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Long Time Coming by Michael Eric Dyson

2020, St Martin's Press

In the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd in May 2020, preacher Michael Eric Dyson wrote of his pain, and of a flickering light of hope, in the form of letters to other victims of senseless deaths: Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Hadiya Pendelton, Sandra Bland, and Reverend Clementa Pinckney.

Let's take a moment to remember them:

Elijah McClain: 23-year-old, died at the hands of police. Crime: looking "suspicious"

Emmett Till: 14-year-old Northern boy kidnapped, dismembered and murdered by Southern Whites. Crime: whistling, allegedly at a white female.

Eric Garner: choked to death by police." Crime: selling illegal cigarettes

Breonna Taylor: Emergency Medical Technician in her 20s, shot multiple times and killed by police who broke into her apartment using an erroneous no-knock warrant. Crime: none

Hadiya Pendleton: Killed at age 15 by the member of a gang, by mistake. Crime: none

Sandra Bland: Died by hanging in her jail cell where she was held due to not having 500$ for bail. Crime: argued about being stopped for a minor traffic violation, then badly mistreated and physically assaulted

Rev. Clementa Pinckney: killed along with 8 others by stranger Dylann Roof, while leading a Bible study. Roof admitted to committing the murders in the hopes of provoking a race war.

There are many others. Let's know their names:

What to do about it

Dyson says the best way to challenge today's racial problems is to fight white comfort, challenge Trump supporters and their allies, and understand systemic racism in

education, healthcare, housing, banking, employment, voting, and the military.

He lists ways to make change happen through different levels of what he calls membership in the community of White allies.

Introductory membership: Be willing to read and become familiar with racial problems.

Associate membership: Attend book-clubs and other groups with like-minded Whites and clarify roles in the struggle for racial justice. If you're in the corporate world, revise practices to help "deepen diversity and broaden inclusion."*

Advanced membership: Be willing to challenge white privilege and comfort and to argue for change in "communities of color... where injustice prevails."* Corporate and political leaders, use your influence to "bring racial justice to the social and political realm."*

Lifetime membership: Protest with Black folk, get arrested if needed, endure police brutality, and in some cases make the ultimate sacrifice ("like John Brown, James Reeb, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, Viola Liuzzo Heather Heyer"*)

*Dyson, Long Time Coming


It's been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change gon' come

oh yes it will

-Sam Cooke "A Change Is Gonna Come"

For Reflection

A study by Harvard scholar Devah Pager (1972-2018), Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), showed that White men with criminal records often have a better shot at a given job than Black men with no criminal records.*

*Dyson, p. 215, footnote p. 230

Graph from study by Devah Pager

It's not all Black and White

While proofreading this post I started capitalising the word white in relation to race, in order to be what seemed to me consistent with treatment of the word black. Then I realised the author had capitalised Black but not white in his text on purpose. A google search turned up the following links to differing viewpoints, and a reading recommendation.

Read: White Fragility


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