Claudia Rankine

 

[excerpt 1]

 


In the next frame the pickup truck is in motion. Its motion activates its darkness.
The pickup truck is a condition of darkness in motion. It makes a dark subject.
You mean a black subject. I mean a black object.

Then the pickup is beating the black object to the ground and the tire
marks the crushed organs. Then the audio, I ran that nigger over, is itself
a record-breaking hot June day in the 21st century.

The pickup returns us to live cruelty, like sunrise, red streaks falling from
dawn to asphalt—
Then again this pickup is not about beauty. It’s a pure product.

The announcer patronizes the pickup truck, no hoodlums, “just teens;” no gang,
“just a teen,” “with straggly blond hair,” “a slight blond man.” The pickup
is human in this predictable way. Do you recognize yourself Daryl Dedmon?

In the circulating photo you are looking down. Were you dreaming of this
day all the days of your youth? In the daydream did the pickup take you home?
Was it a pickup fueling the road to I ran that nigger over?

Baldwin says skin color cannot be more important than the human being. But
was the pickup constructing or exploding whiteness out of you? You are so sorry.
But you were angry, an explosive anger, an effective one: I ran that nigger over.

Craig Anderson is dead. The pickup truck is a figure of speech. It is as the crown
standing in for the kingdom. Who told you it was a crown? Did we tell you
the pickup was as good as home? You are so young Dedmon. You were so young.

Craig Anderson is dead. What ails you Daryl Dedmon? What up? What’s up is
Craig Anderson is dead. I am so sorry. But I am angry, an imploding anger,
an ineffective one. But we can let each other go. We can let each other go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[excerpt 2]

 

 

I felt whatever is happening is happening
in front of me but then the police vehicle
came to a screeching halt in front of me
like they were setting up a blockade.
Everywhere were flashes, a siren sounding
and a stretched out roar. Get on the ground.
Get on the ground now. Then I just knew.

And you are not the guy but still you fit
the description because there is only one guy
who is always the guy fitting the description.

 

***

 

I left my client’s house knowing I would
be pulled over. I knew. I just knew.
I opened my briefcase on the passenger seat,
just so they could see. “Yes officer”
rolled around on my tongue, which felt
like it grew out of a bell that could never ring
its emergency because its emergency
was the tolling I would have to swallow.

In a landscape that was once an ocean bed,
you can’t drive yourself to sane—so angry
you are crying. You can’t drive yourself to sane.
This motion wears a guy out. Our motion is
wearing you out and still you are not that guy.

 

***

 

Then flashes, a siren, a stretched out roar—

And you are not the guy but still you fit
the description because there is only one guy
who is always the guy fitting the description.

Get on the ground. Get on the ground now.
I must have been speeding. No, you weren’t
speeding. I wasn’t speeding? You didn’t do
anything wrong? Then why are you pulling
me over? Why am I pulled over? Put your
hands where they can be seen. Put your
hands in the air. Put your hands up.

Then you are stretched out on the hood.
Then cuffed. Then get on the ground now.

 

***

 

Each time it begins in the same way,
it doesn’t begin the same way,
each time it begins it’s the same.

Flashes, a siren, the stretched out roar—

Maybe because home was a hood
the officer could not afford, not that
a reason was needed, I was pulled out
of my vehicle a block from my door,
handcuffed and pushed into the police
vehicle’s back seat, the officer’s knee
pressing into my collarbone, the officer’s
warm breath vacating a face creased
into the smile of its own private joke.

 

***

 

Each time it begins in the same way,
it doesn’t begin the same way,
each time it begins it’s the same.

Go ahead and hit me motherfucker,
fled my lips but the officer did not
need to hit me, the officer did not
need anything from me but the look
on my face on the drive across town.

You didn’t drive yourself insane.
You are not insane. Our motion is
wearing you out. You are not the guy.

 

***

 

This is what it looks like. You know this
is wrong. This is not what it looks like.
You need to be quiet. This is wrong. You
need to close your mouth now. This is
what it looks like. Why are you talking
if you haven’t done anything wrong?

And you are not the guy but still you fit
the description because there is only one guy
who is always the guy fitting the description.

 

***

 

In a landscape that was once an ocean bed,
you can’t drive yourself to sane—so angry
you are crying. You can’t drive yourself to sane.

The charge the officer decided on
was exhibition of speed. I was told,
after the fingerprinting, to stand
naked. I stood naked. It was only then
I was instructed to dress, to leave,
to walk all those miles back home.

And still you are not the guy but still you fit
the description because there is only one guy
who is always the guy fitting the description.

 

 

 

 

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