2019 Literary Festival Event: Poet Claudia Rankine



here and along with Adrian Perry I've been teaching a course that runs in conjunction with this reading series and the this is the 21st year of the literary festival and and funnily enough Claudia Rankine was one of the first people I invited to come to the Nova and I won't tell the story of that but that was just you know I just think it's a wonderful that she's she's actually made it to Villanova after 20 years and through all the years that have passed since then since I first invited her to come here 21 years ago she's been a friend and inspiration to me and I'm happy to have this opportunity to thank her publicly for her generosity and for the example she sets as a fearless and an I would say peerless public intellectual a voice that allows us to fully recognize the world we live in and make in a minute I'm going to turn things over to two students from our class will properly introduce Claudia Cassy Lu and Danielle Fusaro but first their number of people I need to thank on behalf of the Creative Writing Program and the literary festival Alan drew who's the director of creative writing and the literary festival allowed me to welcome everyone because of my connection to Claudia but it also gives me the opportunity to thank him for all of the work he has done this semester and every semester to make this reading series possible so let's show Alan our appreciation I also want to thank my co-teacher Adrienne teri who's done so much work with me and I need to thank Heather Hicks chair of the English department Adel Linda Meyer Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences the Irish Studies Program foul the library the Honors Program and the program in writing and rhetoric I just also want to just tell everybody that the final event that the literary festival is on April 25th at 7 o'clock we're gonna have Julia kastorf doing a reading from her new book called shale play which is about fracking in Pennsylvania and I think it'll be a really great event to come to and that's going to be in the East lounge of Daugherty and without further ado I'm going to turn things over to Danielle and cast [Applause] all right sorry all right as an American citizen and American poet Claudia Rankine is known by her readers and peers as fearless not only on what she writes but also how she writes within her poems essays in place ranking addresses the topics of race privilege and oppression all while blurring the lines between poetry and prose and words and images and challenging our definition of these types of writing she is the author of five poetry collections two of which don't let me be lovely an American lyric and citizen an American lyric had gone on to win multiple awards as well as multiple essays and plates which which includes the white card apply for many awards and honors include a 2017 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry of 2016 MacArthur Fellowship in 2005 Academy fellowship for distinguished poet poetic achievement from the cow from the Academy of American poets Rankine has has taught at the University of Houston Case Western Reserve University Barnard College Pomona College and is currently the Frederic iseman professor of poetry at Yale the winner of the 2014 National Book Critics of Book Award in poetry citizen and American lyric is a textural Museum that both personalizes and Universal Isis the experience of the black body within the United States through a series of vignettes poetry a long-form essay and contemporary works of art created by black artists including Nick Cave Glenn Ligon and toy Janos OD Tula reaching into both history and current events citizen chronic O Connell is a long-standing history of exhaustion terror anger and duty of the black community this history is told not only through images and words but also through the visibility of black ink on white pages citizen ass to step into the shoes of individuals who are both rendered hyper visible within white spaces and yet in invisible it needs very same spaces most importantly though citizen asked what it means to be a citizen in an anti black community for some it means enjoying a set of fundamental human rights for others it means having one existed continually both darling in question all while being told to let go move on ranking leaves us with a lesson of race about race violence justin and mostly most importantly the right to citizenship in citizen what is unsaid is just as if not more important than what is said by closely intertwining pain and silence Rankin challenges readers to conform confront their own silence about the violence towards and criminalization of the black body renkins use of the second person forces readers to recognize their role in a system that perpetuates the destruction of the black mind body and culture Rankin's you invites readers to engage with a text in a deeply intimate way and creates profoundly experiment experiential body of work by curating different forms of art that speak to the black experience in America as Kathy mentioned citizen crosses back borders and boundaries Rankin does not constrain poetry to the page but permeates the text with works of art as well as situation videos that are watched alongside her poetry and moved beyond the page and into the world by freeing her writing from the limitations of genre Rankin brings to light the ultimate goal of her agonizingly exhaustively honest account of racism in America to liberate the oppressed from a racially biased construction that seeps into the behaviors of one strangers and even one's friends Rankin seeks to call attention to the dehumanization of the black community and she claimed for it the respect and equality that should undoubtedly come with being a United States citizen so without further ado please join us in welcoming Claudia Rankine good evening Danielle