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About the Author

Michael Eric Dyson dives deeply into the true meaning of Barack Obama's historic presidency and its effects on the changing landscape of race and blackness in America. How has race shaped Obama's identity, career, and presidency? What can we learn from his major race speeches about his approach to show more racial conflict and the black criticism it provokes? Dyson was granted an exclusive interview with the president for this book, and Obama's own voice shines through. Along with interviews with Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters, and others, this intimate access provides a unique depth to this engrossing analysis of the nation's first black president, and how race shapes and will shape our understanding of his achievements and failures alike. Michael Eric Dyson is a New York Times op-ed contributor, a Georgetown University professor, an MSNBC political analyst, and the best-selling author of seventeen books, including the American Book Award-winning Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. show less

Works by Michael Eric Dyson

Pride: The Seven Deadly Sins (2006) 148 copies
Why I Love Black Women (2003) 87 copies
Unequal: A Story of America (2022) 62 copies
JAY-Z: Made in America (2019) 58 copies
Political Correctness Gone Mad? (2018) — Contributor — 30 copies
JAY 1 copy

Associated Works

Roots (1976) — Introduction, some editions — 6,785 copies
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018) — Foreword, some editions — 4,330 copies
Revolutionary Suicide (1973) — Introduction, some editions — 513 copies
Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology (1992) — Contributor, some editions — 444 copies
A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer (2007) — Contributor — 105 copies
Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America (1995) — Contributor — 91 copies
Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy (2020) — Foreword, some editions — 41 copies
Prison Industrial Complex For Beginners (2016) — Foreword — 39 copies
Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World (2020) — Afterword, some editions — 38 copies


2020 (48) Africa (137) African American (299) African American History (55) African Americans (114) America (55) American (53) American history (93) anti-racism (84) audiobook (59) biography (218) civil rights (72) classic (46) culture (49) ebook (61) essays (55) family (49) family history (46) fiction (453) genealogy (112) historical (69) historical fiction (287) history (325) Kindle (69) literature (62) memoir (49) non-fiction (700) novel (104) politics (152) race (409) race relations (130) racism (383) read (94) slavery (332) social justice (124) sociology (143) to-read (897) unread (57) USA (116) white privilege (46)

Common Knowledge



I wasn’t hostile to this book when I read it the first time, but I wasn’t really attuned to it, and so I shall have to re-read it to understand it better. However, I have been thinking about this book as I remember it and I think I am beginning to agree with it. I didn’t intentionally, or desire to, shoehorn Mike into the kinda brainless-yet-uselessly-brainiac assumptions of Anglo philosophy, you know. Aristotle and Augustine say different things, yet we know as an historical fact, that Aristotle bonded with Augie 500 years later or whether (700 years? 1700 years? 2000 years?) over their shared skin tone, right. (Perhaps they both fielded a few “goddamn dago” comments, right—remember, these guys have been around for a LONG time! 😸). But yeah: I went into my reading thinking I was going to like having a Black philosopher’s book—I know: ONE book! 😸—and I found the whole non-Anglo (and non-Anglo-Asian! OMG! 😱) POV very hard to digest, right. It’s like, Wow…. He really looks at things different, right! I didn’t know that that’s what philosophy was about! I thought it meant we were all agreed! 😹

But yeah: I do now think that his ideas that pride, proper or basically human pride, as a good thing, and white pride as an infamous evil, are complementary and do not militate against each other…. He does talk about Black pride, as a Black person, and having participated in the oft-neglected Black accomplishment of survival in an incredibly colonial/hostile world, right: but he’s not actually arguing that palefaces never have any accomplishment to be proud of, right. He’s literally just saying that we shouldn’t be proud of how we look like slaveholders, you know: that’s a pernicious, false pride. But the classic theologian thing where you’re filled with shame for being a human being isn’t the answer.

And yeah: as an example—and I hope this doesn’t come across as personal animosity: as an actor, (arguably but not exclusively, certainly, in those times) his job was literally to be a sort of type, you know—not quite an archetype, or cross-cultural type, exactly, but a sort of specifically Anglo American type, was how we were meant to implicitly conceptualize it, I think: and certainly he was a handsome individual and a symbol of what Old Hollywood considered charming, but I think James Stewart kinda represented the man who was extremely reticent to accept praise for his own individual accomplishments, but who implicitly wanted to be praised for being the American white man, you know—in other words, he shunned proper or human pride, and accepted in its place white pride, or perhaps male chauvinist pride (of the cultured variety). He represented the neurosis of the time, right.

He certainly did have some personal accomplishments. Aside from his literal acting career, I saw a book in a library yesterday that says he was in WWII—apparently he signed up even before Pearl Harbor: so he must have been both brave and a news junkie, sorry, an informed citizen—and that for his whole life he refused to speak about it and deflected praise about it, and they had to wait until after he was dead to research and write this book. It was a very pro-mythology book, it sounded like, it was called “Mission” and sounded like it referred to him in very romantic/saintly terms, you know. And even onstage, his characters are often kinda…. Like, you’re meant to walk away thinking that if that guy is a hero, ANY white man is a hero, right: it’s not that ~James Stewart~ is a hero, right. Like, as Senator Smith he’s kinda—I mean, people literally make fun of him because he’s a joke—and as George Bailey, he’s sitting around wondering if he’s a bad sort because he didn’t get to fight in the war, right. (!). But the sorta background-pride fills in, you know: there are so few Black actors that it’s hard to get a sense of ‘race’ other than the sheer overwhelming exclusion, right—although nobody of that generation as ‘patriotic’ or whatever as James minded having the Black mammy just kinda being convenient furniture, right, (“It’s a Wonderful Life”), and in the “Mr. Smith” movie you get kinda some examples of his style of masculinity, you know—polite exclusion, a style he seems to embody pretty comfortably, you know; he just delivers the lines perfectly. Like, he literally gives one of those “for a woman, you’re ok” comments—and of course, it’s 1939, so she responds with shock, you know: “you mean I’m not total shit, only 50%? Oh, that’s more than I deserve….”—you know, it’s like…. I mean, it’s two things: one, is that they’re bonding, and so he wants to send this ambivalent message, you know: I want to bond with you; but you’re not me, and you’re not like me: we’re different…. We can hold hands, but our arms have to remain fully extended, right…. But you can work for me. I can assign you tasks to complete for me, because for someone like you, you’re not so bad, you know…. And the other, yeah, is the polite-exclusion-pride that men extended to women: which was also how white people treated Black people, right. (When they weren’t lynching them, of course.)….

