Michael Eric Dyson is a renowned scholar, ordained Baptist minister, and public intellectual born in Detroit, Michigan. His innovative scholarship, combining cultural criticism and biography, focuses on race, religion, popular culture, and contemporary issues in the African American community. Dyson’s most recent book is April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America (2008).
He is also the author of Know What I Mean? (2007), a critical study of hip hop music, Debating Race (2007), a compilation of previously unpublished conversations with scholars, politicians and public commentators, Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster (2006), Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind (2006), Why I Love Black Women (2004), The Michael Eric Dyson Reader (2004), Open Mike (2002), I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. (2001), and Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line (1997). “Effortlessly and with conviction, [Dyson] weaves together a range of themes from gangsta rap to graduate seminars, deepening them with highly varied and vividly portrayed personal experience,” Noam Chomsky has said of Dyson. A two-time winner of the NAACP Image Award, Dyson has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, DePaul University, Chicago Theological Seminary, The University of North Carolina, and Columbia and Brown Universities. He is currently University Professor at Georgetown University.
- Michael Eric DysonProfessor in the College of Arts and Science and in the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University and a New York Times Contributing Opinion Writer
- Peniel JosephFounding Director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the University of Texas at Austin
[0:00:07Peniel] Welcome to Race and democracy, a podcast on the intersection between race, democracy, public policy, Social justice and citizenship. My guest today is Dr Michael Eric Dyson, one of the world’s premier public intellectuals whose latest best selling book is long time coming reckoning with race in America. Dr Dyson has been a guest on our show before. He’s an incredible scholar ordained baptist minister and one of the most prolific and prominent intellectuals and scholar activists in the country. Welcome. It’s great in a pleasure and an honor to speak with you.
[0:00:47 Michael] Professor joseph, always great to talk to one of the most gifted uh intellectuals we have in America today and one of the greatest uh public intellectuals who makes plain the predicate of our positions and our engagement in the world. So it’s an honor to be here sir.
[0:01:04 Peniel] So much to chop up with. We’re in deep, deep mourning over Dante right Alex Toledo, the scourge of black death that you called black death and black people dying slow death or fast death and that you know, you, you write in long time coming through eight chapters. You write to Brianna taylor, eric garner, Sandra bland. You write to these different black people have died being killed, murdered by the police George Floyd and others. Uh, I first want to get your thoughts on Dante right. We’re gonna go to the derek chauvin trial. But you know, there’s so much happening right here in America. Uh, this period that I’ve called the third reconstruction. What do you think about what’s happening And the death of this young man, 20 years old in, in Brooklyn center Minneapolis.
[0:01:54 Michael] It’s heartbreaking, it’s traumatic, it’s tragic. It’s unnecessary and yet unnecessary by our standards of humanity, of humane treatment of a kind of policing. That at its worst, should be just and at its best should be restorative and redemptive and preservative of life. This is yet another ugly mark against policing in America and against the decision of police people throughout this country. It’s not an individuated thing. It’s a systemic and structural problem where police people consistently respond to us as animals as less than human, refusing to see to us the legitimacy of our dignified humanity. The reason that young man Mr. Dante right, 20 years old, a father himself was speaking to his mother on the phone as he was being, you know, pursued by the police, afraid of what would happen to him, not 10 miles or so from the very site where George Floyd lost his life, that in the midst of that Miasma, that chaos, that he might himself be a victim of police brutality, police misbehavior, police misconduct and worse of killing by the police. Um, he was right to be afraid. He jumped back into his car because you wanted to escape their clutches. They knew where he lived. Similar to rayshard brooks. Why are you shooting him? Why are you even attempting as you claim to taser him over a traffic stop over a traffic violation in the midst of a pandemic, where we have been warned that not everybody will be able to renew their licenses. So please use discretion and kindness and yet that kindness and discretion did not get attached to black people. And this young man lost his life with the woman claiming to have reached for her taser and shot him with a gun. As if tasers are safe. A 1000 people or so in the next, in the, in the recent past have lost their lives because of tasers. It is not safe. It is preferable of course to outright being murdered by a policeman with a gun. But this is tragic and traumatic and needs to be addressed in our communities and in this nation.