and Cassie thank you that I love when the introduction is actually a reading of the work since I am the work and not me so thank you for that that was beautiful and thank you all for coming I know I hate living my house so so I'm always like really in admiration of those beautiful manage to do it I want to thank everyone who was involved in in bringing me here but especially Lisa sue who has been a friend a collaborator and inspiration for as long as some of you have been alive is that even possible yes it is so thank you Lisa for being Lisa the coolest professor [Applause] I'm gonna we are going to perform seeing two of the white card which is my not latest but latest publication it came out of citizen and instead of telling you I'm going to read to you it's more organized and what I would say the introduction to the the preface to the book the play and it will explain to you how it connects from citizen because I know citizen one evening during a question-and-answer session a white middle-aged man stood up after movingly addressing my reading from citizen he asked me what can I do for you how can I help you as I stood on stage regarding him I wondered how to move his question away from me my story my body to the more relevant issues and dynamics regarding American history and white guilt tej Echolls essay the white savior industrial complex came back to me in that moment maybe it would have been better to use Cole's words directly to quote his extension of the Anna Arendt into the realm of whiteness the banality of evil transmutes into the banality of center the world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm that's the – a quote – a cold quote for this on from his book the white Savior industrial complex is not about justice it's about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege but in the moment I decided to climb out from behind all my reading references and quotes and engage his question personally without the distancing scaffolded referential speak his question struck me as an age-old defensive shield against identifying with acts of racism at the hands of liberal well-meaning white people the kind he had just listened to me read about his question did the almost imperceptible work of positioning him outside the problems citizen interrogate while maintaining his position of superiority relative to me in his act of offering to help me he would he would help answer not only my problems but those of all black people which he only at that moment recognized what otherwise was not implicated in or touched by he seemed oblivious to the realization that our problems as a society are dependent on his presence despite my project of saying this in all the ways I know how the afterlife of white supremacy to appropriate and flip on its head Cydia Hartman's the afterlife of slavery is all our problem Cole writes all he sees is need and he sees no need to reason out the for the need if he were to reason out the need for the need he would understand he need not invite himself to the scene he is already there there was so much that could be said about the often meaningless required reparative largesse eliteness in the face of human pain and suffering but in the minutes we had for our exchange I simply responded to the man I think the question you should be asking is what you can do for you he didn't appreciate my answers from inside his theatre of noblesse oblige which seems to come close to condescension but really exists in the depths of repression of American complicity with structural anti black racism rose and anger that I confess I didn't expect this is what he said if that is how you you answer questions he responded then no one will ask you anything the germinal thought the originating impulse of the white card came out of this man's question and his response to my response in his imagination where did I go wrong as I initially intended to express gratitude for his interests were his feelings and the feelings of the audience in general my first priority was recognition of his likability a necessary gateway into his ability to apprehend my work I really wanted to have the conversation he started I didn't come all this way not to engage but as the effect there is Lauren belonged has stated what does it do to one's attachment to life to have constantly to navigate atmospheres of white humorless miss it occurred to me after this incident that an audience member might read all the relevant books on the racism see all the documentaries and films and know the correct phrase to mention but in the moment of dialogue for confrontation retreat into a space of Defense cydnus anger silence which is to say he might retreat into the comfort of control which begins by putting me back in my imagined place perhaps any discussion of racism does not begin from a position of equality for those involved maybe the expectation is for the performance of something I as a black woman cannot see even as I object to its presence perhaps the only way to explore this known and yet invisible dynamic is to get in a room and act it out theatre is by its very nature space for and up encounter the writing on the white card is a way to test an imagined conversation regarding race and racism among strangers the dinner party as a social setting for the sharing of both space and conversation in the home of a white family seeing the benevolent natural if not exactly neutral sight the characters have come together to consider the terms of the exchange of art while they get to know one another what brings everyone to the room is a desire to be seen and known but what keeps them there is the complexity of our desire to the language so the white card takes takes place in two scenes the first is in the home of Charles Spencer and Charles Spencer's wife Virginia has been served and his art dealer Howard Smith and his son Alex Spencer are