Analysis Of Serena Williams's Citizen

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Chapter 2 of Citizen concentrates on Serena Williams and the controversy surrounding her career. Claudia Rankine focuses on a distinguished, black athlete to demonstrate the subtle prejudice that African Americans face when they are in positions of fame or general success against the ‘sharp white background’ of society. Rankine tells Williams’ story to provide a concrete example of her assertion that people of color are subjected to different standards than white people. She employs repetition of the phrase ‘sharp white background’ and visual imagery to emphasize that the predominantly white, upper class perceives black citizens’ actions more negatively than those of their own race.
Rankine uses the stylistic component of repetition in the
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Rankine employs the Serena Williams narrative as a prime example of how this discriminatory viewpoint held by the ‘sharp white background’ of society led to her unfair portrayal and treatment. Specifically, Williams’ audience would rather picture her “working the land” than excelling in a world reserved for white people (Rankine 26). This reference evokes vivid images of black, slave laborers toiling on the fields of plantations. Consequently, Rankine suggests that the ‘sharp white background’ would prefer black citizens to maintain their historically low positions in the social hierarchy. Rankine implies that, because of this unspoken discrimination, people of color are put under a microscope in society’s ‘sharp white background,’ where they are the subject of condemnation and controversy in situations where a white person would not be. Specifically, everything a black person says or does in this setting is automatically correlated with race, and the historical role of African Americans in society. The author uses Hennessy Youngman’s quote “…a nigger paints a flower it becomes a slavery flower” to explicitly state that black people cannot act or express themselves without having a …show more content…
For example, when Serena Williams threatened a lineswoman in her match against Kim Clijsters, her anger was not directed at the judge herself. Instead, Williams expressed her anger at the entire community by exclaiming “I swear to God!” (Rankine 29). Rankine reemphasizes that Williams is amongst the antagonistic ‘sharp white background’ immediately after her violent outburst as a method of justification for her actions. Through vivid description of a conflict between Williams and the white tennis world, Rankine evokes the image of a battle of black versus white, where Williams is “fighting crazily against” the tennis community’s prejudice (Rankine 29). Rankine argues that it is “difficult not to applaud [Williams]” for finally taking a stand against injustice and her unfair treatment solely due to her race (Rankine 29). Serena Williams recognized the unconscious discrimination from her predominantly white environment and had an intense, emotional reaction, refusing to tolerate the target placed on her solely due to her skin color standing out in the ‘sharp white background.’ Through this example of repetition and stark contrast between Williams and her surroundings, Rankine promotes the idea that people of color should fight against victimization and

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