[0:04:33 Peniel] And I wanted to talk to you Dr. Dyson, doc about about defund the police abolish prison because when we think about derek chauvin, when we think about um now this 13 year old in Chicago and the mayor of Chicago was under very heavy pressure to resign to do something. How can we end this kind of black death? Because it seems to me we’re paying a lot more national and global attention to it, but it seems to me that it continues to happen, even though I know at the local level, you’ve got grassroots activists. BLM, Los Angeles and Austin are two cities that have redirected, re allocated some budgets away from policing and law enforcement. But we really need big structural transformative changes. And I think changes that go beyond the proposed George Floyd justice and policing Act two. So so where are we at what? What can be done? Because it seems like we’re getting a lot more attention for this. And and it actually has allowed black intellectuals like us and scholar activist to get more attention for their work. People are more interested in what we do. Yet every time you look, you see somebody else really, Let’s face it being murdered by law enforcement, Somebody who’s unarmed, somebody who’s innocent, somebody who has their whole life ahead of them. I think about Dante, right? I think about your book long time coming reckoning with race in America because you write movingly about black bodies being killed and pursued by law enforcement, going back to racial slavery. And you talk to use outstanding word fugitive democracy and this idea that black people who are part of Morocco niche and maroon societies and they created bubbles and spaces of love uh for themselves. You talk about the political economy of the night uh during antebellum slavery and after during the age of Jim Crow, how black people try to live lives that were un-policed that were full of joy and not just pain and trauma. So I’d love for you to talk about that.
[0:06:32 Michael] Yes, sir. Well, you summed it up much more beautifully and eloquently than I could thank you for that and all that is important. And I want to hear what you have to say about what we do because I tell you I’m frustrated, I’m gonna talk, but I I literally want to hear what you say after I finished. To me um you know, abolition of the police, re-envisioning the police reimagining the police is overdue. Um Now, I I am not against strategy, which means I’m not against finding whatever word that will float the boat of people who might get on board. Uh, should a different term be used. I’m not one of these leftists and progressives who’s uh, you know, deeply and profoundly opposed to having to have strategy. One of the spoiled characteristics of speaking to yourself in an echo chamber is, Well, that term is all right. Why are you mad at it? And so on? I get that you should have reasons to defend abolition because they were against abolition when we were talking about slavery too. So they like it ain’t like, oh, yes, if you find the right term, there’ll be on board with you against abolition. We know that’s okey doke too. And that’s malarkey. As the president biden would say. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be so defensive that we don’t use whatever the best term is to get to the to the issue, to the hub of the matter, To the nub of the matter that we seek to put in force. So I don’t mind being self critical. But whatever it is, we got to get rid of these police. Whatever it is, these departments have to be reconfigured. I argue in my book that we should, you know, decentralize, uh, the efficacious power of police departments by redistributing their resources and their duties. The police are not the only uh functionaries in charge of public safety. Why can’t we distribute public safety? By de centering decentralizing police authority? Especially these police unions. Now, you might not legally be able to get rid of unions. I’m a union man talking about these unions, but uh, is complicated even as a progressive, you know, I was a member of U.A.W. Uh United Auto Workers in Detroit when I worked in the factory. So, I’m down with the unions. But police unions have been a scourge to democracy and to the masses of black and brown peoples in this country. So we gotta figure out a way to do, you know, to decenter these unions to defund them, and if we can’t defund them to render them legally irrelevant, if we take the duties of policing for the most part out of the hands of police departments and redistribute them along axes of public safety. When you when you have a call for somebody who’s having a psychotic break down, why are you sending Officer O’Shaughnessy? He don’t know nothing about that, or Officer jones for that matter. Send somebody who has trained in, you know, psychotic breakdowns and psychotherapy in intervention in a way that deals with mental health. Now, some police people have been equipped with most of maintenance. So figure out a way we can, you know, equipped them more ably. And then beyond that, figure out ways in which public safety can be handled in a non intrusive, noninvasive fashion. We know only a small percentage what 2, 3, 4% of the police work is involving, you know, stopping people and holding guns to their heads and trying to make them do the right thing and engaged in violent activity. Most of these cops are taking care of the kiddies out of trees and answering other police matters. So, so why is it that we have overstocked on this weaponry? And that’s another thing we gotta do. We got to we got to demilitarize the police, you know, and take away as they started to do under the Obama administration some of this weaponry. Although departments of, you know, you know, military outfits were giving, uh, this surplus weaponry to these local police departments to start again, these covenants that were issued by the Department of Justice, especially most recently under erIC holder. We didn’t really see that much under his successor, um, the first black woman to be named Attorney general, uh, right Attorney General, Loretta lynch. But we saw a great deal of it under eric holder. And so we need to start that up again. And then it ain’t just a matter of training. You can’t train a white person not to hate black people, You can’t train a white person. Uh, not to be inclined to think of black people in a nefarious fashion. Right? That’s cultural, racial institutional mechanisms and matrices, which must be enforced across the culture in order for policing to become more just police people are a reflection of the broader impulse of society and they are more dangerous because they’ve been outfitted with guns and badges and tasers and batons and, and the weaponry of the state and the greatest shield they have is qualified immunity and the state support where it is extremely extraordinarily difficult to hold a cop, uh, to account. So I said all that, but I want to know what you think.
