Why Claudia Rankine started talking to white strangers about their privilege

The author, poet and playwright talks about Just Us, and the 'experimental' conversations that informed her work.


With Just Us, Claudia Rankine offers more than just words. The poet, playwright and academic has brought together images, academic texts, statistics, citations and references. "The form the book takes itself is trying to mimic conversation," she says in her video interview with Penguin.co.uk. "I felt like it was necessary to bring in other voices, whether by images... or the work of other writers."

Like all good conversations, Just Us sends the reader's curiosity off in dozens of directions, and it's impossible to read her book about identity, whiteness and the power it holds in America without wanting to follow these rabbit-holes. But it's also fitting because Just Us started with actual conversations: "I wondered what it would mean to ask random white men how they understood their privilege," she writes in the book's opening essay. "Maybe it was time to engage, even if my fantasies of these encounters seemed outlandish. I wanted to try."

In this video, Rankine explains how she undertook this research, as well as the potential it has to spark a global conversation about privilege and power.

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