Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson is proposing the idea that white people should have an ‘Individual Reparations Account’ to make donations to black institutions and individuals.
The idea is part of his forthcoming book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.
Dyson made the argument during an interview with Ana Marie Cox in the January 8 edition of the New York Times Magazine.
From the interview:
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 charity can’t be the end of it, right? The Koch brothers gave the United Negro College Fund $25 million, but I doubt you would consider them “woke.”
No. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that charity is a poor substitute for justice. But I ain’t turning $25 million down.
Dyson believes his book will reach out to “the ocean of white folk” who are “deeply empathetic to the struggles of minorities.”
The professor and former MSNBC contributor told the NYT that his book opens with “horror stories” about his engagement with police.
He says that those types of experiences with law enforcement are even shared by prominent black politicians like Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The reality is that this is part and parcel of what it means to be black in America, and I wanted to spend time talking and thinking about it from a number of different perspectives to show white brothers and sisters that we aren’t making this up,” Dyson said.
According to the official George Town University website, from 2008 to 2014, Dyson taught Social Science classes titled “Barack Obama and Race,” “Hip Hop Culture: Orig/Mean/Conseq,” and “Hip Hop: URB THEODICY JAY-Z.”
Carlos Lozada, a non-fiction book critic for The Washington Post, effectively summarizes the inflammatory nature of Dyson’s book:
Dyson makes clear that he regards much of white America as a pernicious force. “We can do nothing to make our tormentors stop their evil,” Dyson laments to the Almighty. “How can we possibly combat the blindness of white men and women who are so deeply invested in their own privilege that they cannot afford to see how much we suffer?”
He likens law enforcement officers to terrorists (“We think of the police who kill us for no good reason as ISIS”) and slave drivers (“The police car is a mobile plantation”). He admits that he’d like to pay violence back in kind. “Lord, Dear Lord, I don’t want to feel this way, but I swear to you I want to kill dead any Godforsaken soul who thinks that killing black people is an acceptable price to pay for keeping this nation safe. But then, am I any better than that soul?” And, in shades of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Dyson calls on God to “convict” America. “May this land know your displeasure, taste your holy wrath, for killing us like pigs without conscience,” he writes.
In December, Dyson wrote a racially charged piece for the New York Times titled, “What Donald Trump Doesn’t Know About Black People,” in which he accused the president-elect of having a “vast ignorance of black life” and claimed that the “greatest purveyors of identity politics today, and for the bulk of our country’s history, have been white citizens.”
A similar call for reparations was advocated by Duke University Public Policy Professor and reparations advocate Dr. William “Sandy” Darity in 2014.
Darity advocated that anyone who could prove that one of their ancestors was a slave and that they self-identified as African-American would be eligible to receive publicly funded reparations.