By Veronica Morley
Sociologist Michael Eric Dyson used a mixture of humor, rhetoric and historical imagery to deliver what he described as his “Sermon to White America” Thursday at Bakersfield College, preaching about police brutality, equality and race issues in America.
“The real religion in America is race,” Dyson said. “The real allure is whiteness. And the unifying fiction of America is based on how far or close you are to white ideals. And so we tell people to get over identity, and yet whiteness is seen as invisible — it’s not seen as an identity.”
Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor and author, spoke on campus as part of the college’s celebration of Black History Month.
Dyson drew from King’s famed “I have a dream” speech, highlighting that the police brutality King spoke about in 1963 still persists today. The total number of police-involved deaths, according to The Washington Post, was at least 3,053 people since Jan. 1, 2015.
Dyson said most issues around race and police have been jump-started by police misconduct or tensions between law enforcement and communities of color.
“We’re just saying ‘stop shooting us unjustifiably.’ Don’t show up, start shooting,” Dyson said. “Ask some questions, like ‘are you the criminal or not?’”
He spoke of how all men were are created equal, including both genders, all sexual orientations and ethnicities.
“Why is it we are addicted to categorization to exclude as opposed to embrace?” said Dyson.
Dyson also spoke in support of LGBTQ rights. He shared a story about being confronted by a parishioner in church who told him he was going to hell for saying God created homosexuals.
“I said, ‘Are you saying God created gay people imperfectly? What’s wrong with your theology?” said Dyson.
Those who exhibit the strongest homophobic tendencies, Dyson said, are those with unconscious cultural beliefs forcing them to internalize their own urges. That internalized self hatred was the mark of an agonizing inability to accept oneself, Dyson said.
King’s response to that, Dyson said, would be, “injustice anywhere is a break to justice everywhere, and if we’re going to have leadership in the 21st century, then we’ve got to get rid of the -isms.”
Then Dyson launched into a discussion about President Donald Trump and his most famous quotes about immigrants, women and African-Americans.
“If you’re going around trying to beat up on Mexicans? If you run your campaigns firing out ‘beat down on Mexicans’, calling them rapists? You’re the one trying to grab something! And then trying to blame hip-hop for it,” said Dyson, referring to then-candidate Trump’s 2016 remarks generalizing all Mexican immigrants are rapists.
The audience roared with laughter and applause as Dyson rapped The Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics: “If it’s alright with you. We lovin.”
“That’s affirmative consent,” Dyson noted.
When it comes to tax reform, it does not matter the color of your skin as long as you are working class, Dyson said. Dyson said he thinks the white working class sees themselves in line with the upper class in regards to the tax cuts.
“They tell us that this last election was a referendum on the white working class while they tell us people of color, and women, and other people to get over our identity politics,” Dyson said.
Dyson said that while people are concerned with threats of Islamic terrorism, he thinks they should be concerned with white on white crime. He believes the death toll related to white on white crime is somewhere in the thousands.
“Whiteness and racial tyranny have been identified as what it means to be American. So when we challenge that you think we’re challenging being American. You think we don’t like being American?” Dyson asked. “No, we just don’t want to be you as an American. We want to be us as an American.”