1. Based on your reading of “Citizen” pp. 1-79:
a) Why do you think Rankine uses the second person (“You are twelve…”)?
By using second person, the reader is unconsciously being made to imagine the experience happening to them. The events are not detached, like watching a tv show. When you are being told what is happening to you, you pay attention. In the first scene, when “we” are being cheated off of, we feel wronged. It is not like watching two kids and wanting to show disapproval When we are being undermined because of “our” skin color, we feel the discomfort– even if it is only a fraction.
b) Point out a specific passage/paragraph (cite and quote it) that you find to be particularly beautiful or powerful or surprising or challenging and explain why it stood out to you. Where does it fit into the argument of text as a whole?
“A woman you do not know wants to join you for lunch. You are visiting her campus. In the café you both order the Caesar salad. This overlap is not the beginning of anything because she immediately points out that she, her father, her grandfather, and you, all attended the same college. She wanted her son to go there as well, but because of affirmative action or minority something—she is not sure what they are calling it these days and weren’t they supposed to get rid of it?— her son wasn’t accepted. You are not sure if you are meant to apologize for this failure of your alma mater’s legacy program; instead you ask where he ended up. The prestigious school she mentions doesn’t seem to assuage her irritation. This exchange, in effect, ends your lunch. The salads arrive.” Pg 25
“I” am being blamed for the failure of someone else. My very existence is the reason that someone did not “succeed.”
- My merit is not considered, the only reason I won was because of the color of my skin.
- The son is still attending a prestigious school, he just didn’t get what mom was hoping for.
- “Weren’t they supposed to get rid of it?”
- Caesar salad. The universal salad.
The author speaks of how as a person of color you are not you, but a representative of people who look like you. For some reason it does not apply the other way around. It is impossible to teach someone the privilege of being privileged, and the reality stings over and over again as you realize you must get used to this fact. She feels as if she maybe has to apologize. My question is for what. Her question is for what. We both understand and do not understand the reason why.
c) Consider the adage, “The truth cannot be told head on.” What modes does Rankine use to access her truth? How does Rankine make her arguments without stating things outright? Is there a place(s) in the text where you feel she does in fact state her argument outright?
Someone who has never been thought as lesser, or “able to be handled” for the color of their skin will never fully be able to understand the gravity of what is taking place. Even people who have often times cannot. By using second person and taking us through the experience, we have the opportunity to understand a little bit how it feels. Rankine tells you what her features are doing, but not fully how she is feeling– which makes you fill in the blanks and feel them yourself.
“Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.”
This is her most direct calling out to the person who wronged her, with a much more stronger accusation of racial discrimination than the “what did you say?” on the previous page.
How we see the man react afterwards with the “now there you go,” is a very telling moment to how she sees the dynamic between the two classes. Standing up to defend herself will always on some level make her the angry black woman.
2. After you’ve read “Reflections of a White Maybe” respond with some thoughts about “whiteness” as the author defines it. What does “whiteness” mean to him and his partner, an Anglo Jew and a Puerto Rican? When and how do their “privileges” differ? How does your own experience compare or contrast to Jaffe’s and/or his partner’s experience?
I grew up in the California that he talks about, though maybe in a slightly more liberal bubble and age. But Santa Barbara is a college town, his husband is a college professor. It’s not too far off from what I know. Even as someone who was looked down upon for something he could not control, being Jewish, the narrator considers himself white. He could pass. His “whiteness” will always be something that separates him from his husband. It’s not something he could choose, it’s just how our society decided to give certain privileges. In my area we made jokes about being white because everyone was close enough that there was no real hint of offense or hurt feelings. “I’m such a white-girl with my pumpkin spice latte and leggings.” At a party,”omg, white girl got butt. Yas girl dance!” My best friend since kindergarten who is more my family than any Korean friend I’ve ever made once told me that sometimes she feels sad that she’ll never be able to take part in my culture the way my Korean friends could. I don’t know how to describe the twinge I felt in my heart, because I know exactly what she means.