Citizen: An American Lyric

Chapter 3

This chapter, similar to Chapter 1, is composed of events in the form of micro-aggressions. These events take place in seemingly normal places. The only difference is that Rankine does not express her physiological responses and instead questions their responses in some cases debating the remarks internally, while she has revelations of communication, through real world experiences. Also, a pattern reveals that most characters in the book that are not "black" are never ethnic specific. Though, through language and key words it is known that they are not "black".

Rankine begins the chapter with an instance where she was called a "nappy headed ho" by her friend when she was late after traveling a distance to a distinct neighborhood known as Santa Monica.

Then, proceeding that paragraph, a picture of the Rutgers women's basketball team of 2007 appears. It displays the image of five black females sitting down in their track suits from April 10. This image, she tells us later in the next paragraph, refers to the women that were called "nappy headed hos" on live television by the host of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, Don Imus. Indeed, a blog from Media Matters for America says that Don Imus referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team, which is eight black and two white players, as "nappy-headed hos" immediately after the show's executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, called the team "hard-core hos." Later, former Imus sports announcer Sid Rosenberg, who was filling in for sportscaster Chris Carlin, said: "The more I look at Rutgers, they look exactly like the [National Basketball Association's] Toronto Raptors." This form of micro-aggression reference is common throughout Citizen.

Rankine refers to her own personal micro-aggressions and others of importance in real world situations that might have seemed flagrant. Rankine does not wish to cope with her statement. "Maybe the content of her statement is irrelevant and she only means to signal the stereotype of 'black people time' by employing what she perceives to be 'black people language.' Maybe she is jealous of whoever kept you and wants to suggest you are nothing or everything to her. Maybe she wants to have a belated conversation about Don Imus and the women's basketball team he insulted with this language. You don’t know. You don’t know what she means. You don’t know what response she expects from you nor do you care" (Rankine, 39-40). She notes the moment of awkwardness of it after she has pointed it out. Then continues to describe more moments of micro-aggressions. "At the end of a brief phone conversation, you tell the manager you are speaking with that you will come by his office to sign the form. When you arrive and announce yourself, he blurts out, I didn’t know you were black! I didn’t mean to say that, he then says. Aloud, you say. What? he asks. You didn’t mean to say that aloud. Your transaction goes swiftly after that." After this, a revelation she has appears when she overhears an author responding to a question from the audience during his book promotion. The book or author are not noted but his response impacts Rankine." Someone in the audience asks the man promoting his new book on humor what makes something funny. His answer is what you expect—context. After a pause he adds that if someone said something, like about someone, and you were with your friends you would probably laugh, but if they said it out in public where black people could hear what was said, you might not […] Only then do you realize you are among 'the others out in public' and not among 'friends'" (Rankine, 43-46).

Again she has another revelation, but this time she recalls a question to Judith Butler. This is after the previous statement. "Our very being exposes us to the address of another, she answers. We suffer from the condition of being addressable. Our emotional openness, she adds, is carried by our addressability. Language navigates this" (Rankine, 43-46), "you begin to understand yourself as rendered hyper-visible in the face of such language acts. Language that feels hurtful is intended to exploit all the ways that you are present. Your alertness, your openness, and your desire to engage actually demand your presence, your looking up, your talking back, and, as insane as it is, saying please" (43-46). Then after a few more awkward encounters with her day-to-day life with micro-aggressions. Rankine inserts another photograph into the book. This one has a similar style tone in the wording of it. It is monotone and without punctuation and the words do not connect at some parts making sure to fill the page, yet, the continuous phrase when read still allows the viewer to fully distinguish the what is being said. Even though it says feel it is not in the traditional sense of emotions or sensory type. Instead it is talking about the color of one's skin. The words "I do not always feel colored" and "I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background." These phrases embody the main theme of the chapter as it summarizes the racial struggles one of color might face due to their appearance in a socially dominated white society causing one to question their identity.

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