Claudia Rankine’s Citizen:  Documenting and Protesting America’s Halting March Toward Racial Justice and Equality

by Susan Ayres


After the first election of President Barak Obama in 2008, there was a sense that the United States had reached a post-racial phase in its history.  That sentiment was relatively short-lived, because by 2013, when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, it was clear that President Obama’s election was not transformative.  More recently, during the presidential campaign and after the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, undisguised racism in the United States has reared its ugly head.  Activists such as the Reverend Al Sharpton have been outspoken in their criticism of President Trump.  Sharpton has claimed, “Everything King fought so tirelessly for is under attack once again.”  Similarly, poet and activist Claudia Rankine considers the Trump Administration to be “about the primacy of whiteness,” and that as citizens, we must discuss and confront the concept of white privilege which undergirds our society.  Rankine does this in Citizen, a multi-genre work that documents racist microaggresssions and macroaggressions.  In this article Citizen is analyzed using the tools of critical race theory and rhetoric for its potential to effect change in the fight for racial justice and equality.

Click here to read the current version of the article on SSRN.


About the Author

Professor Susan Ayres has been a member of the faculty at Texas A&M School of Law since its inception in 2013. Her scholarship examines the interplay between cultural theory and the law, including the implications of critical theory on current legal doctrines. Her work has been published in various journals and book chapters, and she has presented widely at conferences.