Citizen: An American Lyric

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 deals with feelings of invisibility and worthlessness in the black community. It begins by discussing the way in which black people are invisible before they even fully understand that they are ("You are you even before you grow into understanding you are not anyone, worthless…" (Rankine)), and goes on to detail the struggle of living with the knowledge that society views blacks as less than, but refuses to acknowledge that they are being hurt by this. The next page is an anecdote about a black person and their white friend at a restaurant that talks about white privilege in one of the few humorous moments in the book. Immediately following this, there is another anecdote about a man watching his child play with other children in a street closed to traffic. Next, we are shown the date July 13, 2013. This is the date that the Trayvon Martin verdict was handed down. The text that follows is an account of a person struggling with how they feel when they hear the results of this verdict. The person is unsure whether or not they are supposed to feel the way they do, and feels that they are forced to keep their feelings bottled up. The end of the chapter contains some of the few uses of "I" in the entire book. The "I" tells the story of a trip to the tennis court where a woman pulled in to park her car across from them and then backed up and parked on the other side of the lot. They want to ask the woman a question (presumably "Why did you move?"), but they do not because they are expected on the court. The book ends with the line "It wasn’t a match, I say. It was a lesson." (Rankine), a line which wraps the book up in a way that is just as ambiguous and cryptic as the rest of the book. Whites who read the book have been given a lesson in what it means to be black, and Rankine leaves it up to them to decide what to do with that lesson.

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