“How can we make it through the long night of despair to the bright day of hope?” This is the sorrowful question that Dyson asks on behalf of African Americans in Tears We Cannot Stop. The book, in turn, is written for White America. After pondering what form would most effectively address this question, Dyson settled on what he knows best: a worship service and a sermon. He preaches the sermon with the fervor that comes from a long tradition. He preaches with urgency and passion.
“America is in trouble and . . . most of the trouble has to do with race.” He briefly reflects on his own life and his family’s experiences of black subservience, fear, and the resulting shame. Dyson writes about Martin Luther King Jr. and King’s increasing skepticism about the will of white America to change. And then Dyson launches into the sermon, “Beloved.” He preaches what everyone experiences to be true but most do not want to admit. White America needs to repent and turn from its privilege, an invented whiteness with an artificial white innocence. The sermon is a call to first of all acknowledge, then repent, and finally respond with action. Dyson suggests very practical, surprising, and challenging ways to be agents for change, including a reading list.
Beloved, avoid defensiveness. Sit with the sermon and weep. Pray for change. (St. Martin’s Press)