at the dinner also at the dinner the Charlotte Cummings she's a black artist they have her over because they want to buy a series of work that she's doing and that work she recreates crime scenes that have never been seen and Charles has a foundation where he buys work that portrays black Sephiroth so it doesn't have to be by a black artist but it has automatically to address the history of black suffering in the United States and for this reason he wants to buy this new series by Charlotte which is photographs recreated photographs of the shooting in Charlotte in trust and that's where the church was went and the nine people who were gunned down by doing the roof so she comes to the house and because they're having this black artists over their son is a college student at Columbia and they invite him because they think she he would like to meet Charlotte and while he's there they have another art piece that they've been meaning to give to him and they hand it to him at the dinner and it's an autopsy report of Michael Brown Charlotte sees this and begins to wonder about her own practice as an artist so that's scene one and what you will be hearing from ELISA Gonzalez who's an amazing student and in theater and Nicki I don't want to how do you say that men no men of TOD Cesar also am a student in theater will be seen to where Charles has called Charlotte and asked if he could come to her studio to discuss her latest show that he's just gone to see so that's where we're going to pick up thank you [Applause] Oh Spencer it's been a while almost a year I appreciate you taking the time to see me at such short notice I was happy to get your email this morning I'm glad it worked out however Virginia and Alex they're both fine we're all fine is Alec still doing his activism still out on the streets you should know he mentioned you not long ago he got it in his head that we should have apologized for not inviting other people of color to our dinner excuse me it was just that he felt we put you in the situation of explaining blackness first speaking for all people of color inviting more black people to explain would have spread out the work I see your point alex is sweet considerate – in any case Virginia did send me an apology if she said it wasn't your usual practice to devolve into a shouting arena at the end of dinner that was I hadn't realized she'd been in touch did she TiVo the Australian Open again this year no Serena wasn't playing we watched Federer win his 20th grand slam in real time that was pretty exciting tarnished unfortunately by that American from Tennessee who made the quarterfinals with his Facebook page of white supremacy likes you know it was a real disappointment to us that you decided to give the Charleston pieces to the studio Museum do you have a darkroom school really I've always worked digitally there's so much more freedom if you're willing to lose the romance of darkness to shame see you're an icon person my mother gave me that one for high school graduation is this her she's a beauty I'm assuming that's your dad next to her that's right are you their only child yes they were focused on their careers what did they do lawyer doctor except my father doesn't have patients he tracks the path of diseases I thought you didn't shoot film peg don't it was a gift to myself I just think cameras with they're collapsible lenses are beautiful you have others that's what I do you have others it's a collection of one it's from Berlin 1936 you know Ernst Leitz who manufacture the Leica help get the Jews out of Nazi Germany yes they're like a Freedom Train post war the Allies blew up photos of the amazing emancipated Jews and the dead bodies and the camps and forced the Germans to look at them to combat anti-semitism did it ever occur to you it could affect all those bodies could have fed their anti-semitism you would have to be an animal to see it that way whose photo is this these corpses with the cloth covering them it's taken by openness zeal Perez is he a person of color what he's white he's a French Magnum photographer does documentary Bosnia Rwanda Charles why are you here are you shopping for more black death you know where I went yesterday how would I know that Eric took me to see your new show that work was unrecognizable to me what are you up to up to I take it you don't like it what is there to like Wow fortunately the critics don't share your opinion personally I feel it's my most relevant work to date relevant to what I have no idea what to feel about it that surprises me after everything that has happened in the past year Charlottesville daata me to our daily tweets the indictments the tax plan shithole countries the government shutdown the shooting in Las Vegas and the high school shooting in parkland what else it has been a year hasn't it that's how the show felt to me like a reaction I have to admit I wondered if it was a response to our dinner no well actually yes so it was the autopsy piece but not because you bought it I couldn't get what you said out of my head I've said a lot of things what exactly that my work was no different from that piece not only after our dinner I went to the Whitney Biennial I was standing in front of the Umatilla painting the one that caused all the controversy and I could think was your foundation I kept wondering about your desire to collect Black Death I had this image of my work being held as in the old ship all that art just packed in like the dead and dying bodies themselves okay I don't mean to suggest you celebrate that you shouldn't celebrate the work of black artists it's the emphasis on black death that I needed to question for myself what does it mean to portray black suffering as art just looking at the chance and crime scene I realized what I wasn't seeing what what weren't you seeing you isn't it funny I realized I wasn't seeing you but I'm not