Launching the sixth season of BMR, Lissa sits down with poet and essayist Claudia Rankine to dive into her latest work Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf Press, 2020). Rankine describes the book as the result of a challenge she set to herself to talk to white men – a group she rarely talks to – about white male privilege. Out of this challenge came the series of conversations about race in American life that make up this work.
Rankine begins her collection with a poem titled “What if” where she writes: “I am here. Whatever is / being expressed, what if, / I am here awaiting, waiting for you / in the what if, in the questions, / in the conditionals, / in the imperatives — what if” (p. 7). This collection, which explores race and the ways that whiteness manifests in American life, is a space for conversation and for response; Rankine’s role is to be with the reader in the questions, in the journey, in the uncertainty. As she takes us into different corners of American life and her own American experience, she is truly with us – teaching, yes, but not lecturing or instructing. Together she asks us to imagine something different than what we know and consider how that change comes about.