[0:12:03 Peniel] Well, you know what I think with derek chauvin trial is that we have been prematurely celebrating and even now with officer kim potter who’s been arrested and charged with manslaughter. Um, we can’t be so excited that, uh, police officers and two very high profile cases, especially the chauvin trial, Uh, the person who, who, who murdered George Floyd is being held into account without understanding these systemic issues. But what I think also as we just learned, Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha shooter who basically massacred two white allies who were marching uh in defense of black lives and and opposing the Jacob Blake shooting. We learned that law enforcement donated uh to Kyle Rittenhouse. Uh we know that um you know rick schroder and actors helped get his bail. Uh So there’s something very very nefarious. 1/5 column within law enforcement and the U. S. Military by the way, uh President biden said during his inauguration that white supremacy was a problem. But we know as a fact that there were certain National guard in certain military who were taken off duty for the inauguration, who were perceived as security threats. This is military and law enforcement perceived as security threats. And we’ve seen this at the US capitol where even as some U. S. Capitol police fought bravely and died on the scene, died later. Um, there are others at that white supremacist riot on January 6, 2021 who was taking selfies with the white mob. So we’re really in trouble. We’re really in trouble because right now we have a far right wing uh, that includes politicians. It includes the Republican Party. It includes at times, big business Who are on the right uh, in conjunction with the military, in conjunction with law enforcement, who are talking about stealing presidential elections, who are talking flat out about murdering black folks in mass. And this is 2021. So this is why we say this is this is another period of reconstruction because during the first Reconstruction you have Frederick Douglass, Ida B Wells alongside of the Klan and and the red shirts and and and and massacres and programs and during that Reconstruction period. People don’t know this. You, you know this doc, but you also have black women and men who were armed and defending themselves way before the black panthers, way before Robert F Williams and Malcolm X and the garvey is um, right. They were defending themselves in South Carolina in Texas and Louisiana, right? Uh, you know, in, in Florida, in Alabama and Mississippi in, in the entire, an entire south right? In other parts. So I just think we’re in real trouble in ways that were not acknowledging. And I don’t mean you doc, I mean the entire country is not acknowledging, right?
[0:15:20 Michael] No, I think you’re absolutely right. And as you said, derek chauvin’s trial is not justice for black americans. And you know, this, this is just the beginning. You know, they keep treating the floor like it’s a ceiling. I mean, yeah, they think that’s the highest we can go. That’s where we got to start. Y’all just start, please. You know that, that, you know, we just started to place, y’all wanna end and all that stuff you’re saying is absolutely true. Um, you know, these police unions are support and individuals supporting uh Kyle Rittenhouse while killing a 13 year old kid in Chicago and the police, uh, union head there in Chicago. It was justified. It’s only a few seconds when he, you know that they have to act. Well, the man, the young boy, 13 years old turned around with his hands up. You have to provide him opportunity to obey your command. And when he obeys your command, you cannot shoot him. Of course, they’re trying to smear him. He’s got a fresh tattoo, He’s a gang member. I don’t care if he’s a priest or a prevaricator deserves the right under the law, you are not the judge and jury and these police people are out of control. So we have empowered them and given them the imprimatur of the state to legitimate, validate and justify what they do. And we got to oppose that man.
