Citizen : An American Lyric By Claudia Rankine

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Thomas Howard 5/6/2016 Untitled “Let’s pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere.”- C.S. Lewis Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is a lengthy poetic attempt at exposing the competing consciousness pertaining to race and racism in society, pitting the historical person against the individual. Set side by side with The Souls of Black Folks and This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie, Citizen takes on a very distinct impression of separate identities competing in one person. W.E.B. Dubois seems to lay the foundation for the recurring experience described or seemingly described in Citizen when he says, “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” (Dubois) This passage from Dubois sets up the experience in Citizen, explaining the sensation of being judged and viewed by yourself and by society around you. To Dubois, the life of the ‘negro’ is lived in duality between being black (or negro, as Dubois says) and being American. The key implication from this described duality is the separation in identity between being ‘negro’ and being ‘American’. The same
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