someone to look at aren't you I can't stop thinking about those Michael Brown videos it's like nobody could see the white officer because of black man died I know how much a part of a part of the system I am but I am NOT the officer with a gun but you're locked into your imagination of blackness just like the officer was locked into his I really believe he thought he was being attacked he certainly wasn't seeing the person in front of him my god how many bullet holes were in that autopsy piece of yours it was horrific but my imagination of blackness and his are completely different all white men don't look alike look I don't want to think of the officer as a monster or Hulk Hogan or demon or whatever and I don't think you're a monster but his obsession with black people is with animals and your obsession with black people as victims are cut from the same cloth neither is human I just reject that I am NOT someone controlled by an imagination I don't understand Charles we were all raised wrong art is not trying to change the laws but it might make a parent something we didn't see about how we all grew up at least that's what I hope for my own that's what my foundations invested in that's the point exactly you keep wanting to focus on black victims and dead black bodies I understand that but maybe we've been looking in the wrong direction walk it backwards for example look at this who are these women soccer moms take a closer look they seem to be mostly white women that's true what else do you see is it a church group there's an American flag maybe a town-hall meeting for four mothers I don't know just tell me they're women in prison the prison you built in Ohio I doubt you would have said soccer moms if they were black you don't know what I would have said because I don't know what I would have said in any case your imagination like mine like everyone is a racial imagination except you don't really think of yourself as having a race and being shaped by the beliefs of that race my attention to Black's suffering is my attempt to get my whiteness out of your our way or your attention to black suffering allows you not to look at your own whiteness I understand my relationship to privilege and power well all your attention to your whiteness didn't allow you to see the approaching white nationalist in the White House many of us were shocked by what happened and is happening some words some still aren't this administration didn't beam down into our democracy it's an amplification of what's already been there we were focused on the bodies littering the streets and filling the prisons and shouldn't we have been people were dying Aggie guns just sold a Lichtenstein for a hundred and fifty million to finance a criminal justice fund that's great but black people have always been dying and not because black-on-black crime right so only just notice that they themselves are doing the killing here we go again i I truly am trying to find a way through Charles have you ever had the feeling you were all wrong all wrong completely misguided I mean I was making my work but I didn't understand what the desire for it was all about there I was handing over black deaths spectacle black death spectacle that is just millennial rhetoric that the painting of Emmett Till only caused all the controversy controversy because the artist was white but I was moved by that painting as I was moved by the painting of falando Castillo's murdered body at the same Whitney exhibition no one objected to that painting presumably because the painter was black no nobody objected to that painting because the artist has a developed craft and a deep consciousness of his history if you recall in the flambeaux Casteel painting the policeman with the gun is also Pleasant but what moved me was that both artists were reflecting back victims maybe you think those artists were making those paintings for you Charles because the black body is in a state you're comfortable with I have news for you they are making that work for me who the hell else is going to buy it not you do you really believe that dead and dying bodies are acceptable to me Michael Brown Freddie gray Eric garner Sandra bland Trayvon Martin Jolanda Castillo okay any convictions what that doesn't turn me into it can I get a glass of water how old are you how old were you in in 1998 in my early 20s why so around the age of Alec so around the age Alexes now Jeannie and I had two toddlers that on the news came the report that white supremacists dragged a black man to his death in Texas a lynching by car they tied him to the bumper and dragged him until his head and various other limbs detached from the trunk of his body I had nightmares for months I was about to graduate college my mother called me I thought all that was over I remember being relieved that the boys were young because how to explain I wanted them to inhabit inherit a different world I started doing what I could for for for me fair enough but also for me and for them for the boys the only thing I could think to do was find a way to prevent the forgetting I don't want to contribute to the silence our silences by showing work that exposes racism I think I can keep our history in the forefront black deaths are a part of that history what blackness can't be reduced to suffering if that means you lose the context in the history of how we got here let me show you something I've been thinking about you must know the artist Kerry James Marshall I was at the Met Breuer opening yes it was crowded room after room of huge colorful paintings of black life did you notice this Pease he calls heirlooms and accessories it isolates the faces of white women watching a lynching and puts them in lockets I don't remember seeing this I'm not surprised you didn't notice it when Marshall turns his attention to black suffering he sees the ordinary complicity of white