[0:16:45 Peniel] And and doc, we’ve empowered them to enforce the color line. That’s what we always miss the whole point of policing. And you write about this in a long time coming, um, it’s connected to slave patrol. The institutionalization parallels Jim Crow segregation and patrolling. Uh, you write about the swimming pools that closed down once they were going to be integrated schools. That closed down instead of being integrated. So, the whole idea of law enforcement Historically, but then, especially after 1968, we’ve turned law enforcement into a weapon against black humanity after Dr King’s assassination. So instead of choosing the beloved community, we double down on white supremacist law and order, which is always unlawful and disorderly.
[0:17:38 Michael] Absolutely, that’s it. And we’ve gotten worse and not better. And we got to really speak up and speak out and hopefully we can continue to galvanize communities across America uh with this onslaught, because a lot of white folk are finally getting the message too, and we know you can’t sell a 10 million albums without white folk, and you can’t have a big protest movement that’s the largest in history without white folks. And you ain’t gonna change this country with our white folks. So we hope they show up his allies for real for real.
[0:18:07 Peniel] Well, let’s talk about that because you you were a supporter of President biden, even when he was vice president biden on his way to the White House. You got a lot of flak for that. Uh certainly he’s governed um you know, very, very progressively so far. Um but when we know there’s a 50/50 senate and uh joe Manchin is darn near bin the co-president because he’s got the veto power and preventing biden and Kamala Harris from from doing all that they can do. And you’ve got the squad Aoc Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, These brilliant women, women of color, black women who are really speaking truth to power about intersectionality, Stacey Abrams who who saved uh, at least temporarily democracy uh, in Georgia. What can biden and not just biden? What can what can elected officials do at this point? Because I think that part of where we’re facing is the limits of electoral and mainstream politics. Because sometimes people like Jim Clyburn, Representative Clyburn, who I I absolutely respect. But I’ve had real disagreements with will say all black people need to do is sort of vote now. Not only is their massive voter suppression, but we can see even though biden won 7 million more votes than his opponent who was a white supremacist by the way, he can’t get progressive bills passed, he only could get the covid pandemic bill passed because of of of a very specific way they did it through the Senate reconciliation. And he can only get that passed because Mansion was aboard. So, we’re seeing the limits of democratic, conventional democratic politics. Small d uh politics, small d democracy politics. So, what can be done because that’s why so many people are out in the streets in Philadelphia, in Brooklyn center uh in Portland Oregon because the conventional means of of political change and transformation leave much to be desired. And I’m not making an argument not to vote, everyone should vote, but we’re seeing the limits of voting in this democracy.
[0:20:25 Michael] Yeah, no doubt. Who did you say it was a white supremacist? I wanted to make sure I heard that right though. It wasn’t Joe Bi
[0:20:30 Peniel] The former President of the United States.
[0:20:31 Michael] Yeah, unquestionably there. Um No, you absolutely right, it’s vote and but see so many of these young folks man and I’m gonna sound like old negro. Let me tell you what these young people. But but so many young folks, I get why they are discouraged and they feel voting, ain’t it? It’s not that voting in it is voting only, ain’t it? You got to do everything you’re doing now and vote. But here’s the thing if you vote and you actually have an impact and you put different people in the office, are you telling me you don’t understand what a big difference that makes, if Joe Manchin is in the minority among democrats and we’ve elected people, you know, a senate where Joe Manchin’s vote doesn’t matter. Are you telling me that doesn’t make a difference? It does. Now you can square up with the potential for that outcome to be likely with your, you know, empirical, you know, um investigation of what state is likely to have a more progressive versus a more centrist versus a more conservative democrat or, you know, a figure who might be able to get through that. I get. But what I don’t get is the fact that if you don’t know that voting makes a difference in so far is not just you dimpling that chad? Okay, they don’t do that anymore. Pulling that lever and putting that X where by your by your preferred candidate and then electronically or physically, uh you know, through paper ballot voting uh and that can change the makeup Of the country. Let me see, can I look for an example? Oh here’s one that right now Joe Biden has a majority with Kamala Harris in the Senate and in the house thin majorities to be certain. But look at what legislation is already passed and let me say something to my fellow progressives just admit you were wrong so far about Biden just you know, all the hate I got, I’m sorry man, I ain’t gloating but I will load, you know, without the G. I can load or