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What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America

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A stunning follow up to New York Times bestseller Tears We Cannot Stop, a timely exploration of America's tortured racial politics In 2015 BLM activist Julius Jones confronted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an urgent query: “What in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?” “I don’t believe you just change hearts,” she protes A stunning follow up to New York Times bestseller Tears We Cannot Stop, a timely exploration of America's tortured racial politics In 2015 BLM activist Julius Jones confronted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an urgent query: “What in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?” “I don’t believe you just change hearts,” she protested. “I believe you change laws.” The fraught conflict between conscience and politics – between morality and power – in addressing race hardly began with Clinton. An electrifying and traumatic encounter in the sixties crystallized these furious disputes. In 1963 Attorney General Robert Kennedy sought out James Baldwin to explain the rage that threatened to engulf black America. Baldwin brought along some friends, including playwright Lorraine Hansberry, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and a valiant activist, Jerome Smith. It was Smith’s relentless, unfiltered fury that set Kennedy on his heels, reducing him to sullen silence. Kennedy walked away from the nearly three-hour meeting angry – that the black folk assembled didn’t understand politics, and that they weren’t as easy to talk to as Martin Luther King. But especially that they were more interested in witness than policy. But Kennedy’s anger quickly gave way to empathy, especially for Smith. “I guess if I were in his shoes…I might feel differently about this country.” Kennedy set about changing policy – the meeting having transformed his thinking in fundamental ways. There was more: every big argument about race that persists to this day got a hearing in that room. Smith declaring that he’d never fight for his country given its racist tendencies, and Kennedy being appalled at such lack of patriotism, tracks the disdain for black dissent in our own time. His belief that black folk were ungrateful for the Kennedys’ efforts to make things better shows up in our day as the charge that black folk wallow in the politics of ingratitude and victimhood. The contributions of black queer folk to racial progress still cause a stir. BLM has been accused of harboring a covert queer agenda. The immigrant experience, like that of Kennedy – versus the racial experience of Baldwin – is a cudgel to excoriate black folk for lacking hustle and ingenuity. The questioning of whether folk who are interracially partnered can authentically communicate black interests persists. And we grapple still with the responsibility of black intellectuals and artists to bring about social change. This book exists at the tense intersection of the conflict between politics and prophecy – of whether we embrace political resolution or moral redemption to fix our fractured racial landscape. The future of race and democracy hang in the balance.


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A stunning follow up to New York Times bestseller Tears We Cannot Stop, a timely exploration of America's tortured racial politics In 2015 BLM activist Julius Jones confronted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an urgent query: “What in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?” “I don’t believe you just change hearts,” she protes A stunning follow up to New York Times bestseller Tears We Cannot Stop, a timely exploration of America's tortured racial politics In 2015 BLM activist Julius Jones confronted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an urgent query: “What in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?” “I don’t believe you just change hearts,” she protested. “I believe you change laws.” The fraught conflict between conscience and politics – between morality and power – in addressing race hardly began with Clinton. An electrifying and traumatic encounter in the sixties crystallized these furious disputes. In 1963 Attorney General Robert Kennedy sought out James Baldwin to explain the rage that threatened to engulf black America. Baldwin brought along some friends, including playwright Lorraine Hansberry, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and a valiant activist, Jerome Smith. It was Smith’s relentless, unfiltered fury that set Kennedy on his heels, reducing him to sullen silence. Kennedy walked away from the nearly three-hour meeting angry – that the black folk assembled didn’t understand politics, and that they weren’t as easy to talk to as Martin Luther King. But especially that they were more interested in witness than policy. But Kennedy’s anger quickly gave way to empathy, especially for Smith. “I guess if I were in his shoes…I might feel differently about this country.” Kennedy set about changing policy – the meeting having transformed his thinking in fundamental ways. There was more: every big argument about race that persists to this day got a hearing in that room. Smith declaring that he’d never fight for his country given its racist tendencies, and Kennedy being appalled at such lack of patriotism, tracks the disdain for black dissent in our own time. His belief that black folk were ungrateful for the Kennedys’ efforts to make things better shows up in our day as the charge that black folk wallow in the politics of ingratitude and victimhood. The contributions of black queer folk to racial progress still cause a stir. BLM has been accused of harboring a covert queer agenda. The immigrant experience, like that of Kennedy – versus the racial experience of Baldwin – is a cudgel to excoriate black folk for lacking hustle and ingenuity. The questioning of whether folk who are interracially partnered can authentically communicate black interests persists. And we grapple still with the responsibility of black intellectuals and artists to bring about social change. This book exists at the tense intersection of the conflict between politics and prophecy – of whether we embrace political resolution or moral redemption to fix our fractured racial landscape. The future of race and democracy hang in the balance.

