Citizen An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

My running method for describing this book is the pre-planet phase. The swirling clusters of a galaxy before the hands of fate ball the pastel dust into a planet, nature’s natural form of compression. Pink photo particles swirl into the bright red ambers of poetry and blue bubbles of prose, hunting each other until they loop through one another and you can’t tell where one form begins and another ends.

“Citizen” puts the audience in an uncomfortable position about history, race, and identity, as some of the larger themes. There are smaller global ones at play as well. Anecdotes are used, references to videos and national stories, personal stories and second person are all utilized. By using second person, Claudia Rakine brings each individual reader into the uncomfortable place of race relations. Where do you fall on the delicate and every changing line?

Is there an easy solution or is that in itself considered to be ignorant? If you’re over-sensitive are you just tip-toeing around the issue? Where is the balance found and will there ever be an ending or resolution to the damage already done, for today and the future? These are hard questions “Citizen” brings up for the reader. There are no answers or solutions outlined within the pages, only situations and the opposing sides. The final three pages are of a poem where it ties the repeated pattern of tennis all together through the conclusion and two pictures. The first is of a portrait now hanging in the Boston MFA, Museum of Fine Arts, that shows an aesthetically pleasing portrayal of a ship on the water during a sunset or sunrise. How beautiful you think, when you stand back and admire the acrylic waves raising to the height of the boat in the far off distance and the oranges hue through the blue sky. The second image is exactly the same, but more close up. Actually, extremely close up, it’s the same portrait, but the bottom right quadrant is blown up. You see a leg sticking out of the water with chains around it. You look back at the same portrait as a whole, does it still look as aesthetically pleasing?

This is the history we must accept, the horrors we must account for to ever move on. People were objects, taken and forgotten as though without souls or sense. This is the painting of history. The ships of slavery seen from faraway are nothing more than harmless. When you look close up, you see the true tortures, the layers behind the nation we are now, that’s called our history.

If you think that time period is over, “Citizen” makes a point of showing that it is not. People making simple name confusions because the same two people were of the same race, is that racist or finding that to be racist, in itself, the racist thought? When Serena Williams had fits because of unfair treatment during her tennis matches in the early 2000s, how was that reaction seen? The fact that she had the unfair treatment up to this point in time and is back in controversy because she was too tired to answer pestering reporters, is itself an outrageous claim and at the ground, racist. People are saying she should be grateful for what she has had and achieved and that people are interested. I’m sure she is grateful, but not towards us for giving her that opportunity. She created that opportunity for herself through handwork, she’s achieved all of this through handwork, she is tired, let her rest.

Obama can’t treat hecklers the way Trump can, not because Obama is a better person and respects people more than Trump, although I believe he does, he can’t do that because the press and media will label him, categorize him, as an angry black man. Racism is still in existence and hinders people all the time from being justifiably who they are and what they are feeling because of what the white-washed media will say and label. It’s utterly ridiculous.

We are all citizens to this social world we have created.

“Citizen An American Lyric” gets 8 out of 10 stars.

If you do read this book, please make sure to look up all the videos references within the pages as you read, it will amplify the experience and showcase further what is being talked about.

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