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)

Daily Individual Vs. Structural Racism

Imagine you are in a coffee shop enjoying your morning energy booster, when an unfamiliar person approaches you and asks, “Do you consider yourself a racist?”. Yes, you would be in shock and in state of confusion, but most importantly how would you answer this question? How do you know if you are or aren’t racist? Are you even aware of what being a racist means? Or what is race? These are questions that are well explained in Ijeoma Oluo’s 2018 collection of essays, So You Want to Talk About Raceand in John Biewen and guest Chenjerai Kumanyika’s 2017 podcasts Scene on Radio: Seeing White. These pieces of work dive in to the ideas of racism within complex racial interactions and racism in regard to the individual and the structural system.

Ijeoma Oluo starts us off with the idea of social interactions and the many ways in which people carry out ineffective conversations. In day to day life, people of different backgrounds are not often involved in social conversations regarding race or racial dilemmas such as racial oppression of minority races, but when they do occur they most often wind up badly. Many people who aren’t of color in large part try to avoid these types of conversation because they don’t feel comfortable and most often dismiss the topic by saying “It is not my place.. I don’t really feel comfortable” (Oluo 4). By doing this we are avoiding the uncomfortable conversations and not advancing, we need to step out of our comfort zone in order to learn how to talk to one another without offended and miscommunicating our opinions. Many might disregard people of color complaints on racist experiences by not believing that they are truly racist, but if a non-person of color claims that something is not racist, is it truly their call to say what is racist or not? Oluo simply explains how to know if complex situations are racist or not by providing a simple checklist. The author does an outstanding job of simplifying how as a society we can have more effective conversations and understand race in regards, to racism through day to day interactions.

John Biewen’s Turning the Lensepisode Seeing Whiteperfectly captures the idea that racism does not only occur in daily interactions. It is heavily influenced by outside dominant pressures similarly these pressures could be a form of racial dictatorship. Guest speaker Chenjeri Kumanyika speaks on racism in regard to the overall population perfects, he says that “racism is like a disease and the overwhelming puzzle to solve is who has it”(Kumanyika). Though this form is tinking is incorrect because racism needs to be approached through structural creation sense, in which the question of why many people share this common idea, and who is the influencer. In the second episode How Was Race Madethe idea that “race isn’t real biologically but is real in the way society has been structured and the effects of race as a social contract”(Biewen) is introduced. Society is organized and structured in a way that makes race one of the leading components of action.

Race was made a part of the hegemony of this country, whether we like it or not and it’s one of the reasons why individual racism is prominent today. Racism is silenced in not only daily conversation, but in politics and individuals such as; Ijeoma Oluo, John Biewen and Chenjeri Kumanyika. They are bringing awareness through their work until racism is declared in the world. I chose these two pieces of work to demonstrate the two ideas of racism in an individual level and racism in a structural level. These two ideas at times can contradict themselves. When further analyzed from an outside perspective it can be observed that Structural and racial formation are the causes of individual daily interactive racism.

 

B1

Works Cited:

Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018.

Biewen, John, host. “Turning the Lens.” Seeing White, Scene on Radio, 15 Feb 2017. http://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-31-turning-the-lens-seeing-white-part-1/

Biewen, John, Host. “How Race Was Made” Seeing White, Scene on Radio, 1 Mar 2017. http://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-32-how-race-was-made-seeing-white-part-2/