I guess I just like Michael Eric Dyson books, and generally always have. I recall him pretty prominently from the days where I’d stay up and watch politically correct and he’d hash it out. In this book, which is from 1996, I’m seeing his most topical book (compared to books about James Baldwin or MLK), in that he’s directly addressing two very prominent events from around this time: the Million Man March and the OJ Verdict.
In discussing both, there’s a kind of insider baseball/wonkiness that demonstrates to me some of the complexities at play in how race specifically plays into these issues and how also these issues play out among Black people in the US. Dyson is good at hashing out these complexities in ways that demonstrates just how knotty they get, and like all significantly knotty issues, can only get as far as describing them. I this ability to accept complexity as a necessary fact about issues of race in the US is the only forward because otherwise solutions will be too simplistic. At the same time, there’s something pernicious in the ways in which race is talked about (duh!) because you have anti-racists working to show complexity, context, carefulness, showing how intertwined histories, communities, ideas, etc are with race and then you have racists (or its defenders, both active and complacent) refusing to see the issues as complex at all. It’s an unequal conversation at the best of times, and a wholly dishonest one at the worst.
So this book speaks to that, while carefully hammering out the complexities contained with the OJ verdict, especially bringing in the important complication of how “whiteness” also impacted the trial. And with the Million Man March, which might be less complex if it didn’t involve Louis Farrakhan. It’s a bit of an artifact, which shows just how consistent Dyson has been all these years (getting in tiffs with Cornell West and being ahead of the progressive curve on key issues), and just how frustrating untangling race in the US has also been.