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“Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America” by Michael Eric Dyson

Terri Schlichenmeyer | OW contributor | 2/6/2017, 1:58 p.m.
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve said that before, to a furrowed brow, a mischievous smile, a child who’s about ...

I know what you’re thinking.

You’ve said that before, to a furrowed brow, a mischievous smile, a child who’s about to do something sneaky. You can see it in the eyes, the body language, the tone of voice, and you know just what they’re thinking. But until you’ve read “Tears We Cannot Stop” by Michael Eric Dyson, you might not really have a clue.

You watch the news, you read the paper, and you know that things aren’t going well in our country. Much of it, says Dyson, can be blamed on race, and the fixes he believes are needed are most eloquently said in a sermon.

Racism, he says is “poison.” For black people, that’s not a possibility, it’s a fact. It’s seen in courtrooms and streets, colleges and workplaces, neighborhoods and prisons. It means that black parents must specifically remind their children how to act around police officers, an everyday caution that white people rarely need to worry about, but “that can mean the difference between life and death for [African Americans].”

Most white people, he says, are racist, even if they don’t mean to be. Some of them don’t even know they’re racist; or they’ll deny it, until they read a book like this one with truths laid bare. African Americans know that unovert, deeply-buried kind of racism and they discuss it with one another but rarely with whites; most whites don’t know or don’t think about it because they weren’t taught it. Instead, it’s a legacy of skin color, passed down for centuries.

White people have an advantage, says Dyson, by merely being white. “White privilege” opens doors. It doesn’t worry about dying in a police encounter. White privilege offers higher-paying jobs and nicer homes. It enjoys “a way of life that comes at the direct expense of other folk who are denied the privileges you take for granted.”

So what can be done?

“Beloved,” says Dyson, the first step is to wake up to the advantages of being white, realize the wrongness of it, and admit it. Demand justice for injustices. And be open and willing to be R.E.S.P.O.N.S.I.V.E.

Got a comfortable chair to relax in? If not, then get one. “Tears We Cannot Stop” is going to keep you there.

Yes, there’s controversy in what author Michael Eric Dyson states, but it will also open a lot of eyes. To get readers there, Dyson chides as deftly as he uses outrage and sorrow, but his point never wavers: we will not fix this country until we get to the root of racism and that must start with the education of, and mind-set-change within, white America. He offers ideas here on how that can happen, as well as musings on cultural assimilation, racial epithets, and the re-writing of history.

At just 228 pages, this might seem like a small, quick read, though it’s anything but. Instead, be ready to pause nearly every other sentence, absorb what is said, and prepare for action. “Tears We Cannot Stop” is meant to change your thinking.