The cover art and title of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen beg the question: Who is a citizen? Who exactly occupies the disembodied and dispossessed hoodie? The dark hood, open, yet faceless, elicits the image of the hood placed over the head of the condemned before they are hanged.
Heightening the resemblance, the draw string dangling from the collar evokes the noose. Yet the pointed tip of the hood ironically conjures resonating images of the white KKK hood. The hood’s ambiguity masks the identity of both the oppressor and the oppressed, as it works to make a person invisible. White oppressors have historically robbed African Americans of their individualism. In Citizen, Rankine draws attention to the inherent issues of racial profiling by writing, “all black people look the same” (7).
This assertion highlights how racial profiling only requires a signifier, like a hoodie, not a subject, who remains faceless. On the throat of the hood is an asymmetric cut: the jagged line has a violent overtone and raises the question why is the hood removed from the body? Why has the hood been removed from the sweatshirt and where is the body that once wore it? Absent of both a face and body, the hood is isolated from its functional identity. ? Excellent, taut, clean, assertive sentences, Sydney. Some of the most sophisticated writing I have seen from you this year.The one word title of the lyric poem Citizen must be read in context of the disembodied hood.
Stripped of its normal qualifiers, such as “American” or “World,” and floating beneath the empty hood, the word itself feels ownerless as well. The positioning of the title under the hood looks almost as if it is a label for the hood. Using the word Citizen as a title in this context disturbs the traditional construct of the citizen because citizens are here considered faceless. Furthermore the word citizen strikes a troubling cord for minority groups in the polarizing context of race.
The stark contrast of the black title on the white cover reinforces the polarity.