“Change comes one at a time” – author Claudia Rankine on her latest work, Just Us: An American Conversation

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.

Claudia Rankine

Launching season six of Black Market Reads, Lissa interviews author Claudia Rankine about her latest work Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf Press, 2020). For highlights from the interview, and to listen to past episodes visit http://www.blackmarketreads.com. If you like the show, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and tell a friend about the show!

Go Deeper: Additional Materials

Watch: Claudia Rankine reads a selection from her 2014 work Citizen:An American lyric
Explore: In the episode, rankine discusses her collaborative work with husband, filmmaker John Lucas. this is a Multimedia project of theirs called “Situations”(View on Vimeo to see all videos).
Read: Rankine References A Recent Study showing that Black Newborns are more likey to die when treated by white doctors.

What we can learn from how a doctor’s race can affect Black newborns’ survival

At the beginning of life, babies face racial health disparities that imperil their survival. The infant mortality rate in the United States is more than twice as high for Black infants as it is for white infants: 10.8 deaths per 1,000 live births compared with 4.6 per 1,000 as of 2018, according the U.S.

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