owt without the L you know, or maybe without the G. L. O. I can act or glow G. L. O. Sorry, y’all I’m being goofy. But the point is that dad gum it. I took a lot of hell and heat, oh my God, he’s worse than blah blah. And he’s been far more AOC and and Bernie Sanders and and Jamal Bowman, is that his name? And and you know, a lot of progressive folks, I mean they’re thinking well, you know, so far, you know, pretty decent and it ain’t as bad as we thought. So, acknowledged that to begin with because politics is about um necessarily so in this country and many, many others as well, but especially here about a certain kind of compromise, not to surrender, not a capitulation, but just not purist politics. Having said that, you got to get your butts and and behinds and and bodies out in those streets, you’ve got to continue to protest. You gotta continue to galvanize communities, you’ve got to continue to organize, you got to continue to make people aware of the relationship between not only their vote in democracy but their organization and democracy. They’re organizing and democracy raising their voices, writing letters, sending emails, making calls yes to your senators and to your Congress people and that stuff that’s important, but also putting social pressure out here on the president, on the vice president, on the United States Congress. Why. They are we realizing is that H.r 40? I mean, we just passed a bill that said we’re at least gonna take a look at it. That’s progress. Not ain’t enough progress, but that wouldn’t have happened without years and years of social resistance, of protest, of bringing pressure. So you’re absolutely right voting alone, ain’t it? But God dang it. You got to vote as well. Um you know, it’s like saying somebody’s drowning, you know, floating alone ain’t enough. You got to get on the boat and get out the water. That’s true. But you gotta float first, you know, stay alive long enough to get on a boat to get out of water. So, it is important that we stress that and I don’t want to seem like I’m at war with these young people, but I am in certain levels with the cancel culture. I don’t want to beat that horse to death. But I just think that it’s part of the same mindset in logic that it comes easy or we just can just snap a finger and it can be done. I know this is hard, unsexy work.
[0:25:10 Peniel] I’d love to um, right there with segue because you talk about cancel culture in the book and this reckoning with race in America, but you, you define cancel culture not as um just this idea of, of, of whites who are being sort of held accountable, you know, better behavior.
[0:25:28 Michael] I’m all for that
[0:25:28 Peniel] Yeah. You could find it in a much bigger way saying that basically black twitter at times in a search for justice, tried to hold specific people accountable in ways that at times, um, didn’t allow for enough enough grace and enough redemption. And you explain why, uh, they were looking at individuals and not structures and systems because it’s hard for black folks to get, to get justice for women to get justice, et cetera.
[0:25:59 Michael] Thank you for saving me and explaining what I’m up to and not having young people call and go, let’s see, he’s a problem. You’re right. That’s exactly what I’m doing and not only for grace and restorative justice, but dad gum it, You could be wrong. You, you ain’t, you ain’t look as jacked up as the courts are at least they have a defense and the prosecution bro. And in that culture ain’t no two sides. It’s my side and it’s the only side. It’s my side and you’re wrong. It’s my side. And I’m just, it’s my side. And this is the only way to be just, and that to me is dangerous because that borrows from fascism derives from white supremacy principles. Uh, and predicates Like my way or the highway. zero tolerance. If it happened, you’re done. I mean, so Grace. Yes, forgiveness. Yes, accountability. Yes. Um, but also self-criticism or maybe we’re wrong. Maybe we’re going after this person. Have we heard from him or her? Can we judge them in a context that we’re not like the police, You’re no better than the police who are judge and jury with a badge and a gun, deciding on the streets who should receive justice and who shouldn’t. There’s no difference. It’s ironic to me that the same people mad at police injustice are practicing cancel culture. It’s an essential moral contradiction to me. And as you said, I’m not talking about white folks being held to account. I’m not talking about matt gates and, and, and donald trump and, and you know, um, these people out here, these white politicians, oh, this is cancel culture because they’re holding them accountable. Or you know, the corporations are withdrawing their, you know, their support of these conservatives and these republicans in deference to, um, you know, black people and other allies who are out here trying to fight against, um, not only police brutality, but fighting against voter suppression and the like and therefore using targeted boycotts to send a message. I ain’t talking about none of that. I’m talking about the vicious belief that your way is the only way and that you will eviscerates your opponent or a person with whom you disagree without any understanding that you could be wrong. You may not have all the facts and you have to be quite careful about, about generating and galvanizing a digital lynch mob.