people are you saying the faces of the white women are more horrible than the images of the lynched men in some ways yes that's only hard to accept because whiteness has been reduced to goodness in all of our psyches I believed Dylann roofs crime scenes should have been made public and now I still think on that but the closer I got to those dead bodies the more inhumane I became I was making objects of people to give to you this realisation upended my whole practice I want you to consider these without you taking them personally treated his research as a form of study that's me and pace gallery that's me outside the Met Gala Virginia and I at Lincoln Center what is this how did you I went to the openings and photographed you as I would any subject what a couple of months after our dinner I was at the Lynette yeah d'Amboise key a opening at the New York Museum and when I saw you I approached to say hello but you didn't recognize me in that moment I felt like the artwork you collected I was like an object you could be interested in or not depending on the day I didn't notice you in a crowd and you decided to stalk me I photographed you at an event you looked straight in the camera see this one here after I printed this I thought I might do a series you had no right I could sue you for invasion of privacy czar public events so you're sure that's getting all the great reviews all those images of white skin wallpaper in the gallery I knew it I knew it Charlotte is that my skin is that why it's called Exhibit C do I understand this correctly what difference does it make I care Exhibit C cares do you think I'm an idiot this is a insane I've worked so hard I think you'd be grateful gratitude is that what you need from me I took an interest in you now I'm taking an interest in you come on Jesus Charles what's so wrong about talking about whiteness and who knows more about being white than you you know you know nothing about me you don't know how I've lived my life you have no idea what's in my heart Charles grabs her by the shoulders what is it you think you know what are you doing Charlotte look at me tell me what you see do you see anything beyond our history Charleston Charlottesville that's what I know our history the present what do you mean beyond beyond what can you ever see Charles Spencer tell me that you understand I am NOT that history tell me that you see me all I've been doing is looking at you for months like your Moses doors open for you people step aside for you you have so much mobility Charles what do you want me to say if I am only ever a white man to you how far will that get us what do you see when you look at me but daylight what does that even mean you of all people should understand that you and I are out in the world and it's as if there's a fault line that runs the entirety of our lives between us on your terms there's no way for me to get to you on the other side despite all the segregation the tragedy is we are on the same side we've always been here together shipwrecked here together you're right we are here together wrecked together solitary here together but the feeling is the feeling of a gap the gap Charles is caused because you refused the role you actually play I don't need you to show me me me me me you don't need me to show you anything that's probably the first honest thing you've said you shortly we've already you know I have to I thought you were different than all the others but in the end for you I'm just this annoyance that won't conform to your good works your acting is if I think of you as some kind of project don't you I do believe I can help if you actually want to help why don't you make you your project what about me my money my power my mobility as you say I mean the mass murder and devastation that comes with you being you me being me mass murder devastation it's hard not to hear that as a completely irrational attack racism exists outside of reason black people have never been human that is so hopeless go further into that hopelessness and then we can begin to really see each other you're right to keep me a part of it my whiteness it needs to be faced at its deepest level yes it's just skin and yet I know its power – what is skin I've heard dust is mostly skin is this my skin yours chels we're shedding skin all the time thousands of cells a minute but it renews itself I've never actually looked at my skin how many cells is it how porous is it how many layers are there where is it darkest where lightest he begins to unbutton his shirt all my skin is holding me together good Lord all the skin shields me it protects me from from being you it's like the badge of the police he removes his shirt and turns his back to her I'm ready Charlotte you can shoot me now he stands there with his back to her and arms at his side leonard cohen's different sides begins to play charlotte ties her smock around her waist and taking off her shoes steps onto a crate binding her hands with his scarf she stares at sharp at Charles's back Charles turns around his horror and confusion are apparent there is the click and flash of a camera [Applause] so that was the first iteration of investigating what it means to have a conversation the the idea of a conversation in a conversation you're reliant on the other person because you can build something together that you can't build on your own that's the definition that the theorist Lauren Bolin uses I'm gonna read a little bit from an essay from my new book justice which is a kind of internet anatomy of how conversations work I met a dinner where the whys and wherefores of the 2016 presidential election come off because they do and one guess it turns out is writing a book in the description of the book the role of racism is barely mentioned hold up it's been my belief anti black racism as the mighty engine that bought our current president to power the