So yeah: it’s almost like being a human being—just a concrete, enfleshed, in-the-abstract-capable-of-both-good-or-bad condition, isn’t really the problem, right. It’s almost like the problem is having such contempt for yourself that you deflect praise, pride—and even happiness—and have to demean and shame others to compensate, right.

(pauses, considers this) (waves hands) Nah, it can’t be that….
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goosecap | 3 other reviews | May 10, 2024 |
Gr 7 Up—This collaboration offers a look at how race has been woven into the fabric of our country through brief
biographies of civil rights heroes. Spanning 1865 to 2021, this work profiles 20 Black Americans; teens can digest
the substantial narrative profile by profile, but it's best read as a whole.
BackstoryBooks | 1 other review | Apr 1, 2024 |
there is some real beauty in his words and his attitude of hope and forgiveness, and there are obviously a lot of important things he talks about here. i found so much of this kind of surface level and not really adding much new to the conversation, though, while still agreeing with what he was saying, until i got to the kobe bryant section. i have really thought about what he says there because i want to do the work and make sure it's not my biases talking but i remember the amount of blood on the hotel floor, i remember the evidence and i remember the way she was dragged through the mud in public and why she dropped the charges. i remember. and i won't ever forget. so i tried, but thought his take on kobe was awful and offensive. but i hear what he's saying about black bodies and justice, it just doesn't apply to kobe.

the framework he uses here also really doesn't work for me. these are ostensibly essays to killed black people but really they're to white people who need to hear this, and the pretense really doesn't work for me. this would have been stronger without trying to make it fit in this way.

the strongest pieces worth remembering, for me:
"If justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public, then patience is what mercy sounds like out loud, and forgiveness is the accent with which grace speaks."

"The sheer black exhaustion sometimes sounds like cranky disregard for white awakening when it fact it may only be our refusal to any longer consider white comfort."

"It should be plain by now that there are different levels of membership in the community of white allies. There is the introductory membership, through which white allies get woke and realize they've got a great deal of work to do and must read and reflect to become more familiar with the racial problems of our culture. Associate membership builds on white folk reading, while they also attend gatherings of like-minded white folk in book clubs, civic groups, or church associations to further clarify their unique roles in the struggle for racial justice. Within the corporate world, they make efforts to deepen diversity and broaden inclusion of black and other voices in the reimagining of corporate goals and practices. Advanced membership pushes the envelope further and finds white folk in positions of power atop corporate and political structures leveraging their influence to bring far greater racial justice to the social and political realm. This includes a concerted effort to challenge white privilege, white fragility, and white comfort and to argue for the overhaul of unjust social relationships in all communities of color and wherever else injustice prevails. Finally, lifetime membership is for white folks seeking to embody the principles of radical justice while dismantling oppressive systems and racist structures. The police have recently been in the crosshairs of such allies. Lifetime membership often puts white allies next to black folk at social protests and if necessary it puts their bodies in line to get arrested, to endure police brutality, and in some cases to make the ultimate sacrifice."
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overlycriticalelisa | 3 other reviews | Dec 8, 2023 |
FROM AMAZON: In the wake of yet another set of police killings of Black men, Michael Eric Dyson wrote a tell-it-straight, no-holds-barred piece for the NYT on Sunday, July 7: "Death in Black and White" (it was updated within a day to acknowledge the killing of police officers in Dallas). The response has been overwhelming. Beyoncé and Isabel Wilkerson tweeted it; JJ Abrams, among many other prominent people, wrote him a long fan letter. The NYT closed the comments section after 2,500 responses, and Dyson has been on NPR, BBC, and CNN nonstop since then.

Fifty years ago Malcolm X told a White woman who asked what she could do for the cause, "Nothing." Dyson believes he was wrong. In Tears We Cannot Stop, he responds to that question. 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. As Dyson writes, "At birth you are given a pair of binoculars that see Black life from a distance, never with the texture of intimacy. Those binoculars are privilege; they are status, regardless of your class. In fact the greatest privilege that exists is for White folk to get stopped by a cop and not end up dead.... The problem is you do not want to know anything different from what you think you know.... You think we have been handed everything because we fought your selfish insistence that the world, all of it - all its resources, all its riches, all its bounty, all its grace - should be yours first and foremost, and if there's anything left, why then we can have some, but only if we ask politely and behave gratefully."

In the tradition of The Fire Next Time (Baldwin), short, emotional, literary, powerful, this is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations need to hear.
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Gmomaj | 27 other reviews | Sep 8, 2023 |



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