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Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

by Michael Eric Dyson

January 11, 2017

Beloved, the deed has been done. We have—since that ‘we’ must contain, by virtue of our system of government, if not the will, then at least the implied consent, of even the people who opposed with all their souls the choice you made—elected Donald J. Trump as president of the United States of America. Please take measure of every phrase in that sentence.

Whether he wishes to be or not, Donald Trump is the epitome, not only of white innocence and white privilege, but of white power, white rage, and yes, even of white supremacy.

The greatly stepped-up harassment of people of color, and Muslims, and immigrants in the wake of Trump’s election points to the sea change in our naked tolerance for such assaults, in the permission granted to diabolical forces that rob us even more of comity and support of the commonweal.

Donald Trump harms our nation’s positive racial future.

Yet, beloved, there remains, after all, the blackness that is prophecy, the blackness that is inexplicable hope in the face of savage hopelessness.

Beloved, if the enslaved could nurture, on the vine of their desperate deficiency of democracy, the spiritual and moral fruit that fed our civilization, then surely we can name and resist demagoguery; we can protest, and somehow defeat, the forces that threaten the soul of our nation. To not try, to give up on the possibility that we can make a difference, can make the difference, is to give up on our past, on our complicated, difficult, but victorious past. Donald Trump is not our final, or ultimate, problem. The problem is, instead, allowing hopelessness to steal our joyful triumph before we work hard enough to achieve it.

—Michael Eric Dyson
December 2016
 
 
 
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MICHAEL ERIC DYSON is one of America’s premier public intellectuals. He occupies the distinguished position of University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and is a contributing editor of The New Republic and ESPN’s The Undefeated. Ebony magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans and one of the 150 most powerful blacks in the nation.