Citizen Vessels


I have created a visual representation of the vessels two types of American citizens carry with them, one is a white citizen’s and the other is a black citizens. Both contain 4-5 items within them, each representing something unique to that citizen. The intention of these comparisons is to encourage the realization that racism is still present, and incredibly harmful in the every day life of a black American citizen; because the first step in stopping it, is acknowledging that it is there at all.

The Black Vessel contains three unique items, and two that are used in comparison to the white vessel. The hanging black person represents the lynchings that plague black citizens’ past, it stands for the unjust treatment overlooked in the past and even today. The image of Trayvon Martin represents not only police brutality, but racism so ingrained into our society that leads to people still justifying his death.The image is in black and white because of the statement in Citizen “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” p.52, which is well represented with a picture of Trayvon Martin, as the feelings expressed in that passage from citizen are shared among many black citizens, presumably including him. The speech bubble was inspired by this passage in Citizen: “What did he just say? Did she really just say that? Did I hear what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth?” p.9, because the passage describes the thoughts of disbelief after a racist encounter, which especially reminds me of the vulgar slur used to insult black citizens. The television, which can be compared to the white citizen’s television, has a frowning face on it because it represents the misrepresentation/lack of representation altogether of black citizens in the media. This created an invisibility for black citizens, as they are commonly portrayed with untrue stereotypes, and are rarely depicted accurately. Lastly, the wilted flower is used in comparison to the two vibrant flowers in the white citizen’s vessel. It represents the overall oppression of black American citizens, in the entirety of our country’s history. It should be noted that the vessel has a large volume, suggesting that if all these memories and events and symbols were converted into liquid, the vessel would be so full it would be nearly overflowing. The fullness of the vessel means it has a large impact on the black citizen, as they have to carry around this heavy vessel of sadness with them every day of their lives.

The White Vessel contains two unique items, and two that are used in comparison to the black vessel. The crown represents the power white citizens have, not only in politics but in every day life, such as the freedom to express themselves in ways black citizens cannot. This power is symbolized by a crown because it should remind us of the unquestioned authority of a monarchy, and how white citizens share this privilege. The dollar bills represent the unequally high respect and privilege white citizens have economically. There are minimal stereotypes that prevent them from getting jobs, and this type of situation is represented well by the following passage from Citizen,  “…he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.” p.10, which shows that it is not uncommon for a black citizen to be hired out of pity, or because of a need for more “diversity,” whereas a white citizen is considered qualified from the get-go. The television with a smile on it should be compared to the television of the black citizen’s vessel, as the white citizen has a much happier one. This is because white citizens are often represented as happy families, as successful professionals, etc. They have mostly accurate and very positive representation in the media, and they have role-models on television and in books; black citizens have much less of this. The two flowers represent not only the continuous growth and acceptance of white privilege, but also the abundance in comparison to the one, wilted flower in the black citizen’s vessel. The vessel is neither full nor empty; it is instead at a stable half way point, suggesting that the contents of the vessel maintain an equilibrium within themselves, being the perfect amount of events and memories and symbols for a white citizen to carry around with them every day.