Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

Short, emotional, literary, powerful―Tears We Cannot Stop is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read.As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man's voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece "Death in...

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Title:Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
Author:Michael Eric Dyson
Rating:
ISBN:1250135990
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:228 pages

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America Reviews

  • Cynthia Dunn
    Feb 21, 2017

    Unfortunately, this book will never be read by the people who need to read it and would benefit by it. I'm afraid that Dr. Dyson is preaching to the choir.

  • Andre
    Jan 21, 2017

    In this latest Dyson offering, Mr. Dyson is making a direct appeal to white Americans to give up their hold hold on whiteness and once and for all really try and understand what it is that Black Americans feel and deal with on a daily basis in our sojourn on these shores. Indeed, "that white America can definitively, finally, hear from one black American preacher a plea, a cry, a sermon, from my heart to yours." While Dyson presents a very compelling case, I'm afraid it will fall on deaf ears. H

    In this latest Dyson offering, Mr. Dyson is making a direct appeal to white Americans to give up their hold hold on whiteness and once and for all really try and understand what it is that Black Americans feel and deal with on a daily basis in our sojourn on these shores. Indeed, "that white America can definitively, finally, hear from one black American preacher a plea, a cry, a sermon, from my heart to yours." While Dyson presents a very compelling case, I'm afraid it will fall on deaf ears. He says, the only way he could have said these words is in a form of a sermon and that for the most part is the way the book is constructed. In the middle it is more of an essay form though he continues nominally with the sermon flavor. Essentially, Dyson argues we (Black folks ) have to depend on the ability and willingness of white folks to change their hearts and minds if the race issue will ever see the light of transformation.

    "And there is a paradox that many of you (white folk) refuse to see: to get to a point where race won't make a difference, we have to wrestle, first, with the difference that race makes.......... When it comes to race the past is always present." A tall order for a people to in fact cash in their own privilege and cast their lot with the dark and despised. I'm not of the religious bent, so my faith in that is negligible. Dyson strains to make clear the difference between individual racism and bias compared to institutional racism. "It is harder to indict forces and institutions than the individuals who put a face to the problem. Institutional racism is a system of ingrained social practices that perpetuate and preserve racial hierarchy."I don't think Dyson has gone in as hard as he thinks he has. He drops reminders throughout that he and his children are very accomplished, not sure why he found that necessary.

    The most disappointing part of the book is Dyson arguing for the continued use of ni**er, because we have effectively flipped the word to a more positive and endearing meaning, even effectively changing the spelling of the word to end in ga. Makes me want to holler, N! please. A wordsmith like Dyson should be ashamed of himself to engage in that cowardly nonsense. He even quotes Jay -Z, to buttress his argument. The simple fact of the matter is that the cost of using ni**er is zero. Try using some pejorative words to refer to other groups and see what happens. So, if you can't be universal in the the use of pejoratives, I say stop it when it comes to us. Otherwise, you are showing your cowardice. If you think I'm over reacting see Michael Jackson and the furor surrounding his song, 'They don't really care about us' and Marlon Brando about the stereotypes that have failed to make it to the silver screen. Dyson, being the scholar and wordsmith that he is should no better. Those who don't have the articulation and erudition of Dyson would be hard pressed to explain why ga is different than er and argue for it's use and white Americans non-use. Stop it Dyson.

    He closes strong with a discussion concerning the killing of black bodies with impunity from this who've taken a vow to protect and serve us. He asks whites to put themselves in our shoes. He suggests to whites, who ask, "what can I do" to open up an IRA, an individual reparation account and pay a black tax, perhaps paying extra for services received from a Black provider.

    Dyson ultimately concludes that, " We don't hate you, white America. We hate that you terrorize us and then lie about it and then make us feel crazy for having to explain to you how crazy it makes us feel. We cannot hate you, not really, not most of us; that is our gift to you. We cannot halt you; that is our curse."

