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September 26, 2020


#Essays Just Us

by N@ncy



  1. A book of essays, poems and images that confront White privilege and White silence.
  2. Just Us: An American Conversation….explores whiteness and white supremacy in a series of everyday conversations, at the airport, dinner party, theatre and voting booth.
  3. Truly…a #MustRead


TITLE:    very subtle : Just Us = (…justice)

What if (poem) – needed to read this a few times…I even typed sections on paper for another perspective….a different layout that I hoped would help me understand the poem’s message.

Liminal spaces i – firstly I looked up what ‘liminal spaces means. Then searched the table of contents and see that 2 other essays are named: Liminal spaces ii and Liminal spaces iii (last chapter). So I hope after I finish the book I will discover the importance using these 3 chapters …perhaps as way to divide the book.

Evolution – short essay that no real impact on me. Quote about white people:
“…their socialization in a culture that is set up to keep them ignorant of their ignorance of violence committed against people of color.”

Title: reference to Beyoncé’s album
this is a very short essay. Ms Rankine reveals her battle with breast cancer and her struggles within an interracial marriage.
Strong point: quote that made me think….
“The threat of imminent death had built a mansion in my mind where before there existed only a motel for passing fears.”

Outstretched – EXCELLENT!!
Title: refers to British photographer’s photo “Woman with Arms Outstretched” (Memphis, Tenn)
Photo of the woman is veiled by a white haze due to overexposuring the image…she is difficult to see. This veil is the ‘white gaze’ confronting a black figure. Seeing but not seeing….Graham forces us to squint into racial politics.
Quote: Ms Rankine includes a message from Graham: “…you have to choose to overcome your own blindness.”

Title: describes Ms Rankine’s thoughts while attending a parent-teacher
meeting with her husband at her daughter’s predominantly white high-school.

Notes on the state of whiteness:
Title: …with a wink to Notes on the State of Virginia: by T. Jefferson
…his vigorous argument about the nature of a good society.

Tiki Torches: refers to torch-lit Unite the Right rally Charlottesville march in 2017)
Title: …recalling a cross-burning 1981 the fall before Ms Rankine arrived a college.

Study on white male privilege: ….short observation.
Title: Is this phrase ‘white male privilege’ extremely offensive police Capt. Arendt?
Quote:”…Surely, police Capt. Arndt must understand himself as white and male,
…so perhaps it’s the noun ‘privilege’ that enrages him?


Tall: 1 page…narrative method that attempts “to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind of Ms Rankine.
Title: TALL refers to a conversation the author has with a man in a hallway. He thinks his height is greatest privilege….Ms Rankine does not agree. “I think your whiteness is your greatest privilege.
The conversation continues…..


Social contract: …what is the proper etiquette?
Title: To create discomfort by pointing out the facts….is seen as socially UNacceptable.
Quote: “A white woman ends the conversation…turning her gaze to a silver tray of brownies. Hers is the fey gesture… a white woman. It’s so blatant a redirect.
I can’t help myself and ask ALOUD the most obvious question:
Am I being silenced?
WOW!….don’t underestimate Claudia Rankine!!


Violent: interview with Ms Rankine’s friend about
how whiteness is talked about in her home.
(Ms Rankine is writing about this topic for her work)
Title: Child is told he ‘ruined’ Goldilocks and 3 Bears…by colouring her with brown skin.
Ms Rankine includes interesting notes on the text….don’t forget to read them!

Sound and Fury ( poem)
Title: Knowing that this is a portrait of the Trump voter as a cast-aside worker
helps the reader interpret the poem.
Quote: “…harden into fury” “…white’s right to righteous rage.”

Big Little Lies: EXCELLENT !!
Title: Touching analysis of a 30 year long friendship between college friends: Ms Rankine and unnamed girl coming from northeast USA with wealth going back the Mayflower.
Quote: “Her kind of security is atmospheric and therefore not transferable. It’s what reigns behind the term white.”
“How do we keep the differences on the table and still call that friendship?”

Ethical Loneliness
Title: another analysis of a friendship….so good.

Liminal Spaces ii
Title: The term “liminal spaces” refers to places between destinations that aren’t meant to be existed in as much as passed through.
Think of an airport….or a train station along the railroad tracks!
Quote: “ To converse is to risk the unraveling of the said and the unsaid.
“To converse is to risk the performance of what’s held by the silence.

José Martí (…one of the longest essays)
…..this essay started out so well…..then I just lost interest. Sorry.
Title: Oh this essay is filled with so many insights about race, racism, whiteness.
Quote: “How can white Democratic and Independent candidates have black people’s humanity in mind on a policy level…..when they themselves exhibit or condone racism with whatever apologetic language comes to mind?”

Boys Will Be Boys
Title: expression “boys will be boys” attempts to explain away aggressive behaviors that a small number of children exhibit.
It creates an easy excuse to fall back on so adults don’t have to examine other reasons for such aggressive behaviours.
Ms Rankine comments on two situations: verbally abusive man towards his wife in line at the airport
Brett Kavanaugh hearings in Washington D.C.
Quote: “Something feels lost…something with a beating heart.”

Complicit Freedoms – long essay…worth the reading time, and photos hair (blond)
by John Lucas (Ms Rankine’s husband)
Title: Modern hair-coloring technology has allowed people to dye their hair virtually any shade. So why is one hue in particular so popular?
Quote: Not in the essay….but I cannot get this out of my head:                                                            “…Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”

Title: An interesting look at skin-whitening an why it is valued.
Quote: Naomi Osaka’s Japanese mother was estranged from her parents for 15 years because
of her love for a Haitian man.” Grandparents met Naomi when she was 11 years old. How sad is that… turn your back on a daughter, a granddaughter just for the color of a man’s skin.

Liminal Spaces iii
Title: A liminal spaces/experience is the feeling of transition. They may be brief.
Think of a ‘coming of age’ story…passing from teen to adulthood
Think of divorce or a job transition
Quote: “Why aren’t all people actively involved into our present American struggle against a nationalist regime?
Have so many become so vulnerable to white dominance that the pathways to imagined changed are wiped out or our brains….”
“Is it possible to live E pluribus unum?


Photographer John Lucas (husband) and writer Claudia Rankine (wife) have collaboratively captured photographs of dyed blonde hair, as seen on the heads of strangers and acquaintances.

John Lucas reveals photographs of people of all races who bleach their hair. If white supremacy and anti-black racism continues to govern by blondness…might this be our most passive modes of complicity?

This photo is framed as still image and also transposed onto real postage stamps. The stamp, a form of currency with inherent mobility, becomes a metaphor for questioning: What do we attribute to blondness? Where do we think it will take us?

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