Watch: Michael Eric Dyson Explains How Having White Skin Is the Biggest Handout in History

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Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America is Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson’s 20th book—and it was his most difficult to write.

Inspired by a July 2016 New York Times essay responding to the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Dyson uses Tears We Cannot Stop as an opportunity to speak from his heart to white America specifically about the perils created by whiteness. Dyson, an ordained Baptist minister, structures the book in the form of a sermon (with a closing prayer and all), and its message is clear: Police shootings must end, and white people must see black humanity and renounce white privilege.


“Many white brothers and sisters are always telling black people, brown people, red, yellow people: Lift yourself up by your bootstraps; stop asking for a handout,” says Dyson. “You’ve got the biggest handout in history; you’ve got white skin, white-skin privilege. You’ve got the ability not to be challenged on what you believe.”

In over 200 pages, Dyson explores the notion of white innocence, white privilege, white power and beyond. History has been made white, and these notions of whiteness persist, as evidenced by Donald Trump, who “represents the face of whiteness on steroids,” says Dyson. It is no coincidence that this book was released two months after the presidential election.

The Root sat down with Dyson to discuss white privilege, Trump and Dyson’s latest book.


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Felice León

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.