On Tuesday night in the Center for Global Citizenship’s auditorium, Michael Eric Dyson brought the house down with his brutal honesty, quick wit, popular rap lyrics and a professor’s knowledge of contemporary black America.
Dyson was the keynote speaker for the Black Student Alliance’s month of events dedicated to Black History Month.
Dyson is the author of a number of accessible, yet hard-hitting books on the status of black Americans. His most recent book, which he briefly promoted at the lecture, is “Can you Hear me Now?” As well as authoring books, Dyson is a professor at Georgetown University and the host of a radio show on NPR.
Dyson is hailed as one of the most inspirational African-Americans in the U.S. According to SLU’s Black History Month page, what makes Dyson so influential is that he infuses “intellectual thought with popular culture, Dyson focuses on topics of interest to the public. He eloquently melds scholarly insight with the phenomena of contemporary culture, emphasizing their interconnectedness and force in shaping society.”
He used that trademark style on Tuesday when giving his lecture on the dichotomy of black America. He told the audience that he wants the “opportunity to chat about the state of the black community as it is today.” He said that this period of time has seen growth and progress for the middle class black Americans in this country, which he said culminated in the election of the nation’s first black president. However, he also painted a grim picture for black Americans in the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.
He talked extensively on how President Barack Obama is depicted by popular media sources and how his victory shouldn’t mean the world to the black American community. He stated, “[President Obama] will be out in a minute, we’ll still be black.” Dyson acknowledged the expectation from white Americans that the country is post-racial because a black president was elected, and the statement that would surely follow: “You got a black president, be quiet.” He also criticized members of the black community for blindly supporting Obama, even if the president is not properly representing the black community. He told the audience to be critical of Obama. He stipulated that, “being critical ain’t being a hater.”
On the other hand, he talked about the marginalized black American community that is suffering from spending cuts that don’t adequately emphasize the humanity of poverty. He stated, “We’ve got people who are drastically and desperately poor.” He cited the lyrics of rappers who talked about police brutality and the lack of opportunity, lauding their honesty. “Somebody’s got to tell the truth, I’m glad rappers do.”