As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man’s voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece “Death in Black and White,” Michael Eric Dyson moved a nation. Now he continues to speak out in Tears We Cannot Stop—a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.
“The time is at hand for reckoning with the past, recognizing the truth of the present, and moving together to redeem the nation for our future. If we don’t act now, if you don’t address race immediately, there very well may be no future.”
A must-read primer to race in America, especially for people who are new to racial justice. Aimed specifically at white people but readable by anyone, Dyson explains why history, police brutality, and white fragility matter.
Don’t be put off by the fact that the author is a minister – he’s not pushing a god on anyone, much appreciated by this agnostic. Using the framework of a sermon Dyson goes through the stages of white guilt, the construction of whiteness, the specter of slavery, and more. As a primer he avoids going overly deep, which is perfect for what he’s doing. Other authors have covered the specifics elsewhere and he lists dozens of them if you’d like to read more.
What gets to me is that the people who need to read this most – whites with no grounding in racial justice – are the least likely to pick it up. So read it yourself and put it in other people’s hands. We need to get the message out.