Finished Just Us by Claudia Rankine.
Summary (from Goodreads):
“Claudia Rankine’s Citizen changed the conversation–Just Us urges all of us into it
As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Claudia Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history.
Just Us is an invitation to discover what it takes to stay in the room together, even and especially in breaching the silence, guilt, and violence that follow direct addresses of whiteness. Rankine’s questions disrupt the false comfort of our culture’s liminal and private spaces–the airport, the theater, the dinner party, the voting booth–where neutrality and politeness live on the surface of differing commitments, beliefs, and prejudices as our public and private lives intersect.
This brilliant arrangement of essays, poems, and images includes the voices and rebuttals of others: white men in first class responding to, and with, their white male privilege; a friend’s explanation of her infuriating behavior at a play; and women confronting the political currency of dying their hair blond, all running alongside fact-checked notes and commentary that complements Rankine’s own text, complicating notions of authority and who gets the last word.
Sometimes wry, often vulnerable, and always prescient, Just Us is Rankine’s most intimate work, less interested in being right than in being true, being together.”
I was a huge fan of her poetry collection Citizen, and so I was really excited to see this in time to preorder. It’s got some poetry but it’s more of an essay collection.
It’s incredibly thought-provoking but there also isn’t a solution. For example, there’s a chapter on Black women dying their hair blonde. There are some thoughts on why this may happen (conforming to a white standard of beauty? Maybe they just like it? It makes women look younger?) but no actual answer. Probably because chances are that many of them do it for multiple reasons and why one woman may do it could have no bearing on why another chose to.
I also liked the discussion of white male privilege, which led to a sidebar discussion of why white people seem to become incredibly angry when they’re called “white.” (I don’t have a problem with it; I’m white. And I’m okay with that being specified because it shouldn’t be the default color for “person.”)
I’m going to be thinking about this for a while and I already am planning to re-read it. Highly recommended.