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caption: Author Claudia Rankine
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Author Claudia Rankine
Credit: Courtesy of Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine on the unbearable lightness of whiteness in America

Recently, the politics surrounding the presidential race have been butting up against the reality of everyday lives.

Democrats and Republicans have debated questions of white supremacy and systematic racism as if the issues are black and white, which on some level they are.

Claudia Rankine is a poet and author whose work confronts this divide. In her new book Just Us: An American Conversation, she examines the pivotal role race plays in American culture.

Rankine makes the case that white people barely acknowledge the impact race has on our society, while Black people experience the effects viscerally, and on a daily basis.

‘The indifference is impenetrable and reliable and distributed across centuries, and I am stupidly hurt when my friends can’t see that. CLAUDIA RANKINE, AUTHOR OF "JUST US: AN AMERICAN CONVERSATION"

The work began in Rankine’s New York Times article I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked. Rankine had pursued conversations with random white men about white male privilege. In doing so, she tapped into an uncomfortable third rail often dismissed or avoided by polite, status quo society.

Another white friend tells me she has to defend me all the time to her white friends who think I’m a radical.Why? For calling white people white?... Don’t defend me. Not for being human. Not for wanting others to be able to just live their lives. Not for wanting us to simply be able to live. Claudia Rankine, Author of "Just Us: An American Conversation"

Claudia Rankine is a Yale University professor, a poet, a MacArthur Fellow, and the author of the renowned 2014 work Citizen: An American Lyric.

She had this Seattle Arts & Lectures Women You Need to Know conversation with poet and performer Douglas Kearney on September 25.

Please note: This recording contains brief, unedited language of an adult nature.