Professor Michael Eric Dyson’s latest book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, can be read as a summation of all the related issues that together gives us a template for where and how to begin the discussion on race. This book provides a “cheat sheet” of sorts that identifies key issues and gives examples of their lineage and how they impact our understanding of ourselves.
As I read the book I began to see it as a check list of a lot of what I would want to say to white people, if given the chance, with personal experiences and some historical anecdotes included to drive home the message that their whiteness does not entitle them to determine how the world should be organized.
On the inside of the front and back covers Dyson asks the reader, “How can we make it through the long night of despair to the bright light of hope.” This question begs the notion that Dyson is attempting to remove the veil of some of the most continuous issues of race relations without being confrontational. Later Dyson answers this question by saying “love and hope can only come about if we first confront the poisonous history that almost unmade our nation and undone our social compact.”
Midway through the book Dyson describes the reaction of a young white student, in his Georgetown University sociology class, when he learns some of the unvarnished truths about America’s original sin; slavery. The student testifies that he is ashamed of being white, but Dyson’s objective is not to cause pain but to guide his students in realizing the truths about America while respecting our common humanity in the process.
Readers looking for an Afrocentric perspective to white supremacy will be disappointed in this book. Issues of western versus African cosmology are outside the boundaries of Dyson’s critique, but I found it valuable in making an easily understood and insightful explanation of where we are and where we need to be.
Dyson’s remedy to white America is what he calls an IRA, or Individual
Reparations Account. Dyson suggest white people share their wealth, in time and money to assist black people who can use the help. Tipping a little more for services, donating to charities and race-based causes are just some examples. I found the book enlightening and provocative and I believe you will to.