30 review for What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    ...an important lesson to white people about how to start real change. And that involves sometimes sitting silently, and, finally, as black folk have been forced to do, listening, and listening, and listening, and listening some more." What Truth Sounds Like is a powerful and highly relevant book addressing racism. Because I feel that it is important for white America to be silent and LISTEN to the too-long-silenced voices of people of colour, I will keep this review brief and encourage all - ...an important lesson to white people about how to start real change. And that involves sometimes sitting silently, and, finally, as black folk have been forced to do, listening, and listening, and listening, and listening some more." What Truth Sounds Like is a powerful and highly relevant book addressing racism. Because I feel that it is important for white America to be silent and LISTEN to the too-long-silenced voices of people of colour, I will keep this review brief and encourage all -- but especially white people -- to read this book for yourself. Michael Eric Dyson is an incredible writer and thinker, and a voice who urgently needs to be heard. I highly recommend this book along with Mr. Dyson's previous book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America. If we are to ever move beyond racism and its cruel manifestations, white America needs to first and foremost listen.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    Click the link for my review. https://browngirlreading.com/2018/06/... Click the link for my review. https://browngirlreading.com/2018/06/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Patrice Hoffman

    What the truth sounds like, and is for me as I sit here and write this review is that I don't know how to review books such as this. Part of me wants to offer a review that strictly focuses on the writing. That (cowardly) part wants to remain neutral in all works that are social hot topics such as politics and race. I don't want to take a side. As reviewer, I feel it's a duty of sorts not to take a side. But another part, a bigger part of me knows I can't be honest and not share my opinions on t What the truth sounds like, and is for me as I sit here and write this review is that I don't know how to review books such as this. Part of me wants to offer a review that strictly focuses on the writing. That (cowardly) part wants to remain neutral in all works that are social hot topics such as politics and race. I don't want to take a side. As reviewer, I feel it's a duty of sorts not to take a side. But another part, a bigger part of me knows I can't be honest and not share my opinions on the subject matter. The issues Michael Eric Dyson addresses in What Truth Sounds Like are happening all around whether or not I pick a side or engage in the conversation. What Truth Sounds Like focuses on an off-the record (so to speak) conversational discussion Robert Kennedy engaged in James Baldwin and other prolific black American figures during the height of the Civil Rights movements. Baldwin, along with Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Horne, Rip Torn, and few others. Kennedy hoped that with the help of those in attendance, they could provide insight on what laws or politics needed to be done in order to reestablish "peace". Kennedy expected that this gathering of black scholars who'd risen from the chains of Jim Crow's oppressive grasp, would understand that change takes time. What they explained, and still to this day needs to be explained (for some reason), is that there is no more time. More on that later... So... let's put on the reviewer hat. Michael Eric Dyson writes What Truth Sounds Like with a pace that is conversational yet with an urgency that is similar to those who protest that Black Lives Matter. Because I'm a huge fan and have seen him on CNN, MSNBC, and other news outlets, it was refreshing to read his words as opposed to hearing his words and thoughts crammed into a segment. In the same way What Truth Sounds Like is conversational in tone, there's also an obvious love-letter in there to Baldwin (especially) and those who have chosen to carry the torch since Dr Martin Luther King Jr's assassination. Muhammad Ali, Lebron James, The Carters, Colin Kaepernick, and the women who have pioneered the "Me-Too" and "Black Lives Matters" campaigns. I guess this is where I get personal... It's not fair to make this review about myself, but as I mentioned, history is happening all around me, us, regardless of my level of participation. Dyson suggests that the Kennedy-Baldwin conversation still needs to be had. Based on the amount of young black men being gunned down by those promising to serve and protect, then beating any charges they are faced, is proof the conversation is not over. The fact that our country elected a bigot that doesn't even denounce the KKK is proof there's more to say. In a world where "BBQ Becky" and the Yale student feel that they need police to protect them from blacks who actually have a right to be where they are. And it infuriates me. All of it. I grew up in an extremely diverse