Blue Light Metaphor: Dream, Privilege, Mindset, and America

Sadaf Ayaz Professor Yelizaveta Shapiro Eng 32000-02: Multi-ethnic American Literature 08/02/2017

Page 70 of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine explored the blue light metaphor in times of darkness. I had trouble understanding exactly what the blue light represented for the author as it seemed to hold the ability to constantly shift its meaning. Although the metaphor began representing the blue light as an outer symbol of hope, it soon transformed into an inner symbol of identity. 

“In the darkened moment a body given blue light, a flashlight, enters with levity, with or without assumptions, doubts, with desire, the beating heart, disappointment, with desires–

Stand where you are.

You begin to move around in search of the steps it will take before you are thrown back into your body, back into your own need to be found.

The destination is illusory. You raise your lids. No one else is seeking.

You exhaust yourself looking into the blue light. All day blue burrows the atmosphere. What doesn’t belong with you won’t be seen.

You could build a world out of need or you could hold everything black and see. You give back the lack.

You hold everything black. You give yourself back until nothing’s left but the dissolving blues of the metaphor.” (Page 70)

The blue flashlight metaphor can be seen as many things: dreams and a tool to help you see the path to achieve them, privilege, inner mindset, yourself outside of yourself looking at yourself–perhaps something that is necessary in a White America, or America in of itself which holds everything you want but shows you nothing because ultimately it doesn’t belong to you and so nothing within it, nothing you want from it would either–all you have left is to give and lose yourself within it.

I initially interpreted the use of the blue flashlight metaphor as a light of hope or even a passage to help you get where you want to or need to be. It’s full of desires and fear because there’s so much you want from it and a fear that you might never achieve it, in the case of this book, perhaps because you are afraid you will lose it. And then get lost all over again in the process.

“You exhaust yourself looking into the blue light…what doesn’t belong with you will not be seen.” Here the blue light no longer seems like a token of hope or a passage way, rather maybe privilege. A privilege that gives you all that you want and provides you with the opportunities and dreams you’ve had. But because you do not hold the privilege of being white you can never see what you want because it doesn’t belong to you. Maybe this means that you have two options: in order to see and understand the blue light you have to become white or should you just let go of the blue light altogether?

When she says hold everything black, I immediately thought back to the anecdote on Serena Williams in which the author wrote about how Serena had had to let go of her blackness and being affected by being black to be accepted. It took her detaching her identity with herself and creating a new persona for herself to be accepted. She had to pretend nothing affected her while there were constant attacks on her just because of the color of her skin. In this case, the blue light can also be a representation of America and how in order to thrive in it happily you have to let go of yourself and accept the racism and injustice that is thrown at you while still only losing and giving and not really finding anything for you because whatever is within it doesn’t belong with you.

Which makes me wonder if even then you are still not accepted is the ultimate solution for people of color, especially black people in reference to this book, is to let go of the blue light and just accept themselves–in a way, living a life defined and limited by their color without a fight? Even Rankine describes it as “nothing’s left but the dissolving blues of the metaphor.”

🇵🇰🇺🇸 • NYC • Medicine • Author • CEO, Founder @rev21media • Actor/Model

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