very president who refers to himself as a nationalist many factors or the rhetorical tide I swim upstream against as if George Wallace had been attributed his political success to the articulation of racist rhetoric despite his declared neutral feelings about black people Wallace ran on segregation now segregation tomorrow segregation forever and promised to protect anglo-saxon Southland what exactly has changed there was no way to protect predict that white Democrats who had voted for former President Obama would vote in key states for a fascist regime is the persistent retort our resident expert added that he didn't have a crystal ball as if armed dead black people were lying American streets or white people weren't calling the police on black people without cause with full knowledge of all the ways that could go wrong and end in a loss of life and as if our 45th president hadn't begun his run his preliminary run on the lie that voters have been duped by president who wasn't born in America my dogged insistence meant I was sailing closer and closer to the trope of the angry black woman I wasn't completely right there were the Russians the electorial college and misogyny but I needed these people to admit the obvious why couldn't they understand I would rather be wrong would gladly join them in the perception of an unpredictable world if I could I learned early that being right pales next to staying in the room all kinds of things happen as the night unfolds but sometimes I become caught by the idea that repetition occurs if the wheels keep spinning repetition is insistence and one can only collude so much sometimes I just want to throw myself inside the gears sometimes as James Baldwin said I want to change one word or a single sentence it's harder than you would think because white people don't really want to change if it means they need to think differently than they do about who they are we have precedent in Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson who blacklisted Eartha Kitt after she confronted the Johnsons of Vietnam at a luncheon at the White House Democrats all whiteness does want the kind of progress that reflects what if values a reflection of itself and as if to underline this a metaphorical white hand reaches out to pull me back into the fold from the perilous edge of angry black womanhood a white woman effectively ends the conversation on 45s campaign tactus by turning her gaze towards the dessert tray how beautiful she says homemade brownies on a silver tray harissa Fay gesture I have been I have seen exhibited so often by white women and only women who are overcome by shiny objects it's a blatant of redirect I can't help but ask aloud the most obvious question am I being silenced I'm aware my question breaks the rules of social engagement I'm aware I will never be invited back to this house back into the circle of these very people I understand inadvertently causing someone to feel shame isn't cool but am I being silenced I wanted this white woman to look at me to look me in the eye and say yes yes you are I wanted her to own her action and knocked our I would have liked her then instead all of us around the table have to watch her sink into her seat as she looks down at her hands as if I've refused to shake them now the others have to take sides white solidarity needs to be reestablished it's then I understand I forfeited the game the minute I stepped into a house where I am the only black guest the purse the woman and I could have started conversing instead of one of us using language to erase the next moment doesn't she see that even as a white woman she remains subject to the arbitrary power of our executive branch shouldn't we get clear on how we got here or our alliances set does she see my insistence as its own form of erasure or his white civility simply being put to work to maintain the fiction of white benevolence and the uncouthness of blackness as I wonder if it's time to leave in order to restore my own and the dinners equilibrium someone else stairs the conversation consciously or unconsciously away from the brownies to a gentle way of speaking about race race and children the question at hand is whether a Child Study Center should delete the word study from its title the center is located in a city with a majority black population the dominant feeling around the table seems to be that the concern over the name is frivolous the center is attached to the academic institution after all where all is done in the name of study and research as I sit there listening to these people at least polite white people discuss this I realized the history of experimenting on black people does not hold a place in their referential memory no one makes mention of Tuskegee syphilis expert experiment or the military experiments of mustard gas on black soldiers among other non-whites or Jer Jade Marion sins experimentation on black women no mention of enemy relax my historical memory starts tossing examples at me like it's having its own dinner party in the real one no one wonders what the parents of the black children think when they see the word study associated with the center knowing that my silence is active in the room I stay dumb because I want to make a point of that dumbness among white people glad people are allowed to talk about their precarious lives but they are not allowed to implicate the present company in that paternity they're not allowed to point out the causes of that Beccaria sness Sarah Amin writes in the phenomenology of lightness that the person who names the problem becomes the problem to create discomfort by pointing out facts is seen as socially unacceptable let's get over ourselves it's structural not personal I want to shout at everyone including myself but all the structures and all the diversity planning put in place to alter those structures and all the desires