Utopia that didn't prepare me for the anger I feel when these stories come to light. When someone white tries to convince me that they voted for Trump because he's a business man and can ignore his bigotry just screams you're probably racist. And we can have a conversation why. I'll hear your point but you must hear mine as well. Like Dyson mentions often in this read, there are moral issues as to why these grievances against people of color keep happening. It's sad. It's really sad that there is this mentality that runs rampant in the US of an "us" against "them". I would love to provide quotes from the text but I wouldn't know where to stop. Because I enjoyed reading Dyson's words so much, I was shocked when the references page popped up. And then... I continued clicking on the many links provided. To state simply I was engaged in this truth would be a gross understatement. The text is so moving I had to read the references and also go to my local used bookstore to grab a few books (mainly Baldwin's and older Dyson works) that I needed to fuel my soul. Ultimately, there's no doubt the discussion on race needs to be had. It's imperative because black Americans are tired of continuing to be exploited. Imagine building, funding, living in a world that doesn't find you fit or suitable. You're an outsider. That's where we live. Thank you Michael Eric Dyson for writing What Truth Sounds Like. Copy Provided by St. Martin's Press via Netgalley

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It’s nominal premise is based on a little known meeting in late May 1963 between then Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Black intellectuals, activists and entertainers ranging from James Baldwin to Lena Horne to Lorraine Hansberry. It was a stunning collection of prominent Black cultural figures and Kennedy was meeting was to collect suggestions as to the best course the government should take in pursuit of Civil Rights. It did not go well. As Dyson wr I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It’s nominal premise is based on a little known meeting in late May 1963 between then Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Black intellectuals, activists and entertainers ranging from James Baldwin to Lena Horne to Lorraine Hansberry. It was a stunning collection of prominent Black cultural figures and Kennedy was meeting was to collect suggestions as to the best course the government should take in pursuit of Civil Rights. It did not go well. As Dyson writes, (for a far more detailed and frankly more coherent breakdown of what happened on that day I would recommend Taylor Branch’s “Pillar of Fire”) Kennedy seemingly was there to talk and not listen. He bristled at any suggestion that Civil Rights could be achieved quickly, or through any method other than methodical passing of legislation. To put it bluntly, the assembled Black luminaries gave him an earful about what the real racial situation in places in Alabama and Mississippi looked like. Kennedy left the meeting that day upset, and probably with hurt feelings (that he also after the meeting soon approved FBI wiretaps for Martin Luther King and some of his associates is an unfortunate byproduct of this meeting) and believing that “Negroes” were more interested in “witness” than the practical reality on the ground. This is the jumping off point for Dyson where he defends the importance of practicality but with equal vehemence defends the importance in Black history of witnessing and protest. Through the examples of Malcolm X, James Baldwin, MLK, and some contemporary voices as well, Dyson sees a new generation rising to the challenge thrown down by their predecessors in the 1950’s and ’60’s. Dyson makes some excellent and impassioned arguments and his writing jumps off the page at times. The problem for me however was Dyson goes on flights of rhetorical fancy that he is at times, unable to extricate himself from. This is most evident in a long passage he writes about Cornel West and his criticism of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Barack Obama. He accuses West of using personal attacks (to be fair West certainly does get personal but his disagreements with Coates and Obama also have some merit and at the very least deserve to be heard) and then proceeds to pillory West with his own personal attacks. At one point he accuses West of being hyper aware of cameras: “Is it West’s self-styled resistance to police brutality, evidenced by his occasional willingness to get arrested in highly staged and camera-ready gestures of civil disobedience, such as in Ferguson in the fall of 2014?” Unless Dyson has a hotline to the soul and inner thoughts of West, this seems to be an irresponsible and somewhat mean spirited charge. The two men have traded nasty barbs back and forth in the past, which is unfortunate, but this book did not seem like the proper forum to inflame what ever grudges these men may have against each other. As West is the only Black figure in the book he excoriates at length, it makes for some very personal and uncomfortable reading. Perhaps Dyson could have taken a page out of the book of James Baldwin when he found himself on the