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Claudia Rankine: 'By white privilege I mean the ability to stay alive'

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The poet and playwright talks to Afua Hirsch about power, race and class, and her experience of being a first-generation immigrant living in the US today

Claudia Rankine is a poet, playwright, essayist and adjunct professor of English and African American Studies at Yale University. She was born in Jamaica and moved to the US as a child. The recipient of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle award for poetry and a 2016 MacArthur “genius” fellowship, she is the author of five books, including the bestsellingCitizen: An American Lyric. Her new publication, 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.

Afua Hirsch: I admire the way you weave in the personal in Just Us. Is that deliberate?

I’m not interested in public shaming, but I am interested in accountability

None of us should have to be living thinking that if we leave our house, we will be shot for the colour of our skin

I think the quarantine has allowed us to really sit with things, as a culture. That’s been good

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