of whites to assimilate blacks in their day-to-day lives come with the continued outrage at rage all the perceived outrage at me the guest who brings all of herself to dinner all of it her body her history her fares are furious fares our expectations is in the end so personal the mutual anxieties and angers blow invisible a wind blustery turbulent squally overcast find a discomfort level I push my brownie around on my plate I am middle-aged and overweight I shouldn't eat this I shouldn't eat anything nothing moments like these make me understand but not knowing on the particles and the perceived tires some insistence on presenting one's knowledge on the part of blackness might be a fruitless and childless childish exercise do I believe either of these positions enough to change my ways might as well stop the Sun from rising tomorrow yes had the woman who admired the desert ray in an attempt to redirect the conversation said to me here's your coat what's your hurry now that would have made me smile the corner of my mouth would have lifted and raised my cheeks to form crow's feet goodnight am i answering questions apparently I'm answer it's um well it's based in part on the work of the Canadian photographer no no no it's gonna come to me I'm just I think I'm a little tired but whose picture uphills up earlier Jeff wall and Jeff wall Jeff wall in his in his pictures is interested in this notion of unfreedom and so in walking around he sometimes sees moments of microaggressions that happened so quickly that he can't photograph them so here II stages them well the most famous one is a white couple walking and there's an Asian man who walks by them and the white man goes like this so it's you know a gesture that he probably saw that took about two seconds and then he got actors to restage it so in act 1 charlotte talks about Jeff walls work and the way in which his interest in catch catching these moments exist behind her work in some way thank you ya know it's a question that I've had before and they the the collecting of stories for citizen was probably more exhausting than the writing in citizen you know because when you're writing it you're sort of interested in what language can do for you but when you are listening to actual people tell you what has happened to them and hand and you're in relation with them and have to hold what they're giving you emotionally I found that very exhausting but but then when you're writing you're in a different place in your brain because you're you're making a thing and and so it becomes more of a kind of game of attrition to let get the thing done like how do you do it how do you make it how do you make visible something that's invisible but I you know my new book my a couple people have read the new book this week and they said to me it's so exhausted and and I hadn't you know I worked on the individual pieces but I haven't really sat down and read it from cover to cover so yesterday I did that I sat down and I read it from cover to cover and it was exhausted I did feel like this is not fun I mean it's a book that has these conversations in them and and they're it's a book where I have shown up I mean I show up I show up in this book as fully as I can show up on the page and I did find that it exhausting to kind of stay with the the emotion to kind of dissect what it is I was actually feeling and often I was much more irritated than I had initially thought I was as I was writing that worked well you know the earlier books the end of the alphabet and plot were books where I was really interested in coming up with a kind of language that accounted for emotion without narrative you know because I find a lot I don't know if you guys have this experience but I find a lot that people talk to you and they're like and then this happened and then this happened a minute and then this happened and and then you know she said this and I and then you you're not really concerned with the details of what they're saying what you're really listening for is how they feel like you take your cue of how you're gonna feel by how they feel and so all of the narratives are there to express to you I felt terrible I felt bad so I think plot and develop me lonely really like how do you do it without the history without the story behind it how do you get the emotion to live on its own and then I went to London to live for a while my husband was doing uh setting up a company in London and it was just when Bush who is now here apparently was running for president and and he was in a debate somebody asked him about he was governor of Texas at the time and someone asked him about the lynching of James beard and he didn't remember and it had happened in his state and the lynching of a man it was like the most gruesome thing I've ever heard somebody tying a person behind and this is a story that Charles tells and dragging him till his body's parts off of the trunk of his body and so I think that moment became the moment when I thought oh I need to come up with a form that carries the narrative in the history of it and I have his thinking about how to do it and John my husband was in Paris and I had gone down to spend the weekend with him and he was busy doing work and I remember exactly the moment this happened I was walking from the Pompidou back to our hotel and I started grabbing the napkins off of the tables the cafe the outside tables and writing on them and that was the start of don't let me be lonely because somehow something between that visit at the Museum and me walking back to that hotel triggered the form for don't let me be alone man and so I had all of these little white paper napkins in my pocket but by the time I got back to the hotel and that that idea that you can bring or you have to bring the history and the details in and the sentence will have to be the organizing principle of the piece well