Reading Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen”

From page 49:

“Not long ago you are in a room where someone asks the philosopher Judith Butler what makes language hurtful…Our very being exposes us to the address of others, she answers. We suffer from the condition of being addressable. Our emotional openness, she adds, is carried by our addressability. Language navigates this.

For so long you thought the ambition of racist language was to denigrate and erase you as a person. After considering Butler’s remarks, you begin to understand yourself as rendered hypervisible in the face of such language acts. Language that feels hurtful is intended to exploit all the ways that you are present. Your alertness, your openness, and your desire to engage actually demand your presence, your looking up, your talking back and, as insane as it is, saying please.”

This captures so perfectly something I have never been able to put into words about my experience of antisemitism, my fear of it, my sensitivity to it, how it feels and why it becomes a source of shame when it is directed at me. I am thinking about James Gilligan’s notion of shame as the desire not to be seen because no one wants to be seen who is, who feels, who has been branded, unworthy of love. (Though, if I remember correctly, Gilligan took the idea that to be ashamed is not to want the eyes of the world on you from someone else. I just can’t remember who right now.)

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One Response to Reading Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen”

  1. 1
    emma says:

    Thank you for this list. In addition to my book To Know With Certainty I have wanted to share my continuing research writing with Christian Magazines. You saved me a ton of time.