In Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, The reader is very personally involved due to the secondary point of view. This kind of narrative forces the reader to be as involved as possible. It gives the illusion that you are actually there experiencing what the writer is experiencing. Rankine shows multiple examples of every day acts of racism and micro aggressions that could weigh down on a persons conscience. In this blog post I will be specifically talking about the concept of identity. Who you are you to someone? who are you to someone different? what do you think about yourself?
The pygmalion effect is the phenomenon that higher expectations would usually lead to higher performance . In other words, our beliefs of another persons abilities influence our actions towards that person. This action has an impact on the other persons belief about themselves. When that person thinks less about themselves they treat people as if they’re better than them. This is what I like to call the Pygmalion-self. The pygmalion-self is shown beautifully in the most horrific way when Rankine talks about a man showing up for his therapy session, specializing in trauma. “When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs , Get away from my house! what are you doing in my yard?” (18) The man is there for treatment of trauma so its safe to assume he’s been kicked down before, and needs help getting back up. Now, he has been kicked while laying. The person he had gone to for help had snapped him mentally. The following page shows an image of what appears to be some kind of animal with a human face stitched on top. A visual representation of a man thinking of himself as less than human
It is easy to judge people quick, with out any knowledge of the situation. People are guilty of coming into a conversation 10 minutes late and responding to the last thing that was said as if they know anything about anything going on in the conversation. The media is maybe the most guilty of this. In a critical tennis match between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters Serena was called for a foot violation for stepping on the line. When asked for a replay is was said that cameras don’t cover the feet, only the ball. The situation was bonkers and any self respecting competitor would react passionately. Rankine quotes Williams “I swear to god I’m fucking going to take this fucking Ball and shove it down your fucking throat, you hear that? I swear to god!” (29) The media said that her actions and words were insane, and that she should act more like an mature woman. This is what I like to call the pygmalion-them. They (them) don’t know whats happening. They turn on ESPN to see Serena yelling at an official and make their judgements. They came into the conversation 10 minutes late and they want to put in their 2 cents. At this point, this is how they see Serena Williams.
Not every one is arrogant, there are people out there who try to be a fair person day in and day out. Anyone who is a fan of professional sports knows how intense a playoff game can be. The pressure, the preparation, everything builds up until finally its time to perform. When its game time thats what it is, and thats all it is, game time. Micheal Jordan dominated the NBA, Wayne Gretzky changed the NHL forever. Serena Williams is currently the best woman ever to play tennis, and arguably the best woman athlete of all time. She got to where she is now the same way Jordan did it, and the same way Wayne did it. She wanted it more than anyone else and went and got it. With that kind of effort comes great passion. No one works their whole life for something just to have that something ripped away from them, and reacts well. Rankine realises that, “As offensive as her outburst is, it is difficult not to applaud her for reacting immediately to be thrown against a sharp white background.” (29) Rankine Is an example of something I like to call the pygmalion-you. This person knows whats happening, and wonders what it would be like to be you, instead of seeing you as something different.
In conclusion, how someone sees you can be completely different then how you see yourself in both a negative and a positive way. Identity isn’t just who you are but who you are to me, and who you are to someone else. on a side note, staying positive to who you truly are will prevent your pygmalion self from taking you over.
Questions: Judging from what I said regarding the pygmalion-self, what are some pros and cons about about seeing people differently because of how they treat you.
How many situations can you think of where a pro athlete acted out with passion and was barely ridiculed for their actions
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: an American Lyric. Graywolf Press, 2014.
curry, Sarah c. “The Pygmalion Effect.” Duquesne University, www.duq.edu/about/centers-and-institutes/center-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-and-learning/pygmalion.