the book has there are all these things that happen when I'm working on a book that maybe only I know because they're only important to me so when I was working on don't let me be lonely it became in dime mind a kind of editorial that was speaking back to the news and to life and and so because of that I wanted that long form that sort of mimicked editorials in the newspaper and then I wanted a kind of black-and-white book which meant that the images had to be more less artistic and more graphic and the television was in there and so that those that determined a lot like once you figure that out it determines not only typeface and fonts and size of the book it also determines what kinds of images you can use in citizen the trick was how do I get images that live together and so with the exception of the Turner which is a last piece I knew that if I was going to use historical photographs then I was going to need to work more with photography than with painting and so that kind of took a lot of people off the table unless it was a painter like Marshall who was then going to do a piece like heirlooms and accessories which is not in citizen book that's not the point but so with this book this is a this is a book in response to fake news and the justice so the images are more editorial and less artistic because they have to live up against actual fact-checking notes because the fact-checking nodes which have to do with a very sort of scholarly use of text and FBI reports and police reports you know so you want the relationship between the image and the quality of the supporting material to live in the same house which is not to say there aren't some images that could find its way in but but that's how the term you know it's like you build the house and once you build the house certain things can't go in that house unless you're wild and crazy which I'm not so it becomes it becomes the rules get made as the structure firms itself up oh sorry this yes and there's a guy behind you – yeah well I think preparations it depends on how you think about reparations right like if you know why people often you'll hear them say and I use white people as a big category but obviously I don't mean I mean it as a position because there are white people who probably don't belong in the white people category you know so but there are some white people who believe that reparations is about money like either we should give some money to these people or we shouldn't give any money to these people but they think it's about money but if you think about reparations in terms of just writing wrongs like maybe all the schools can be like schools funded where white children go to me that would be reparations that the the quality of education becomes equal across the board that would be a form of reparations the quality of loans given out to potential homeowners equal across the board that would be a point you know reparations so you know it's kind of like you know the new thing where everybody says before we begin we must acknowledge that and every time I hear that I'm waiting for and we should also acknowledge that we will never give it back you know so like that would be reparations to me like just tell the truth just tell the truth so I think I think that kind I just would love if we could all just start from a place of the truth and then if that if we agreed that all the resources went to this school and none went to that school I mean one of the pieces in this book is about district I think it's nice district 3 in New York did you guys hear about this it's it's the Upper West Side and what the developers call South Harlem that area has been so gentrified that all the public schools now are very white majority white students some Asians but majority white the the school board has decided that they need to integrate the schools so you're talking about Columbia faculty parents and others who live in that neighborhood there were meetings where they said things like we don't want this schools integrated because the students will feel like imposters so the students were the minority students and so what does that mean they will feel like imposters so if they come to school where they get better educated they will be imposter white people or imposter educated kids but these are people like professional educated Americans with college and higher degrees standing up and saying no we do not want these schools educated you can go online look it up you know they're like this is unfair to our kids we don't want them here and this was last year it's happened last year and not in the south and the Upper West Side of New York City and you know luckily the principal was like I'm gonna release this to the public and he sent the video of the school board meeting he posted it online which is how we know that because he said this is not acceptable we have to consider children all our children but he what he said was we have to consider all our children not just the ones in our house our children but now they're doubled emailing so much that it will end up the compromises will end up back keeping the school's majority white so long answer to your question i mean i think i think sentimentality around white benevolence happens when people don't are not willing to see how they are complicit in the system as it stands and feel as if they can have a moment of goodness and then go back to their life as it was before and reparations if one thinks about it structurally in terms of writing the structure creating some equality within what we consider inalienable rights like a good education good health care then then I think we would be moving forward you know whites have ten times the wealth of black people on average ten times wealth of black people on average that is not accidental thank you very much [Applause]

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