Everyday Racism: A Study in Claudia Rankine's Citizen

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In the novel, Citizen, author Claudia Rankine shows her concerns with the subtle “everyday racism” African Americans experience on a daily basis and the profound effects this has on their self-image, and uses the secondary pronoun “you” to allow the reader to feel as if they were dealing with these microaggressions. Rankine intervenes in current debates about racism due to her approach on everyday racism. In a time where macroaggressions such as police brutalities have reached the news and is taking up a lot of the racial discussion in the United States, Rankine tries to show the reader the root of the problem/where these macroaggressions stemmed from. decides to take out a magnifier to look at where the disease starts.
The novel tracks both …show more content…

Racism in itself is not difficult to recognize in its extreme forms. However, everyday racism is much more subtle and requires attention. It requires the recipient to be aware of the situation as to what is being said and how it is being said. One of these seemingly subtle incidents of everyday racism, Rankine uses the pronoun “you” by stating, “[b]ecause of your elite status from a year’s worth of travel, you have already settled into your window seat on United Airlines, when the girl and her mother arrive at your row. The girl, looking over at you, tells her mother, these are our seats, but this is not what I expected. The mother’s response is barely audible—I see, she says. I’ll sit in the middle,” (p.12). Here, Rankine uses the pronoun “you,” in hopes to put her reader in the shoes of the victim of this microaggression. If the reader is white, and is able to replace the victim with themselves, they would be able to see the incident as entirely unjust because they have never experienced being stereotyped. She doesn’t mention race but the minute a white reader recognizes that the victim is a black person (Rankine …show more content…

Rankine inserts an image of Hennessy Youngman, who is a youtube personality discussing how to be a successful black man. Youngman sarcastically gives a tutorial where he argues that you have to succumb to the black stereotype in order to succeed stating, “be angry, have this angry n*gga exterior,” and be, “approachable,” and, “white people want to consume the exotic other [...] they don’t really want to understand you, because if they understood you, you’d be just like them, and white people don’t want the n*gga artist to be just like them [...] keep them entertained [...] keep them white f*ckers away from the man behind the curtain [...] that you have a savings account or have a savings account or that you recycle [...],” (Hennesy Youngman, Art Thoughtz). You have to be what the white man wants you to be. As a white person reading this novel and watching Youngman’s video, you can see The issue with this is that as an African American, it’s almost as if you have to fit the racial imaginary in order to be successful, but it’s also the racial imaginary that is what gets so many African American’s in trouble. Successful black artists such as Hennessy Youngman, and any famous black rapper, are only able to fit into the racial imaginary because

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how claudia rankine uses the secondary pronoun "you" to allow the reader to feel as if they were dealing with these microaggressions.
  • Analyzes how rankine uses the pronoun "you" to include the reader as a responsible party in the events as they unfold.
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