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The White Card: A Play door Claudia Rankine
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The White Card: A Play (editie 2019)

door Claudia Rankine (Auteur)

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"A play about the imagined fault line between black and white lives by Claudia Rankine, the author of Citizen. The White Card stages a conversation that is both informed and derailed by the black/white American drama. The scenes in this one-act play, for all the characters' disagreements, stalemates, and seeming impasses, explore what happens if one is willing to stay in the room when it is painful to bear the pressure to listen and the obligation to respond."--Publisher's description.… (meer)
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Claudia Rankine’s latest work is a play. It premiered last year in Boston and was covered locally, but I didn’t know anything about it until I saw an advance copy of the published script listed as “coming soon” at my library’s Overdrive account. The White Card is a two-act play that explores whiteness, white privilege, and how they affect art, and it grew out of Rankine’s public Q&As about her much lauded poetry collection, Citizen: An American Lyric. The play has five characters: Virginia and Charles, a wealthy white couple who are art collectors, their college-aged son Alex, their white art dealer Eric, and Charlotte, a youngish black artist whose work most recent work they hope to acquire.

White Card book cover
The first act takes place in Virginia and Charles’s apartment, which is filled with art on the themes of racism and protest. They’ve given their black maid (their description, not mine) the night off and are hosting Charlotte and Eric to dinner. Charlotte is picky about whom she will sell her artwork to and Virginia and Charles know she hasn’t decided about them, but they seem pretty confident that their liberal credentials will get them what they want. The conversation is stilted and predictable, a reprise of set pieces we’ve seen at least since Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Reading the dialogue rather than seeing it performed emphasizes how stylized it is, but it’s mostly effective and builds to a shattering climax in the first half, when Virginia and Charles reveal their latest race-centered acquisition. They see it as part of their overall collection, which they have curated to emphasize the racism and inequalities black Americans live with, and they (and to a lesser extent Eric) can’t understand why Alex and Charlotte find it exploitative and unacceptable. It’s a predictable outcome, but it is powerful nonetheless.

The second act takes place a year after this dinner party and is a two-hander between Charlotte and Charles. And it occurs on Charlotte’s turf: Charles comes to her studio. Charlotte’s experience the previous year led her to abandon her work in progress, which was a restaging of the Charleston church killings. She has come to believe that constantly showing black bodies in states of distress or as subjects of violence reinforces whiteness and the white gaze rather than challenging it, and she has turned her method to a different subject: Charles.

She shows Charles the photos she’s taken over the last few months, all of which emphasize his power, status, and privilege. Charles is appalled and accuses her of stalking him and invading his privacy, but Charlotte points out that they were all public events in which she could be clearly seen photographing him. He just didn’t recognize her outside the context in which he had mentally placed her.

When I read the second act, I suddenly realized that the predictability of the first act (I think one reviewer called it “hackneyed”) was a perfect setup for what comes next. That dinner party is a scene we’ve seen, read, or even experienced many times, with well-meaning white people who are both complacent in their belief in their own liberal leanings but also needy, in that they want the objects of their largesse to confirm their goodness. The second act, by contrast, takes that familiarity and upends it. Rather than focusing on the objects of racism, Charlotte’s photographs objectify a perpetrator. Each photo reinforces Charles’s privilege, which is the privilege which does so much to sustain white supremacy, and covering his walls with photographs of Ferguson and the Million Man March doesn’t do a thing to change that. Charles’s protests are in part a revulsion against the partial view they offer of him. He wants to be seen as more than his dinner jacket and nonprofit board membership. Don't we all. ( )
  Sunita_p | May 16, 2019 |
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"A play about the imagined fault line between black and white lives by Claudia Rankine, the author of Citizen. The White Card stages a conversation that is both informed and derailed by the black/white American drama. The scenes in this one-act play, for all the characters' disagreements, stalemates, and seeming impasses, explore what happens if one is willing to stay in the room when it is painful to bear the pressure to listen and the obligation to respond."--Publisher's description.

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