[0:28:21 Peniel] Now I want to talk about, you know, BLM has been in the news a lot lady lately and I know that BLM black lives matter has also been smeared by the right, but anti racism has Nicole Hannah jones Abram kindy different folks who really are part of the racial reckoning yourself. Uh, there’s been um real smearing of of some of the founders about homes they’ve purchased, trying to act as if the organization is corrupt. Think one of the interesting parts your book is subtitled Reckoning with Race in America this year or so since George Floyd’s uh murder and the protest has really transformed and ratchet it up. What I would say is the relationship between race neoliberalism and democracy and black activism, because there was so much millions of dollars funneled into organizations for the first time and not just BLM, but um you know, every everything voting rights stuff, L.D.F. So so many different, it quite quite deservedly, I might add. But also during this pandemic, so many different writers and public intellectuals got more access. Their their their services were called for it in demand. What what do you make of um of these criticisms against grassroots organizers? Not just by the right, but at times by the left about accountability, transparency with the funds that they’ve raised. What what do they, oh what do they owe? And and then speaking broader, really intellectuals as well, scholars Uh in this context, what do we owe uh to the movement, to the people to the public? Because in a lot of ways, I think in 2020 and 2021, our services are more in demand than ever.
[0:30:09 Michael] Yeah, that’s a great point. I want to hear your answer to that. But let me let me briefly say, because you’re a historian with broad purview and long uh interpretive analysis over the Hall of History. So I really am interested in what you say. And then previous examples of people being held to account the way in which they smear Patrice Cullors or you know, or other leaders, they Tamika Mallory, they’ve smeared martin Luther king Jr in the past and the like. But I want to hear your take on that. But we do, owe integrity, we do owe principled behavior and belief. Um and there’s a right way to ask questions about where you spent that money. Uh and where is it going? Uh I saw a recent interview, I think with our friend Mark Hill, you know exactly. And she said, this ain’t no charity that some people, they’re like, well, damn, really? Okay. Uh This is a power And a way to distribute resources. So you got to acknowledge
[0:31:11 Peniel] If they have received 90 million, because again, I’m not their bookkeeper. What that means is that you can be fully endowed in perpetuity, And it just because you’ve received 90 million, if you’re if you’re doing your fiscal responsibility, it means you’ve invested, you know, basically for every million dollars you invest in an organization as a permanent endowment, they can draw 500,000 per year as an annual budget. So basically, If you’re thinking, if people want to know, you know, depending on how much of that 90 million you’ve invested, it means that BLM uh you can have a bigger endowment basically, then maybe even the Naacp don’t know what the Naacp is worth, but endowments, as you know, that’s what schools live off of universities live off of. And then you also have to connect the endowment, how much of that that endowments gonna be for salaries, How much is it gonna be for programming and lobbying? So, so it is, it is quite complex. And then with the BLM founders, somebody like Patrice Cullors, what what salary is she drawing? Is she head of the board of directors or is she ceo, who’s your CFO? So it’s it becomes complicated.
[0:32;22 Michael] It really is. I mean, I’m glad you broke that down and got a sense of and given us and give have given us a sense of, you know, what’s at stake here and on the ground, You know, when I think Mr Brown wanted $20 million dollars and you know, and and let’s be Real Brown. And so is it Samir Samir rice, you know who’s who’s criticizing Tamika Mallory and stuff because you lost a child and God bless you. And we are deeply and profoundly in mourning with you still about that doesn’t mean you can lead a movement or gives you the right or gives you the skill to generate an organization that can address the very death that your child endured or your Children endured or prevent future occasions of death. No, that’s that’s the hard truth. Die by money is just because just because you’ve experienced that don’t mean you know what you’re doing. It doesn’t give you a right to slander to make a Mallory.
[0:33:28 Peniel] Oh yeah, request for 20 million. That’s an emotional request I ignored then I think they would have ignored it. Like, you know, you don’t get, you know, you don’t get a payday for funds that were raised for this social movement because you’re the tragedy that occurred in your life is one of the galvanic catalyzing events of the movement. It doesn’t work that way.
