You in Black- Grayscale

You may remember You in Black, my passionate (to say the very least) response to Claudia Rankine’s work Citizen. Or you may not, but that’s alright. I realized I had a lot more to say, so I extended it for a final project and was semi-satisfied with the results. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing some extracts from the work with you. I divided it into 4 segments: “Skin Sold Separately”, “The Body Chronicles”, “Grayscale” and “My Language, My Rules”. I don’t want to explain away the writing, so I hope it will speak for itself.

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Introduction

You in Black is a creative response to Citizen by Claudia Rankine. It is an exposition on the black experience (one of many) in the United States as told through the fingertips of a young African woman attending university in this country. This work is an attempt to convey the triumphs and suffering of someone who can never claim to represent a whole race but is often called upon to do so. It incorporates re-telling of micro-aggressions and macro-tragedies, both fictional and non-fictional, in order to express the persona’s resilience and rage. I have used footnotes to explain certain terms and references that may be unfamiliar to you if you are not Ghanaian or know nothing about Ghanaian culture, but have tried to ensure that I don’t use a heavy-handed academic style in my explanations. Consider the footnotes as the persona whispering in your ear to help you to avoid being impolite or looking foolish at dinner.

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The minute I begin to define myself purely based on someone else’s expectations, I no longer exist.

I no longer exist.

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On a scale from 1 to Gray, in how many places did your spine snap? Did you wake up this morning clutching your lower back, firm fingers pressing into the skin in a useless attempt to massage away the ache? Probable cause and indictments are back rubs to cure bullet wounds. Patrolled by blue tin men who were never quite able to retrieve their bleeding hearts. I had a neighbor whose name was Eric, but he looked a lot more like an Amadou. The lilt in his voice sounded like a kora I heard in Bamako, but before the griot could start his haunting song, an ugly cry interrupted the melody. You have the right to remain silent. Or not. The choice is yours. In any case, you are not going to survive. My cousin’s name was Trayvon, but it could very well have been Emmett. His chestnut smoothness could have been an oware board carved from a sturdy tree trunk. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t surprised when I saw him riddled with holes.

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Listen to me. The problem with you people is that you are too extreme. And you have this sickening sense of entitlement. The worst possible combination of traits! Every single time one of you behaves badly, we must have this argument. You spend all day and night killing each other in the ghettos, and when you get what you deserve, you burn down and steal from the very businesses put there to give you a livelihood. Honestly, you people are unbelievable! And one day, I will escape the sanctuary of the anonymity afforded me by the world of internet comments to teach you a lesson!

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Miss, I didn’t bring my homework in today, but I have a really good excuse.

There was too much black on black crime outside my window and I couldn’t concentrate. There were too many young thugs with their pants around their knees standing on the street corner slingin’ dope and I got distracted. There were too many hos click-clackin’ up and down the alley next door and I couldn’t hear myself think. My mama was out too late snorting lines with her friends and she couldn’t help me. That’s not enough? There was not enough food on the table, there were not enough jobs, there was no way out, there was 300 years’ worth of baggage, there was no way out. There was you telling me I don’t have a way out. You see, I could have been so much greater, but my chance was given to someone else the minute I was born and my skin started to blacken.

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The minute I begin to define myself purely based on someone else’s expectations, I no longer exist.

I no longer exist.

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