November 5th, 2008
08:25 AM ET

Race, post race

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Michael Eric Dyson
Los Angeles Times

More than half a century ago, Langston Hughes captured the debilitating divide in the destinies of white and black children in his poem "Children's Rhymes": "By what sends / the white kids / I ain't sent: / I know I can't / be PresidentBy what sends / the white kids / I ain't sent: / I know I can't / be President." Forty-six years after Hughes, rapper Tupac echoed that declaration: "And though it seems heaven sent / We ain't ready to have a black president." Today, little more than a decade after Tupac's lament, we are ready for a black president, and the grief of dreams deferred is lifted.

By any measure, this is a monumental day in our nation's history. African Americans are rightly proud. The brutal facts of black existence - slavery, segregation and the stunting of social and political ambition - have dashed the hopes of black progress time and again. The election of Barack Obama symbolizes the resurrection of hope and the restoration of belief in a country that has often failed to treat its black citizens as kin. For millions of blacks abandoned to social neglect and cultural isolation, Obama's words and vision have built a bridge back into the American family.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Michael Eric Dyson • Raw Politics
August 9th, 2008
12:20 PM ET

Two Brothers, Two Paths: Shades of Race

Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.

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Editor's Note: Michael Eric Dyson is a University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, and author of 16 books, including the New York Times bestseller, "April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America."

Michael Eric Dyson
University Professor of Sociology, Georgetown University

As a black man who is also a professor, preacher, media commentator and author, I routinely write and talk about issues that affect the entire black community, from class warfare to the debate over hip hop. Although I write from as balanced and scholarly a perspective as possible, there’s no denying that often the subject hits home quite closely. Sometimes, it’s not merely academic.

For instance, I’ve written and spoken quite a bit about the prison industrial complex. I can’t deny that my brother Everett’s condition of being locked away for life, for a murder I believe he didn’t commit, fuels my determination to see black men treated more justly and to see the criminal justice system reformed. When I visit him, and see this intelligent and gentle soul corralled like an animal, it hurts. And I don’t view him, or other men who’ve made destructive choices in their lives, through rose tinted shades. I understand the harm and pain wreaked on their families and communities by black men who choose to live beyond the law. But I also understand that persistent racial discrimination often colors how we negatively perceive black men who make mistakes, while offering far more chances to white men who err.