Reviews tagging 'Slavery'
Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine
challenging hopeful medium-paced
Minor: Violence, Slavery, Hate crime, Racism, and Police brutality
challenging informative reflective slow-paced
Just Us: An American Conversation took a different direction from Claudia Rankine’s previous works (though, at this moment, it’s Citizen: An American Lyric that’s coming to mind), but still asserted the need to contemplate race and society in the United States.
This book is a collection of ongoing questions and conversations about race but restructured in a way that it critically focuses on whiteness. And it’s crucial to open dialogue in this fashion, because so often we assume that race is solely about nonwhiteness. Rankine deliberately troubles our understanding of race to make the non-Black (primarily white) reader reassess their positionality within their own personal lives and in greater society. I wouldn’t say that the approach is ruthless, but Rankine does not hesitate to draw attention to the varying degrees of discomfort and defensiveness that her white interlocutors expressed. Her thoughts are unrestrained but delivered with grace to her readers that add a deeply personal element to the book.
What I loved about Citizen was the incorporation of various media, and I loved that Just Us had these as well. I especially liked that all the multimedia was on the left while her own prose was on the right (at least in the hardcopy). With red dots, Rankine directed the reader’s attention to fact checks, quotes, history, and visuals to contextualize her prose. I can see how some people might find this distracting, but I thought it was brilliantly done and demonstrated the time and care that went into this book.
Just Us seems geared towards an American audience, but issues of race is a worldwide matter; Rankine actually points out a few times. A particular quote I thought encapsulated this: “Whiteness and globalization might just as well be one thing. Or maybe it’s just anything but blackness.” The title may suggest that this is an American conversation, but it is very much so one that the world needs to have.
This is a brilliantly written book. It’s uncomfortable for non-Black readers, but one we must willingly sit with as our society continues to grapple with anti-Blackness. I’m going to have to revisit this one again in the near future.
Graphic: Racism, Police brutality, and Gun violence
Moderate: Racial slurs, Sexism, and Death