    This book certainty has the power to make white Americans contemplate the present and future, the question is will they buy it and embrace the content?

  • TheSkepticalReader
    Feb 08, 2017

    I listened to this book via audio so apologies if I misquote a bit in the review. I tried to type the words as accurately as I listened.

    is a very loud book. If you find yourself put off by anger in politics (which is absurd in itself but whatever, I don’t have time for polite people anymore), then do

    I listened to this book via audio so apologies if I misquote a bit in the review. I tried to type the words as accurately as I listened.

    is a very loud book. If you find yourself put off by anger in politics (which is absurd in itself but whatever, I don’t have time for polite people anymore), then do not go anywhere near this book. It is also brutally honest and can slice you into bits and pieces. Which is exactly why I loved listening it. I never thought a book written in the form of a sermon would actually hold the power to move me to tears.

    As I read more nonfiction about race relationships, I find myself amazed that despite the similarity of the conversation, each account continuously adds more to the argument and keeps me wanting more. After reading

    the week before this, I didn’t have too many expectations out of this book but honestly, it blew me away. I wish I’d kept better notes to really dig into this review but alas, we all make mistakes.

    I typed out some of the best quotes I’d heard while listening:

    These are an accurate representation of what this book can offer you so if you liked any of the things said above, grab this book and get reading.

    Dyson is sharing his personal life while also tackling the broader subjects of white blindness, whitewashing, Black culture, #BlackLivesMatter, and of course,

    . Because how did we get from Barack Obama to

    ? An explanation every person of color who has experienced racism probably knows is exactly what Dyson states,

    I’d also like to add that Dyson’s discourse on America’s political culture is a contemporary one, and if you’re not up to American politics or know a bit of African American history, there might be instances where you’ll get a bit lost. Names such as Malcom X, Bill O’Reilly, Toni Morrison, Rudy Giuliani, etc. remain relevant to the conversations in this book so I’d familiarize myself with a bit of American culture before reading.

    I end the review with another quote (I can seriously listen to this man all day):

  • Reid
    Feb 04, 2017

    Let me acknowledge from the very beginning that, as a white man, any criticism I offer of this book may well be considered suspect. I do not offer this observation as a complaint, merely as a premise. Though couched in terms (and a subtitle) implying a dialogue with white America, Tears We Cannot Stop isn't really anything of the sort, and my role here (the author seems to imply) is for me to simply receive his truth and shut up. Which I am manifestly declining to do.

    Allow me also to stipulate,

    Let me acknowledge from the very beginning that, as a white man, any criticism I offer of this book may well be considered suspect. I do not offer this observation as a complaint, merely as a premise. Though couched in terms (and a subtitle) implying a dialogue with white America, Tears We Cannot Stop isn't really anything of the sort, and my role here (the author seems to imply) is for me to simply receive his truth and shut up. Which I am manifestly declining to do.

    Allow me also to stipulate, however, that I believe the moral center of this book to be entirely sound. Whiteness confers an inherent advantage to its possessor. Choose any metric you like: we are more likely to be encouraged in school, more likely to be called on in class, to be pushed to go into the sciences and math, to be offered scholarships and admission to prestigious institutions (which confer, of course, lifetime privileges), more likely to have our cancer diagnosed early enough for effective treatment, to be prescribed life-saving and life-lengthening medications and narcotics for our pain. We are likely to be preferred for jobs and promotions. We are less likely to be harassed by the police, less likely to be pulled over to begin with, less likely to be killed by them, less likely to live in poverty, to raise our children in poverty, less likely to be followed when we go into stores. We are not at all likely to have to think about the color of our skin when walking into a restaurant, bar, public building or restroom and wonder if it will cause offense. We are highly unlikely to think of our skin color at all, and when given a fleeting thought, will consider it "normal". Even when we don't consciously assume this we will do so, because whiteness has been normalized in the Western world, particularly in America, and anything other than whiteness is The Other.

    So stipulated.