end of a particularly nasty criticism from Eldridge Cleaver who wrote: “There is in James Baldwin’s work the most grueling, agonizing, total hatred of the blacks, particularly of himself, and the most shameful, fanatical, fawning, sycophantic love of the whites that one can find in the writings of any black American writer of note in our time” Cleaver said. “The case of James Baldwin aside for a moment, it seems that many Negro homosexuals, acquiescing in this racial death-wish, are outraged and frustrated because in their sickness they are unable to have a baby by a white man.” To which Baldwin responded. “I thought I could see why he felt compelled to issue what was, in fact, a warning: he was being a zealous watchman on the city wall, and I don’t say that with a sneer” Baldwin said that Cleaver viewed him as “dangerously odd, badly twisted, and fragile reed, of too much use to the Establishment to be trusted by blacks.” Baldwin wrote that Cleaver “uses my public reputation against me both naively and unjustly” and that he had confused Baldwin with “all those faggots, punks, and sissies, the sight and sound of whom, in prison, must have made him vomit more than once” Baldwin admitted, “I am an odd quantity. So is Eldridge; so are we all.” So are we all. Lastly, these flights of fancy lead Dyson at various times in the book to compare Barack Obama to Malcom X and Lebron James’s return to his original basketball team after a dalliance with a different team as something: “Like another King (he is referencing Martin Luther King) from the dim mists of history who preached the redemption of unearned suffering and the power of forgiveness, LeBron James showed us that one can go home again and make it even better than when one left.” LeBron James by many accounts does a lot for local communities in his hometown, and does occasionally speak up on injustice. I laud him for doing so, but I find even the most strained attempt to link the life and sacrifices MLK endured to the life of LeBron James highly questionable. Not the same people. At. All. To sum up, there was quite a bit to like in this book. But the need of Dyson to settle personal scores, as well his use of hyperbole that is at best unfortunate, detracts from what could have been something much, much better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    There was a meeting in 1963 between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin and a few of Baldwin’s friends. When you think of an example of speaking truth to power, that meeting as described by Dyson here, will indeed standout as definitive. Dyson writes “I heard over the years how explosive it was, how it brought together other folk I had admired, including Harry Belafonte. The gathering pitted an earnest if defensive white liberal against a raging phalanx of thinkers, activists, and entertainers w There was a meeting in 1963 between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin and a few of Baldwin’s friends. When you think of an example of speaking truth to power, that meeting as described by Dyson here, will indeed standout as definitive. Dyson writes “I heard over the years how explosive it was, how it brought together other folk I had admired, including Harry Belafonte. The gathering pitted an earnest if defensive white liberal against a raging phalanx of thinkers, activists, and entertainers who were out for blood. I’ve always wanted to read a book about that historic moment, and more important, about its meaning for us today as we struggle with many of the same issues America confronted 50 years ago.” Dyson has not written that book, but this one has enough details about that meeting to give a clear picture about what took place. He manages to put the reader in that room while brilliantly filling out the book with looks at the various communities represented. There are chapters on the Artists, Activists, Intellectuals and the Politicians. And Dyson doesn’t just lock into 1963, he brings the discussion current because....”racial and political truths that we still confront today.” So while that very important and volatile meeting sets the foundation for the book, the actions or inactions of our current community leaders-not in the geographical sense, but community in the sense of interest groups, i.e. Artists, Politicians, etc.-are the brick and mortar that makes this a must read. The melding of the historical with current day concerns and challenges qualifies this work as one of Dyson’s best. Dyson’s prose and criticism is as always, electric and sharp, “the enshrinement of ignorance as the basis of power and authority, is the personification of white supremacy and white arrogance.” The indictment of white supremacy while encouraging Whites to wake up and recognize is a continued effort from his most previous work, Tears We Cannot Stop. As evidenced by the subtitle here, Dyson is of the belief that the historic meeting in 1963 was an important conversation about race that no doubt needs be to continued and expanded because it remains unfinished. However in this book he has turned up the volume so it’s clear what truth sounds like! Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced DRC. The publishing date is June 5, 2018. Mark your calendar.