Dyson on race, class, and justice

An excerpt from Michael Eric Dyson, taped on Democracy Now! October 14, 2005:

“And what I beg all of my constituencies and what I beg as a part of a multiple kinship group, as the anthropologists call it, I beg every community to understand we in the same boat. You might be in the anti-war movement and speaking out tomorrow, but don’t forget the folk in Katrina. That’s the beauty of what Sister Goodman was talking about and Brother Damu was talking about, what Sister Cindy Sheehan understands. It ain’t just there. It’s not when those bodies die, and God bless them, it’s not simply when white bodies perish and white girls disappear, it’s also about the unheralded casualties of people who are yet on earth, and yet the life blood has been sucked by the vulture of American empire.

And these people will never be spoken for, because they are the walking wounded and the living dead. And so I beg of you that as — that those of us who are able to speak on behalf of the disenfranchised understand we in the same boat. The anti-war movement has been generated by this fearless woman (Sheehan) who has moved forward in the name of a sense of outrage at the libel and the mis-telling of truth that has been put forth by this political ventriloquist whose strings are being pulled by corporate capitalism to make him say what he’s saying.

And at the same time, don’t miss how it’s operating down in Halliburton and down in New Orleans and Mississippi and in Alabama. These black people, you see…People say, ‘Well, it’s not about race, it’s about class.’ What you talking about? Race often is the language class speaks. Race makes class hurt more. See, even poor white brothers and sisters are not necessarily going to school in concentrated effects of poverty. Even some white brothers and sisters are able to escape their poverty, making more money than some black people who have gone to college. But the reality is, poor white folk got more in common with poor black folk and poor brown folk and poor yellow folk than they got in common with the white overseers and the black over-rulers and the Latino sellouts who have abdicated their responsibility to represent the people.

And so, as I end, I beg you, please gird up your loins and tell the truth where you are. You see in Palestine, and as the Palestinians were struggling for self-determination with their Israeli brothers and sisters, they both came to a common declaration. They said we want the quiet miracle of a normal life. That’s what I want for so many millions of people both here in the country and around the globe. There’s so many people who suffer, who don’t have our education. They don’t have our bank accounts. They don’t have our sense of leisure and luxury. And if you and I can’t see beyond our own myopic, narcissistic self-preoccupation to help somebody else, to open up our minds, so we can open up our hearts, so we can open up our lives, and God knows our pocketbooks.

But it is more than the charity. People said in the Katrina, ‘Well, you see.’ and some of the rightwing conservatives said, ‘Well, the most people who were helping there were white folks trying to lift those helicopter things down to help those folk.’ Well, charity ain’t justice. Charity is beautiful, but you ain’t got to be charitable to me if I already got justice. If I already got a sense of participation, you ain’t got to be charitable to me. Just treat me right every day.”

Professor Dyson spoke a few weeks ago at the first annual Unvarnished Truth Awards in Washington D.C. The awards were organized by Pacifica and were held the same weekend as thousands came to D.C for the massive anti-war march. Michael Eric Dyson is one of the expected speakers at the Millions More Movement event in Washington D.C. He is a professor, author, cultural critic and a Baptist minister. His latest book is titled, “Is Bill Cosby Right?”

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