Tag Archives: Michael Eric Dyson

When fighting, leave race out of it

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“America is in trouble, and a lot of that trouble– perhaps most of it– has to do with race.”

| Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

This is between you and me, us and them, us four and any more who want to join us.  Pick a side and put up your dukes!  Take your best shot!  Let’s see what you’ve got.

Let’s get it out and in the open.  Let’s say what we mean and how we really feel about each other.  Let’s fight hard and long.  Let’s raise our voices and invite others to sing along.  Let the shouting match commence.

Let’s go back and forth about who’s good and who’s bad, who’s in and who’s out, who should be first in line and who wins every time.  There are no boundaries and no comment will be considered out of line.  Speak freely and over each other.  Don’t beat around the bush.  No fig leaves, there is nothing to hide here.

Come out swinging.  Let’s fight all night until the morning.  Let’s come up with everything that is wrong with each other.  Let’s fight with no breaks, no naps and no excuses.  Let’s fight like we mean it and hold nothing back.  Let’s fight without an end in sight about the beginning.  Let’s fight about how we met and how you never got my name.

We never got off on the right foot.  John Rolfe saw “twenty Negroes.”  But, I saw next of kin.  They called them animals; I call them people.  Slave is not a pet name.

And they were kidnapped before race was invented.  This was made up as they went along.  Race didn’t make you do it though as time went on, we claimed that race introduced us.  But, race didn’t pick a fight because it wasn’t even there.  So leave race out of it.

Bootstrap or slaver’s lash, how did America become so great?   We never got our story straight.  Rope around their necks, this was not a match made in heaven.  And so they fought like hell.  They were not happy to be enslaved or to be far away from their homeland.  That is a lie and repeating it constitutes fighting words.

So let’s fight every dotted i and every crossed t, about everything and over anything.  Let’s fight tooth and nail over every physical feature, every scrap of land and sea, who’s right for the world and whose wrong innately.  Because it was only made for one “race” of people, right?

Let’s fight ’til the end and to the death of our consciences.  Just do me one favor.  Leave race out of it.  Because I have heard it said on many occasions, that if we no longer had race, we would find something else to fight about.  So, what is the fighting, the endless duel of cultures really about?

Answer this and I think it will take the fight out of us.  Because it is not about flesh or its hues.  But of course, you might want to fight me about the answer to this too.

We will say more names

A few days ago, I wrote about the death of Mr. Alton Sterling in a police- involved shooting in Baton Rouge.  “I don’t want to say another name” was written from a place of distress and emotional exhaustion.  I just could not take another death, another loss and frankly, another win for the social construct of race.  I never could have imagined that I would revisit this scene again in the same week; though this time, my view was a lot closer.

I am in the car with Diamond Reynolds and her four year old daughter.  She is recording the death of her fiancé, Mr. Philando Castile and live- streaming it on Facebook Live.  He has been shot multiple times and her first reaction is to pick her phone to record the incident.  This is both telling and troubling.

She knows that her word won’t be enough.  Her eyes don’t matter.  Instead, she will need more eye witnesses, more viewers.  In an interview with Fox 5 in Washington, D.C., Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown professor and well-known public intellectual, compared her to Mamie Till, who decided to have an open casket funeral for her 14- year old son, Emmett Till, who was kidnapped, beaten, lynched, shot and then dumped in the Tallahatchie River in the summer of 1955.

It is as if the scene has been paused; the officer is still holding his gun.  The officer, now identified as Jeronimo Yanez, is agitated.  And it is Ms. Reynolds who is composed and respectful, still addressing the officer as “sir.”  She does not want to be his next victim.

Mr. Castile’s breathing is shallow and she thinks that he has died.  More police arrive and Ms. Reynolds holds the camera and her composure until they put her in the backseat of a police car.  She screams and I scream with her.  The world hears her four year old daughter comfort her, “It’s okay mommy. I’m here with you.”  I have a three year old son.  He would have said this to me too.

Heart- breaking. Heart- destroying.  Gut- wrenching.  Sickening.  Frightening.  Paralyzing.  Angering.  Mobilizing.  Marching.  Standing.  Shouting to the top of my lungs, “I’m here with you!”

In the video, Ms. Reynolds asks for prayers. “Please pray for us.”  No confidence in the police department, the justice system or hope for our shared humanity, Ms. Reynolds believes that it will take divine power.  I agree.  Only God can help us now.

Whether we join hands, put our hands up or our hands in our pockets and look down at the ground because we don’t want to get involved, the outcome is the same.

But, THIS is wrong.  Not “I made a mistake” wrong.  Not “I had no idea” wrong.  Not “let me make it up to you” wrong.  This is historically, factually, presently and always wrong.

Still in shock and while I am processing these two scenes in Louisiana and Minnesota, there is another.  This time, we are in Dallas and it is the police officers who are the target and the victims.  Thirteen people are wounded, including one civilian.  Five police officers are killed by suspected shooter and U.S. military veteran, Micah Johnson.

More names.  Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Brent Thompson, Michael Smith and Patrick Zamarripa.

The fear and hopelessness is spreading.  Officers are told to work in pairs.  There are reports of more ambush- style attacks on police who are called to a scene only to be shot at.  If we do not practice the law fairly, the citizens will attempt to balance the scales.  Lawlessness is inevitable and it seems that we are heading toward a race war.  Dylann Roof  says, “Thank you.”  This is what he wanted.

We will say more names because we do more politicizing and propangandizing than truth- telling, more feigning ignorance than owning our complicity, more deflecting and finger- pointing than hand- holding, more blame- shifting than assigning responsibility, more self- victimization instead of comforting those who mourn, more asking for an explanation instead of seeking an understanding, more looking down at the ground instead of looking into the eyes of another human being, more justifying than apologizing, more denying than accepting, more beating around the bush instead of chopping it down and digging up its roots.

The fruit of race is “a strange fruit.”   Still, we continue to eat it though we know that it is poisonous.  But, the privileges are so sweet and the pain so familiar.  So, we pass the race at our tables as we say more names.