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    This was a worthwhile read, though I listened to the audiobook, which might have been a small mistake. I felt the author reading it himself didn't work so well. That being said, it was very informative and offered a historical context, which he connected to the modern day. I felt much more interested in the first portion of the book, which discussed the views and efforts of people like James Baldwin, Harry Belfonte, Langston Hughes and Robert Kennedy. These points were really fascinating, and I This was a worthwhile read, though I listened to the audiobook, which might have been a small mistake. I felt the author reading it himself didn't work so well. That being said, it was very informative and offered a historical context, which he connected to the modern day. I felt much more interested in the first portion of the book, which discussed the views and efforts of people like James Baldwin, Harry Belfonte, Langston Hughes and Robert Kennedy. These points were really fascinating, and I felt sad thinking of their work and knowing how much more still needs to change many decades later, and wondering how people fifty years from now will judge the present day. I was slightly less moved by the parts that discussed current entertainers and politicians, because I felt it offered little new. Overall, recommended! Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    A book everybody should read but not one everybody will like. These are very complicated issues and I don't always agree with the author although I do see where he's coming from in all cases. What truth sounds like is always from the speaker's point of view and this is no different. Things I liked/loved about this book: The author takes on inequalities other than race and even in race it's not just about people of color. Women, people of different sexualities, muslims, women....he speaks for the A book everybody should read but not one everybody will like. These are very complicated issues and I don't always agree with the author although I do see where he's coming from in all cases. What truth sounds like is always from the speaker's point of view and this is no different. Things I liked/loved about this book: The author takes on inequalities other than race and even in race it's not just about people of color. Women, people of different sexualities, muslims, women....he speaks for them all. He's not afraid to take on liberals including Obama and Hillary. Trayvon Martin, Colin Kaepernick and their injustices are at the forefront. I do wish there was more about Baldwin. I'm going to be reading Another Country soon so having more of a view into his life would have been interesting. What I didn't like about this book: The author focuses on the topics of blackness and whiteness far too much in what I consider derisiveness. It's complicated because he would argue society elevates one while suppressing another. He's not completely wrong or even mostly wrong. My problem with it lies in that if you're against anything he would consider blackness than your racist and part of the problem. Lebron James and his decision to go to Miami is one example. For me it wasn't that he left Cleveland and formed a super team. It was the narcissistic way it was done. Having a show on ESPN to promote it for me was excessive and unnecessary. For me that's more of a generational issue than a race issue. If Tom Brady did that I wouldn't like it any more than I did for James. When Richard Sherman taunts opponents and gets in their faces I'm not fan of that behavior. But the author defends it. I actually like Sherman and he's very intelligent. I also think his antics are purely for PR. By making himself the story he's selling himself. With his talent and intelligence I just feel it's unnecessary. Brad Marchand is a white hockey player who plays for the hometown Bruins. His actions are far, far worse than Sherman going into cheapshots and I'm more critical of him. Not everything is about race. Most of all I hate the blackness vs whiteness because it paints all whites as racists. The author does point out a lot of prominent white people who he believes support equality. He does point out that poor whites and poor blacks should be united against a system that supports the elite. He doesn't however point out any non prominent whites who have done anything for social equality. Plenty of opportunities. When I was a teen a black state trooper pulled me over. It was basically a racial profiling where he pulled myself and my friends out of the car in the dead of winter without coats and in some cases shoes and made us stand around for no reason. He wrote me a ticket for going 75 in a 55 when I was going 58. I'm not sure about the motivation. Perhaps a white cop did the same to some black kids and this was his payback. I'm not comparing this to a lifetime of oppression but I did grow up in a city where a lot of black people hated white people merely for being white. My next door neighbor happened to be black and also happened to be a State Trooper. He knew the other cop and had the ticket squashed for