The Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is on the attack and his target is injustice. If the celebrated minister and author has his way, unfairness and inequities against blacks and other disadvantaged groups will cease to exist.
To some, Dyson’s goal is extremely high, however, that view has not shaken his commitment to the mission he embarked on more than 20 years ago and he reiterated that position during his recent visit to Los Angeles.
Joining with 750,000 people, Dyson lent his support to L.A.’s Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21. Later that day, he signed copies of his new book, “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America,” at a reception sponsored by EsoWon Books at the California African American Museum.
On Jan. 22, Dyson preached at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles at the invitation of Pastor William Epps, a longtime friend, who said the congregation responded with enthusiasm throughout Dyson’s message that outlined how believers could “make it through the long night of despair to the bright day of hope.”
“Dr. Dyson’s sermon articulated the contemporary crisis and confusion with clarity about the confidence and commitment of those who believe in God’s activity in Christ,” said Epps, whose members also hosted a book signing for Dyson.
Explaining the premise behind “Tears We Cannot Stop,” Dyson said, “It’s a call to white America to be more sensitive and understanding in the embracing of black people and others. [It’s a call] to deconstruct some of their sense of privilege and to add how they can move forward, beyond a narrow understanding of whiteness, to really be empathetic to people of color and what we can do to make the world a better place by challenging whiteness. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Despite the book’s tough message, Dyson said readers have been receptive and sales are going well. He strongly believes the book will help white Americans “get past some of the discomfort of the hard truths.”
Dyson, the author or editor of 18 books, often writes about topics in the “hard truths” category. His works include “Why I Love Black Women” (2002 NAACP Image Award), “Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind” (2006 Image Award), “Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster” (2007 American Book Award), “Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture” and “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America” (Kirkus Prize finalist).
A popular talk show guest, his opinions are frequently proclaimed nationwide in his roles as a MSNBC political analyst, New York Times Contributing Op-Ed writer and commentator on National Public Radio, CNN and several leading news programs. Regardless of the forum, Dyson keeps his goal to fight and expose injustice upfront and encourages the black church to unite with him in the quest.
“What’s important for the black churches is not to take comfort and consolation in safe sanctuaries,” said Dyson, “But to use those sanctuaries as refueling stations for the larger journey and to supply the imagination, the effort and the inspiration to go out into the real world to challenge these inequities.
He insisted that the relevancy of the church is tied to the people they serve and that believers should be directly involved in fighting injustice. Dyson suggested that one effective tactic churches can employ is grassroots organizing.
“Grassroots organizing is important around issues of schooling and education for young people or safety for our elders and communities and also uplifting the bloodstained banner of truth that we’ve fought for since the beginning of this country,” he said.
“You’ve got to become victorious over the things that attempt to have victory over you. Poverty, racism, sexism or misogyny – all of those issues have to be addressed and overcome by conscientious Christians.”
Issuing a rallying call to the church, Dyson added, “We have to confront the realities of the world by saying, ‘This event (fighting injustice) will not exhaust the infinite capacity of our faith or belief in ourselves to move forward.’”
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is an ordained Baptist minister and a Georgetown University professor. His book, “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America,” is available at EsoWon Books and Amazon.com.