Michael Eric Dyson tells it like it is in Tears We Cannot Stop. Subtitled A Sermon for White America, it is just that. In both structure and tone, Dyson combines his experience as both pastor and professor. It is a moving and emotional book. But it’s also exquisitely literate and deeply meaningful.
As a white woman, I’m on a quest to expand my perspective. This book sets the tone for another year of questioning and learning. Dyson speaks right to his readers, calling them “Beloved” throughout. But it’s tough love, since he’s also pointing out faults in logic and understanding.
Dyson incorporates examples of white privilege and racial injustice from many different eras—starting with white settlers “discovering” a country full of inhabitants to our current 45th President. He talks about the fallacy of a race-neutral society, where people speak of not seeing color.
“When some of you say, ‘I don’t see color,’ you are either well-intending naïfs or willful race evaders. In either case you don’t help the cause. The failure to see color only benefits white America. A world without color is a world without racial debt.” (pg. 86)
In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent release, We Were Eight Years in Power, he talks of making reparations to people whose ancestors were slaves. Dyson explains how white America can do that. He suggests reaching out and making friends with black people with whom you have common interests. He includes a long, really long, list of suggested reading to educate yourself. (Here’s a Pinterest board with many of the suggestions.) And then, he says, take that knowledge and share it with the white people in your life. He suggests participating actively in causes that specifically affect black people. Or visiting black churches, including a list of recommended black preachers, who I’m sure are on YouTube as well. Dyson’s specific suggestions give a broader concept specific application, which is vital to making change.
I’ll admit, during the first 50 or so pages of this book I was a bit put off by its tone. But I wasn’t willing to put it down, and soon the words began to resonate for me. I started flagging important passages, and ended up with a book full of them. (See the photo above.) This isn’t a one-time read, it’s a book I’ll reference again and again. I’ll buy copies for both the liberal and conservative thinkers in my life. It’s just that good.
Read this, my friends. Read it and follow Dyson’s suggestions. Share it and discuss it. And maybe, just maybe, we can start making this world a better place for everyone.