me. Would a white cop have done the same for a black teen? I don't know. I'd think no in some cases and yes in some. The percentage is debatable but the author would probably claim close to zero. I worked for a communications and electrical company where the guy, white, who ran the warehouse was a blatant racist. He was spewing a bunch of racist crap one day and I said to him "Do you like any black people?" His reply was "Ya I know who a few who are funny as all hell." I replied "Maybe if you got to know a few more you would think the same about them." He retorted " F that I don't have time for those......." The issue point of these two stories is that the author misses the point that only through commonality and compassion can the gap be closed. He's looking for political solutions when in my opinion we need to be looking for humanitarian issues. Only through getting to know people of different races, sexualities, religions can we understand each other. The author loses sight of the fact that by using a wide brush stroke and saying all whites are about keeping whiteness on top he's being racist himself and losing people who would be his allies. It's hard not to feel attacked by this. I think that's part of what the author wants. To shock liberal whites to the next level. To make them social advocates. That's just not in everybody's DNA. He calls out Michael Jordan for it so calling out white liberal America is fair from that standpoint but you're losing people who would help you socially if not politically. I get the need to say it's been a 160 years plus and enough is enough. I get the need for individualism and cultural pride and diversification. I think the author wants sweeping changes and looks down on those not willing to follow that path. I think a war can be fought on multiple fronts. The small changes over the past 50 years have added up to a lot of social change. It's been a long ramble. Read the book. It is thought inducing. More importantly get to know somebody different. Find the commonality and celebrate the differences.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sean Blevins

    If you only read one book about race relations in the U.S.... Consider making this that one. Covers a lot of ground, starting with (and grounded in) the 1963 Baldwin-Kennedy summit with Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Horne, and Jerome Smith. Then compares and contrasts the significance and contributions of black artists, intellectuals and activists from the late 60s and 20-teens. Two things of particular value: Dyson's introduction to Baldwin's concept of witness, and his analysis of thr If you only read one book about race relations in the U.S.... Consider making this that one. Covers a lot of ground, starting with (and grounded in) the 1963 Baldwin-Kennedy summit with Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Horne, and Jerome Smith. Then compares and contrasts the significance and contributions of black artists, intellectuals and activists from the late 60s and 20-teens. Two things of particular value: Dyson's introduction to Baldwin's concept of witness, and his analysis of three strands within the black activist community: Respectability Politics, Etiquette of Respect, and "subversive indifference." (If you're keeping up, Kendi will lump the first two together into assimilationist camp, and term the latter anti-racist.) If nothing else, it's useful to both be aware that the struggle against white supremacy is not monolithic, and to be able to distinguish between some of the underlying assumptions within the broader movement. While the section on Jay-Z went over my head, I was moved by the discussion of Muhammad Ali. Oh, and Dyson's discussion of BLM is especially relevant in June 2020... Highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    I first learned of the meeting between Robert Kennedy and James Baldwin (and Baldwin's friends*) when I watched the documentary I Am Not Your Negro (this is a must see). The documentary briefly mentions the details of the meeting that were discussed. I was hoping that this book would fill in the gaps which it mostly did in the beginning. The rest of the book was more of a reflection of our current dialogue on race and how people of specific professions (Politicians, Activists, Artists, and Intel I first learned of the meeting between Robert Kennedy and James Baldwin (and Baldwin's friends*) when I watched the documentary I Am Not Your Negro (this is a must see). The documentary briefly mentions the details of the meeting that were discussed. I was hoping that this book would fill in the gaps which it mostly did in the beginning. The rest of the book was more of a reflection of our current dialogue on race and how people of specific professions (Politicians, Activists, Artists, and Intellectuals) promote and hinder racial unity. Ultimately I did not learn a lot of new information here. His last book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America was amazing, I highly recommend that one. *Some of Baldwin's notable friends consisted of Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Lorraine Hansberry, Kenneth Clarke, Clarence Jones, and Jerome Smith.