JUST US by Claudia Rankine
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
This book, one of a trilogy, an amalgam of poetry, essay, excerpt and found image transformed my way of seeing race in the US. I felt myself seeing through the eyes of a black woman rather than the white one I am. With that lens I saw the collective shame that permeates our nation, shame at what we have done, what we hide from and who we are. The book interrogates Rankine’s conversations with several white friends, white male strangers, and her relationship with her white male spouse. Racism, when faced head on, without protestations of fairness and progress made, forces us to grieve and rage as Rankine does, The clear lens of truth is both clarifying and crazy-making. Rankine seems to ask , how do we live with this legacy? Slavery and what has followed is so absurdly cruel that to see it straight we, too, go a bit crazy. That is Rankine’s life’s path, to see and expose racism in her art. When we read her, we join her, and it is devastating.