Poetry About Race : Not My Voice Today, but Claudia Rankine’s

Writing about race as a white woman. Wanting to do the right thing, and yet falling short. Second guessing myself. Saying something stupid. Argh!

Rather than even go there today, I’m offering fans of the Cupertino Poet Laureate an essay by Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda, called “On Whiteness and The Racial Imaginary: Where writers go wrong in imagining the lives of others.” I found this excerpt (adapted from the foreword to The Racial Imaginary, a collection of essays edited by Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda, available from Fence Books.) on Literary Hub, my new favorite place.

This is my first favorite quote: … our imaginations are creatures as limited as we ourselves are. They are not some special, uninfiltrated realm that transcends the messy realities of our lives and minds. To think of creativity in terms of transcendence is itself specific and partial—a lovely dream perhaps, but an inhuman one.

And this is my second …. Part of the mistake the white writer makes is that she confounds the invitation to witness her inevitable racial subjectivity with a stigmatizing charge of racism that must be rebutted at all costs. The white writer, in the moment of crisis, typically cannot tell the difference. What a white person could know instead is this: her whiteness limits her imagination—not her reader’s after the fact. A deep awareness of this knowledge could indeed expand the limits—not transcend them, but expand them, make more room for the imagination. A good thing.

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