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    An excellent follow-up to Tears We Cannot Stop. Just as timely, too. I appreciated Dyson’s discussion of Bobby Kennedy’s meeting with James Baldwin and other African-American artists and intellectuals, and showed it as his turning point in advocating for great social justice. He compares it nicely to Hillary Clinton’s progression with race matters. From “super-predators” to sympathizing with BLM, he says “Hillary seems to hear the activists even if they did not hear her.” He shows that everyone An excellent follow-up to Tears We Cannot Stop. Just as timely, too. I appreciated Dyson’s discussion of Bobby Kennedy’s meeting with James Baldwin and other African-American artists and intellectuals, and showed it as his turning point in advocating for great social justice. He compares it nicely to Hillary Clinton’s progression with race matters. From “super-predators” to sympathizing with BLM, he says “Hillary seems to hear the activists even if they did not hear her.” He shows that everyone is capable of growth and applauds it when it happens, while pointing out those who still have much to learn. Not as impassioned throughout (it didn’t need to be), but the final chapter contains a rather epic rant. One thing I appreciate about Dyson is his discussion of prominent African-American artists and intellectuals. He gives great recommendations (only sometimes intentionally). I want to read more of his earlier works and will continue reading his future works too.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    What a blackity, Black intellectual read that works to digest the current racial climate in the context of an earlier racially tense time (the 1960’s) where a meeting between RFK and members of the Black elite took place. Dyson does a great job of interweaving politics and pop culture in a way that makes this book both informative and entertaining. I enjoyed this read, but it’s not for those who are looking for a neutral, objective book on race in America as Dyson makes his stance pretty clear.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    There was a meeting in 1963 between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin and a few of Baldwin’s friends. When you think of an example of speaking truth to power, that meeting as described by Dyson here, will indeed standout as definitive. Dyson writes “I heard over the years how explosive it was, how it brought together other folk I had admired, including Harry Belafonte. The gathering pitted an earnest if defensive white liberal against a raging phalanx of thinkers, activists, and entertainers w There was a meeting in 1963 between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin and a few of Baldwin’s friends. When you think of an example of speaking truth to power, that meeting as described by Dyson here, will indeed standout as definitive. Dyson writes “I heard over the years how explosive it was, how it brought together other folk I had admired, including Harry Belafonte. The gathering pitted an earnest if defensive white liberal against a raging phalanx of thinkers, activists, and entertainers who were out for blood. I’ve always wanted to read a book about that historic moment, and more important, about its meaning for us today as we struggle with many of the same issues America confronted 50 years ago.” Dyson has not written that book, but this one has enough details about that meeting to give a clear picture about what took place. He manages to put the reader in that room while brilliantly filling out the book with looks at the various communities represented. There are chapters on the Artists, Activists, Intellectuals and the Politicians. And Dyson doesn’t just lock into 1963, he brings the discussion current because....”racial and political truths that we still confront today.” So while that very important and volatile meeting sets the foundation for the book, the actions or inactions of our current community leaders-not in the geographical sense, but community in the sense of interest groups, i.e. Artists, Politicians, etc.-are the brick and mortar that makes this a must read. The melding of the historical with current day concerns and challenges qualifies this work as one of Dyson’s best. Dyson’s prose and criticism is as always, electric and sharp, “the enshrinement of ignorance as the basis of power and authority, is the personification of white supremacy and white arrogance.” The indictment of white supremacy while encouraging Whites to wake up and recognize is a continued effort from his most previous work, Tears We Cannot Stop. As evidenced by the subtitle here, Dyson is of the belief that the historic meeting in 1963 was an important conversation about race that no doubt needs be to continued and expanded because it remains unfinished. However in this book he has turned up the volume so it’s clear what truth sounds like! Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced DRC. The publishing date is June 5, 2018. Mark your calendar.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Helga Cohen

