Book Review: “Tears We Cannot Stop” by Michael Eric Dyson
“Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America” written by Michael Eric Dyson is an educational and enlightening book about race, American psychology and societal ills written specifically to white Americans. The book serves as an emotional appeal for the audience to tackle head on America’s avoidance of its destructive history, inhuman, racist structures and the residual outcomes of these actions and institutions.
This book from beginning to end is heavy. It avoids the cliche suggestions to combat racism which normally center around “coming together as a country” or “the good white people to address their White supremacist counterparts”. Where this book differs from some is that it gives blunt critique and straightforward actionable suggestions for societal advance. The real life road maps Dyson presents are less theoretical and more in line with the actions Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. presented. Dr. King presented strategies to present change in a society wrought with racism, both large scale (eg. Civil Rights Act) and local (eg. Operation Breadbasket) strategies. Dyson takes a similar approach in that he addresses large issues such as America’s educational avoidance and manipulation of slavery, Jim Crow, White supremacy, etc. and small issues like thinly veiled racist language such as “I don’t see color” in an attempt to encourage change.
The goal and premise of the book is mostly summarized in a passage from the book itself:
“…to get to a point where race won’t make a difference, we have to wrestle, first, with the difference that race makes.”
There are so many great takeaways from this book but here are just a few:
- There is a persistent effort to hide and downplay the true atrocities suffered by the minority non-white ethnic groups
- Whiteness has been manufactured and manipulated to be synonymous with American
- Whiteness (American) supported by anti-[others] rhetoric and any defiance toward whiteness becomes a rally cry to defeat the resistance
- The racism of America can not be resolved by being privately “good”. Public decree and action are critical.
This book is an important piece as it addresses the visible and invisible imbalances inherent in the structure of America. It is clear from this book America is not a piece of dry wall that needs a quick patch. Unfortunately America is a falsely advertised clunker of a car sold as iconic muscle whose transmission is lies and engine is the actively racist and complacent well-meaning white American majority. I recommend this book for all, especially those who are honestly ready for America to live up to its creed: All men are created equal.
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