up” (Rankine 13). By the reader being referred to as you in this text the reader is being directly questioned in this situation. Throughout the poem the readers outside presence switches to a more intimate version, where the reader can truly place themselves in the situation at hand; they begin to question how they would react and feel. By using the word you the reader is given an active role of power throughout the poem which makes the entire reading more personable.

 

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. “Because of Your Elite Status”. Citizen An American Lyric, Graywolf Press, 2014,pp. 12-13.

B2

 

The Power of Declaration

Speech is not easy in the face of tragedy. Words can’t capture the depths of grief, but they can circle slowly at its edges and, in their circling, evoke the empty center. In “February 26, 2012/In Memory of Trayvon Martin,” published in Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), Claudia Rankine uses short, declarative sentences to evoke and validate Black Americans’ grief in the face of racist violence.

In her poem, Rankine uses declarative sentences to develop an informative or factual tone. The poem begins with a paragraph composed almost entirely of declarative sentences, and this form of syntax repeats throughout the poem. In the first paragraph she writes, “My brothers are notorious. They have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. The prison is not a place you enter. It is no place. My brothers are notorious” (Rankine 89). Here, Rankine asserts that the criminal justice system and white America at large criminalize Black men and limit their opportunities. She explains that her “brothers” have not physically been to jail, but are still “imprisoned” by their notoriety and their inability to perform simple (non)activities like “waiting” unmolested. Rankine’s syntax breaks the various parts of these assertions into deceptively straightforward statements. Declarative introduce a subject, describe its action, and end with a period, creating the appearance of simplicity and factuality by drawing an apparently uncomplicated connection between a subject and an action. Rankine expresses sentiments of great political and figurative complexity as matters of what simply “is” or “is not.” This gives her statements the feel of common (and unremarkable) knowledge.

Image result for black lives matter protest

Rendering her ideas as common sense both evokes the numbing effects of continual tragedy and challenges the racist strategy of denying the validity of Black people’s experiences and knowledge. The accumulation of declarative sentences on the topics of imprisonment, racism, and the inability to exist creates a contrast between tone and subject. The factual tone combined with the sorrowful subject matter mirrors the detached manner of a person who is experiencing shock, or who has become numb to grief through the proliferation of tragedy. When dehumanization is part of the fabric of a person’s everyday life, pain must, at times, go underground for the sake of survival. Rankine’s detached tone adds to the power of her poem by underscoring the constant nature of racist violence. Furthermore, her tone is an implicit valorization of the knowledge Black people gather through their daily experiences— knowledge that white people devalue in order to maintain our power. By stating these appearances in a factual tone, Rankine asserts their truth.

 

Works Cited

Rankine, Claudia. “February 26, 2012 / In Memory of Trayvon Martin.” Citizen: An American Lyric, Graywolf Press, 2014.

B 2

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)

The Clash of Blackness and Authority (B2)

The American society is decorated with a history of racism and as of today, racism is still prevalent everywhere you look because America has imbedded race in everything, to the point when it dictates how you are treated. In the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine, particularly the story Stop and Frisk the literary device allegory is used to explain a symbol that conveys a deeper meaning, that symbol in this case is the process of a Black individual being wrongfully accused for something they didn’t do and the deeper meaning is the racism Blacks go through when they are unfairly accused of a crime.  

Image result for police brutality against blacks

Within the first passage of the story is this quote, “Everywhere were flashes, a siren sounding and a stretched-out roar. Get on the ground. Get on the ground now. Then I just knew.” This shows what exactly happens when a Black person is pulled over by the police. The Police become overly aggressive as a reaction from fear of blackness and the Black individual does everything, they can to seem less dangerous by cooperating and being selective, cautious with their tone and diction, one wrong move and it’ll all escalate. All you can do is cooperate because of the fear of dying. In the sixth passage there seems to be a conversation with the police officer and the Black man, or the Black man is having a conversation with himself within his subconscious as a way of trying to understand the situation he’s in. The dialogue has no parentheses, but it includes the words, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Why am I pulled over? Put your hands up.” However, thinking of that dialogue now it could just be him reassuring himself of what to do, even though he knows he did nothing wrong he also knows that the police officer doesn’t care if he is guilty or not so it’s best for him to just cooperate and appear less as a threat.  

Image result for police brutality against blacks

Nevertheless, Black men have been accused of crimes and misdemeanors that they didn’t commit but because they’re Black they were still blamed. Claudia Rankine states, “And still 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.” This is saying that yes, a Black man can be innocent but because he fits into a stereotype that all Blacks are dangerous and cause chaos in society, he often isn’t believed, he’s mistaken for something he isn’t, which connects back to the way your treated in society depending on if you’re White or Black and on how close you’re to whiteness which is acceptable in contrast to blackness. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is, and it won’t change until the actual aggressor changes their tactics and stop reacting with racial fear. 

                                                        Works Cited 

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