    My argument, then, is not with the content of this morally important book, but with the tone Dr. Dyson chooses to communicate his arguments and the faulty assumptions behind them. He chooses here to engage in an egregious form of "blacksplaining", to cast all us pale people into one big mass and excoriate us. And, yes, I know that here he would insert a comment about my "white fragility", how my sensitive little white ego can't take a little criticism. And while he is at it, he would (and does in this book) vilify any black person who takes exception to his rhetoric as an assimilated apologist for whiteness. You see the neat rhetorical trick here? Because he has delegitimized all of his critics with a stroke of the pen, the only possible conclusion is that he is right and we are wrong. Except he isn't and we aren't.

    One of the more infuriating choices he makes is to preach his sermon to an overarching You which he uses to represent all whites, regardless of predilection or attitude. This is convenient, because he can then dump his hatred of whiteness as a construct on all persons of that color. If I were to point out that assuming one knows the character, beliefs, understandings, thoughts, dreams, and aspirations of a group of people based on the color of their skin is plain and simple bigotry, I am sure he would invoke his right to such prejudice on the basis of historical grievance. Well, allow me to also stipulate, then, that he has such a right. From the time the first white man placed hands on the first black man to make of him a slave up to the moment we elected a vile racist and a white supremacist cabal to the highest office in the (putatively) most powerful country in the world, he has earned the right to an inexhaustible supply of grievance. And he certainly avails himself of a truckload here. No, it is not his

    to such argument from generality to which I take exception. Rather, it is because I find it to be intellectually dishonest and ideologically suspect.

    As for the latter, let me explain what I mean a bit more thoroughly. The fact is that white people in the United States run the gamut from committed allies of the cause of complete equality and elimination of all bigotry to the stone cold racist. And among white people, who of them are likely to read this book? Naturally, those who are much closer to the former than the latter. Because what Dr. Dyson seems to want to do throughout most of this book is provoke a feeling of shame in his white readers, his ability to influence those allies to take positive action is undermined. Shame is not a reliable motivator to any positive action or change (as any parenting manual will tell you). Responsibility, regret, remorse, yes, but not shame.

    As to the intellectual dishonesty: it is my conclusion that this is not a sermon to White America at all. Rather, it is an attempt by Dr. Dyson to establish his

    with his fellow black intellectuals, to demonstrate that he is neither placatory nor assimilated, despite his Ivy League pedigree and light skin color (which he brings up with revelatory frequency). He is attempting, it seems to me, to demonstrate his toughness. It is not his intent to bring about a change in those of us who most need to hear his message. It is not pitched to our ears to begin with.

    Which is a shame, because this book is a moral triumph in many ways. To the extent I can, I understand and share his anger. But to have written a moderate, temperate book with the intent to bring about the education and activation of the white intellect and soul would have been much more useful and welcomed. I know of few persons writing today who have the moral authority combined with erudition, intellect, learning, and dedication he displays. I would wish for nothing more than that he might write that book some day.

    Let me not leave this review, though, without praising the last few chapters. The Benediction section, in particular, is an instructive and useful syllabus of reading one could undertake to better understand the black experience and what has and can be done to change the ingrained bigotry of our institutions and thought processes. The section that follows, on reparations, is a valuable and insightful essay on the need for making restitution for the sins, past and present, visited on people of color. Most of his ideas are practical and can be undertaken by any one of us with immediate effect. That some of these are not so practical (a lawyer or accountant that took an extra fee for being black would be, I am fairly sure, in violation of the ethical constraints of their profession; some of the other extra payment ideas would almost certainly lead to accusations of condescension) should not detract from their essential soundness. In particular, let me say that I believe, as Dr. Dyson does, that affirmative action still has a place in our society. Whiteness confers a great deal of privilege, and to tip the scales a bit the other way is to acknowledge the advantages of whiteness and the disadvantages of a different skin color.

