Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Just Us, An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine

Just Us: An American ConversationJust Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just Us: An American Conversationis a beautiful volume on heavy paper stock with photos, footnotes and statistics on the verso (left), visual evidence of racism, and the poet's sobering thoughts, experiences and interviews on the recto (right-hand pages). I identified with the story of her white companion who refuses to go up on stage with other white audience members at the behest of the black playwright at the end of the performance and appreciated the woman's explanation to the author, their shared conversation. The airplane waiting lines are telling microcosms of our racist society as first-class passengers crowd ahead of her. The cross-burning memory was horrific particularly as was its identification as a prank rather than terrorism. The dinner party where the author, the only person of color, attributes the 2016 election results "to anti-black and anti-Latinx racism couched in terms like 'Obamacare and the Wall'" brings the table to silence. She states that "white people don't really want change if it means they need to think differently than they do about who they are." She concedes that it is systemic but also personal and imagines her admiration for her host if she'd handed her her coat with "What's your hurry?" instead of "serving up redirection and false civility." Reading the book is thought-provoking, it is beautifully written, and of course underlines our white superiority and heavy reliance on false civility, refusal of discomfort, willful blindness. The chapter on blondes where as a born-blonde, made me feel huffy at the associations she drew about Aryan ideals, white purity and superiority factors. But it is something to think about. To question. Start there.

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