There are very few books that I go back to again and again, and every time feels like a new, raw experience. Claudia Rankine’s poetry-prose “Citizen” is like harsh yet necessary headlights into the dark of our collective forgetting/ignoring/avoiding. But despite always gaining a deeper clarity when rereading this book, it is an ordeal that can leave you spiritually drained and hopelessly sad.
Every word drips with the unimaginable pain and indignity of ordinary, mundane racism. These stories take you into the mind and spirit of someone who has just undergone a racist assault- How do they process it? How do they react or not react? Did he/she really mean it? As someone who has dealt with a fair share of racism, I could SO DEEPLY relate to the confusion, the disbelief and ultimately the internalization of the hurt and the glazing over…like nothing ever happened. “What did you just say?” That is the resounding question that is rarely asked out loud and that needs no answer.
“And this is how you are a citizen:Come on. Let it go. Move on.”
You don’t really move on. You might forget, temporarily. The incident(s) stays with you, shapes you in ways you hope remain hidden. But this is not simply about random individuals facing the racist micro-aggression’s of daily American life. This is communal, societal, systemic, institutional: this is what America is made of.
Of course there is so much more I should write, there is so much more I could share about what this book means to me but my thoughts and feelings struggle to be articulated- maybe because there is too much personal emotion attached…Funnily enough, Rankine expresses this exact sentiment often. The futility of bottled up feelings and yet the futility of doing anything with those feelings in the face of something so insidious, and perhaps, (hopefully not) permanent…