    In the end, for all of my annoyance with the choices made and the motives for it, I thought this a very good book, tinged with greatness. Perhaps now that he has gotten this out of his system, he can set about creating something with the potential to bring about the change he wants to see in the world. I share his aspiration, and would love to share a movement with him, too.

  • Didi
    Jan 17, 2017

    The inauguration of the newly elected president of America is upon us. Racism has shown to be very alive and well in the United States, contrary to popular belief. People are all questioning how we could go from President Barak Obama to what was elected on November 7, 2016. Deep down I think we all know why and aren’t really surprised, but in essence most of us don’t want to admit what the problem really is....

  • Jessica Weil
    Feb 18, 2017

    This is a book that I challenge all my white friends to read, no matter where you stand on the spectrum of confronting white privilege and systemic racism. Michael Eric Dyson delivers a powerful, engaging, personal, informational, inspiring sermon that's essential at this moment in time when racial division is especially high.

    I urge you to read with an open heart and mind, to set aside your discomfort and listen to Dyson's plea for white Americans to reckon with the harsh truths of racism.

    Dyson

    This is a book that I challenge all my white friends to read, no matter where you stand on the spectrum of confronting white privilege and systemic racism. Michael Eric Dyson delivers a powerful, engaging, personal, informational, inspiring sermon that's essential at this moment in time when racial division is especially high.

    I urge you to read with an open heart and mind, to set aside your discomfort and listen to Dyson's plea for white Americans to reckon with the harsh truths of racism.

    Dyson is an ordained minister, so what better way to present this than as a sermon. He divides it into multiple sections: in "Hymns of Praise," he cleverly shares hymns in the form of rap lyrics; in "Scripture Reading," he quotes Martin Luther King Jr.; in the main sermon, he addresses whiteness specifically (including white innocence, white fragility, and white privilege) and then segues into a section about what it's like to be black in America. Following that is "Benediction," one of my favorite parts: in it he offers practical suggestions for what white people can do to make things better.

    The whole thing is incredibly current and topical, with commentary on Black Lives Matter, the recent election and Donald Trump's rise to power.

    For white people who seek to understand more about racism and white privilege in America (and really, that should be all of us), this is the book to read. It was literally written for us.

  • Stephen McGrath
    Jan 18, 2017

    “What I need to say can only be said as a sermon.” And preach Michael Eric Dyson does. His sermon, an epistle to White America that for the author is long overdue is, at the same time, a book that we may well not have ever opened or read.

    The reason is not that the world was perfect up until last November 8, when the entire world watched Donald Trump win and many, among them prominently Van Jones, proclaimed that this movement came down to one underlying fact: Race.

    The timing of Dyson’s book, Te

    “What I need to say can only be said as a sermon.” And preach Michael Eric Dyson does. His sermon, an epistle to White America that for the author is long overdue is, at the same time, a book that we may well not have ever opened or read.

    The reason is not that the world was perfect up until last November 8, when the entire world watched Donald Trump win and many, among them prominently Van Jones, proclaimed that this movement came down to one underlying fact: Race.

    The timing of Dyson’s book, Tears We Cannot Stop, cannot possibly be coincidental. Was it timed to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump, or did Donald Trump gain the White House because the ills Michael Eric Dyson addresses had already metastasized?

    The point is that while Election ‘16 was many things, it was in no way a terrorist attack. There was nothing shocking about Trump’s rise – not to a nation of black men and women all-too-used to the white rage that anointed its hero that seemingly frigid evening.

    The author said his book would be a sermon because every other way he tried to have this conversation rang false. This declaration was in the early pages on the book, but to be honest it was in the Table of Contents before that. ‘1. Call to Worship, 2. Hymns of Praise, 3. Invocation’, and the list goes on. The Table of Contents reads like Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, so it’s on the reader if they didn’t know what they were in for.

    The comparison to jazz may well be apropos, for while beautiful and enchanting, there is venom in Dyson’s pen. He aims to save America, and there is a cancer to be cut out if he’s to have any chance of succeeding.