[0:33:52 Michael] It just really doesn’t. And you gotta figure out a way to, you know, understand that, you know, this is complicated stuff, this is amazingly complicated stuff. And you’ve got to really be on, you know, point and you’ve got to support people who are doing the right thing, hold them accountable. You know, when people ask Minister Farrakhan, where that money at where the money for the Million Man March, that’s a legitimate question. Where’s the money going for Race for Black lives matter? But here’s the thing, isn’t it? They can dog martin Luther King, Jr and charismatic organizations, and the HCP and National, you know, National Urban League and National Action Network. But you be knowing whether there’s one person you can call. That’s Al Sharpton, that’s you know, Mr johnson at the NaACP and Mr Mayor Memorial at the National Urban Who’s gonna call the Black Lives Matter. Let me see uh we know about Patrice Cullors, but but yeah, but I’m saying right, that’s one person. But I’m saying it’s such a diffuse organization deliberately and strategically that, you know, there are many different, you know, subsections and you know, Black Lives Matter is both a movement and an organization and then what Alicia Garza is doing, Guards is doing is different than what Patrice Cullors is. The, you know, and with the Black labs. So it’s it’s a little bit more complicated and it shows some of the deficits can we be critical of Black Lives Matter? Will love black lives Matter.
[0:35:19 Peniel Of course it can be critical. Yeah, absolutely. That’s our job. Our job is to be and you can be having respectful critique of saying, hey, it would be better if in addition to this, there were some, some people who people knew and could identify with obviously a weakness of that is that that means they can be smeared like is happening to Alicia Garza Patrice Cullors right now. So you can see it in some ways the weakness of sort of that kind of charismatic leadership. My final question to you, your last chapter is called Evergreen Hope. What gives you hope in this moment? Because you wrote this book before Dante right, but certainly you wrote it after when you open up the flap, its dear Elijah McCain Emmett till eric Garner, Brianna Taylor hadiya, Pendleton, Sandra bland and reverend Clementa pinckney and you say I wrote this for you, what what gives you hope?
[0:36:16 Michael] You know, when I talk to young people like you, brilliant gifted scholars, edifying activists, joining the best tradition of des bois, being trained to the hilt uh extraordinarily gifted scholar and yet also public intellectual cause them to ain’t the same and then public intellectual join to public activists. Young people out here trying to be self critical and yet you know, committed to the movement gives me hope young people of all races and stripes and creeds in terms of their particular organizational structures and affiliations who are progressive or insightful, trying to make a difference. White folk out here, trying to ask, what can we do to make it real? Not just performative. Even though I hate that performative, it has been hijacked to mean something that is not serious, I get it because performance has been so critical to black culture in a profound way and I don’t want word to just be dismissed like, oh, he’s just performing what dude King was a performer, uh, was a performer, Barnett was a performer. So in the best sense, so, you know, I think it’s extremely important to believe in those kind of folks and what they’re doing and it gives me hope that we can continue to look past the horizon of the immediate event we confront as Howard thurman said to become a prisoner of hope, which deliberately, as I slaved for parents, did look at the long rows of cotton, the rawhide whip of the overseer and still see a possibility beyond that. That vision that aspiration that continues to renew itself in our own particular times offers me great hope that we can overcome and still move forward.
[0:37:59 Peniel] Well eloquent as usual, Dr Michael Eric Dyson, we’ve been chopping it up. Dr Dyson has been one of my friends, mentors, colleagues, inspirations. He’s distinguished university professor at Vanderbilt, the author of dozens and dozens of books and new york times bestsellers, the latest, which is long time coming reckoning with race in America. This is a brilliant book, beautiful book that I recommend everyone to purchase. And Dr Dyson Uh, is an Naacp image award winner. He’s a 2020 Langston used festival medallion and as so many other different honorifics. All well deserved. But it’s just also just a down ass brother on top who can just chop it up. A Detroit native love Motown, a Detroit native of father or husband, you know, just somebody who’s who’s who’s really good people and cares about the black community, which is sort of the highest praise we can, we can give somebody like martin and Malcolm. He’s got the political integrity, the personal sincerity and the unapologetic love for black people. And so I really appreciate this conversation. Dr Dyson
[0:39:06 Michael] It takes one to know one. Thank you so much, my friend, I’m so honored to be here and God bless you and keep up the great work.
[0:39:12 Peniel] Thank you.
Thanks for listening to this episode and you can check out related content on Twitter at Peniel Joseph. That’s P-e-n-i-e-l J-o-s-e-p-h and our Web site, CSRD.LBJ.utexas.edu and the Center for Study of Race and Democracy is on Facebook as well. This podcast was recorded at the Liberal Arts Development Studio at the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. Thank you.