New York Times reporter, Ana Marie Cox, interviewed Georgetown University professor and author Michael Eric Dyson to talk about his forthcoming book, “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.”
In her question and answer style report, Ms. Cox condensed and edited the interview to contain highlights; much of which centered on the subject of white people making reparations.
At the end of your sermon, you do a “benediction” section, in which you talk about making reparations on the local and individual level: donating to groups like the United Negro College Fund or a scholarship program, but also, to cite your example from the book, paying “the black person who cuts your grass double what you might ordinarily pay.” That gave me pause! Good! I used to say in church, “If the sermon ain’t making you a little bit uncomfortable, it ain’t effective.” Look, if it doesn’t cost you anything, you’re not really engaging in change; you’re engaging in convenience. You’re engaged in the overflow. I’m asking you to do stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’m asking you to think more seriously and strategically about why you possess what you possess.
I agree with reparations, but maybe this is my white privilege speaking: I can’t imagine actually doing that. That is what I meant by an I.R.A.: an individual reparations account. You ain’t got to ask the government, you don’t have to ask your local politician — this is what you, an individual, conscientious, “woke” citizen can do.
But, the greatest question was the one with which Ms. Cox ended her piece. She surmised that for Dyson “charity” wouldn’t be enough, citing the example of the Koch brothers giving $25 million to the United Negro College Fund. Mr. Dyson confirmed that he wouldn’t consider the Koch brothers “woke” citizens. Here’s exactly what he said, “No (as in no, charity is not enough.) Martin Luther King Jr. believed that charity is a poor substitute for justice. But I ain’t turning $25 million down.”