    The author is elegant, but he isn’t here to save feelings. More than once his use of ‘beloved’ reads as condescending, not caring. But when one’s theory is that to heal, what is calcified must first be broken, lines like, “to be blunt, you are immature about race” have the desired effect.

    Like any good sermon, this book is a challenge. Dyson wants White America’s enlightenment, but he is not willing to leave anything unsaid before that train reaches the station. Among his many challenges are declarations on naiveté - “Beloved, your innocence is a burden to you, a burden to the nation, a burden to our progress” and the careful, yet direct presentation of what we should all aim to me.

    “Kaepernick is the best kind of American there is: one willing to criticize his country precisely because he loves it so much,” the author declares. And if that makes one squirm, then that may suit Dyson just fine. For, “…there is a paradox that many of you refuse to see: to get to a point where race won’t make a difference, we have to wrestle, first, with the difference that race makes.”

    And the truth is that race means everything in America. It is the privilege of some and the death sentence of others. It is the root of our misunderstanding and the constructed obstacle to any great potential this country still surely holds… albeit latently.

    At the end of it all, Dyson’s work is necessary. It is, admittedly, so timely that it may soon seem dated. Tomorrow’s headline is only 150 characters away, and in that way the author may find himself not off his book tour before a hand in the crowd will ask, “Yeah, but how could you leave out….?”

    These, however, are simply details. These mistakes on race have plagued us since White America became bent on defining just how man and his property were to be forever different. The only thing that would have emancipated African Americans would have been a flash of light and color blindness because the chains of slavery still affect much of how we see the world today.

    And that is why Dyson’s book ends with recommendations that are, nonetheless, called reparations. Racism is not a misunderstanding; it is an attack. True, many White Americans did not choose to take part in this attack, but the benefits of this subjugation have been spread around all the same.

    If we’re to heal, it will be by acknowledging the problem. For some this is a book to be celebrated. For others, it is one to be read and digested. For many, many Americans (like me), it is probably a book to be read more than once. In any event, we should be grateful for the sermon. Its healing power is something our country desperately needs.

  • MissSugarTown
    Jan 26, 2017

    I don't know where to start, highly educational, scary and... this book left me more confused than ever about the question of race in America.

  • Simran Kaur-Colbert
    Jan 28, 2017

    Important not just for White America, but for all of America to read. As a South Asian American, my community of immigrants also aspires to assimilate and in many ways that means aspiring towards whiteness. Desi Americans must also sit with the discomfort that our community also has anti-black sentiments and benefits from those sentiments in American society. Our Desi culture also appropriates Black culture. Many in our community react like White America to calls for racial justice by BLM: we ar

    Important not just for White America, but for all of America to read. As a South Asian American, my community of immigrants also aspires to assimilate and in many ways that means aspiring towards whiteness. Desi Americans must also sit with the discomfort that our community also has anti-black sentiments and benefits from those sentiments in American society. Our Desi culture also appropriates Black culture. Many in our community react like White America to calls for racial justice by BLM: we are upset at damage of broken windows and cars but don't care nearly as much for the historical racial violence that targets Black communities. South Asian Americans must also heed to Dr. Dyson's sermon-to engage with African Americans, to purposefully build relationships based on shared interests. This is a sermon that I know my community needs to hear as well. Books offers practical ways people can change themselves and the future-if only one is willing and open to honest self reflection. Otherwise may be just as difficult for Desi Americans to read as it may be for White Americans.

  • Richard Derus
    Feb 08, 2017

    #ReadingIsResistance to institutional racism's costs in a sermon aimed at those it benefits.

    is live today.

    Michael Eric Dyson pens a heartfelt, stern, anguished plea for white Americans to examine their passive complicity in a zero-sum spoils system that perpetuates injustice. St. Martin's Press does us all a service by publishing it at this point in time.

    This is Black History Month. It never hurts to be reminded that Black Lives Matter.