I finished Claudia Rankine’s Just Us: An American Conversation yesterday (coincidentally on Martin Luther King Day). Just Us is once again a fascinating mix of poetry, art, criticism and (personal) essay on the current state of race and racism in the United States. The title is (probably) adapted from a Richard Pryor quote Rankine also uses as an epigraph: “You go down there looking for justice, that’s what you find, just us.”
Even more so than Citizen, Just Us is interested in conversations between Rankine and white people, and attempts to get closer to an understanding of whiteness (and its implications for BIPOC) in the USA in 2020. Rankine talks with white men in airports about white privilege, asks Black women and white women about the benefits of blonde hair, and investigates the liminal spaces these kinds of conversations create.
These conversations are sometimes uncomfortable, mostly challenging and always crucial for white readers like me. The book, but particularly the last passage, will guide me through 2021, from the beginning of the Biden administration to the German federal elections:
“The murkiness as we exist alongside each other calls us forward. I don’t want to forget that I am here; at any given moment we are, each of us, next to any other capable of both the best and the worst our democracy has to offer.”