The Sunday Magazine·THE SUNDAY EDITION

U.S. preacher and writer delivers a sermon to white America: "white innocence" is your burden

The United States is perhaps more bitterly divided along racial lines than it has been for some time. Michael Eric Dyson is one of black America's most eloquent and searingly frank writers. He speaks to Michael Enright about race in the post-Obama era, and about his new book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.

It was June 2015. Obama was ministering to, and in communion with, the bereaved of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where an unrepentant white supremacist, Dylann Roof had murdered nine African-Americans who had welcomed him into their house of worship.

In the aftermath of an American tragedy, Obama made an appeal to the best in the American character and the American project, speaking intimately with black Americans and with profound moral authority to the country at large. 

The Charleston massacre was also proof that the Obama era did not put an end to the violent story of American racism. 

Just six and a half years earlier, when Obama was first elected president, there was a lot of hopeful talk that the US had entered a post-racial era. The birther movement, the killings of unarmed black people by police, and the disproportionately high rates of poverty, unemployment and incarceration of African-Americans put the lie to that naive hope.

On the one hand, our moral standing was enhanced by Barack Obama's presence...he was a metaphoric possibility for us. He was the symbolic representative of all that we had hoped for. But on the other hand, his hands were tied — and some of the tying was done by himself — when it came to issues of race. - Michael Eric Dyson

Donald Trump's lurid descriptions of inner cities as war zones, his unqualified support for the police so feared by so many black Americans, and the undercurrents of racism his rise has released into the mainstream, give little hope to African-Americans that life for them will get any easier in the next four or more years.

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Capital University on November 1, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Ty Wright/Getty Images)

Few people speak of black America with the prophetic eloquence of Michael Eric Dyson. In his book published a year ago — The Black Presidency — Dyson delivers a loving and brotherly, but stern critique of Obama's presidency. His new book is called Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

Michael Eric Dyson is an ordained minister and a Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University. He joined The Sunday Edition for a feature conversation about race in the post-Obama era. 

Click the button above to hear Michael Enright's interview with Michael Eric Dyson. 


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