    This book by Michael Dyson is an eye opening and gives a challenging and different view of life in America. Dyson underscores our need to address systemic racism with in the United States. In this book we are in a room in 1963 where the conversation with leading black activists and Robert Kennedy took place. These key African Americans, James Baldwin and some friends told Kennedy the truth about race relations that forced him to have the courage to confront some of these issues and have the leade This book by Michael Dyson is an eye opening and gives a challenging and different view of life in America. Dyson underscores our need to address systemic racism with in the United States. In this book we are in a room in 1963 where the conversation with leading black activists and Robert Kennedy took place. These key African Americans, James Baldwin and some friends told Kennedy the truth about race relations that forced him to have the courage to confront some of these issues and have the leadership needed in advancing civil rights in the years before he was murdered. He addresses the racial bigotry in our nation and the notion of it as “one nation under God”. He looks at the different communities represented, the Artists, Activists, Intellectuals and the Politicians. In so doing, Dyson brings the discussion to current events, the racial and political truths that we still confront today. It was an important discussion that Dyson feels needs to be continued and expanded because it remains unfinished. It is an important book to read to understand those who fight for racial justice and to understand the anger and injustice of them. Michael Dyson contributes greatly to our civic discourse and understanding of race relations. It is a powerful read and recommended and should be read by everyone.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    This is a wonderful book! It was very special listening to Michael Eric Dyson read this beautiful book he has written! I loved it! What a great, brilliant writer and a marvelous speaker he is! Thank you for this enlightening opportunity, Michael Eric Dyson!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Byron

    It's been a minute since we've had a true entry in the Michael Eric Dyson Book o' the Month Club. Yeah, Tears We Can't Stop was probably thrown together over the course of two consecutive weekends, as if it were one of my own books, but it works like gangbusters. It's a much more satisfying read than the kinda disappointing Black Presidency. What Truth Sounds Like, on the other hand? Not so much. You learn almost nothing (certainly not anything useful) about the titular meeting between RFK and Ja It's been a minute since we've had a true entry in the Michael Eric Dyson Book o' the Month Club. Yeah, Tears We Can't Stop was probably thrown together over the course of two consecutive weekends, as if it were one of my own books, but it works like gangbusters. It's a much more satisfying read than the kinda disappointing Black Presidency. What Truth Sounds Like, on the other hand? Not so much. You learn almost nothing (certainly not anything useful) about the titular meeting between RFK and James Baldwin, which was written about at the time but must not have been recorded. Most of the rest of this consists of pure randomness, including a recap of an obscure beef between Jay-Z and Harry Belafonte, a careful rephrasing of the thing he wrote in the New Republic on Cornel West, an attempt to cop a plea re: his stance on the '16 presidential election, a completely irrelevant tribute to the movie Black Panther, so on and so forth.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Misha

    "The greatest purveyors of identity politics today, and for the bulk of our country's history, have been white citizens. This means that among the oldest forms of 'fake news' in the nation's long trek to democratic opportunity has been the belief that whiteness is identical to the idea of what it means to be American." (65) "Hansberry broke faith with the conspiracy of masculine pronouns to exhaust all human experience. She took a stand to liberate grammar from its disrespect of female users. Fla "The greatest purveyors of identity politics today, and for the bulk of our country's history, have been white citizens. This means that among the oldest forms of 'fake news' in the nation's long trek to democratic opportunity has been the belief that whiteness is identical to the idea of what it means to be American." (65) "Hansberry broke faith with the conspiracy of masculine pronouns to exhaust all human experience. She took a stand to liberate grammar from its disrespect of female users. Flashing her theater chops, Hansberry paused for dramatic effect. She looked at Bobby Kennedy, who, for the first time that night, looked at her. 'But I am very worried about the state of the civilization which produced that photograph of the white cop standing on that Negro woman's neck in Birmingham.'" (116) "Queer blackness is still problematic, still a threat, in America. It is often our queer writers and artists who compel us to take note of our hypocrisy and bigotry, whether it is Janet Mock bearing witness to the tribulations and triumphs of being a black trans person, or writers Alice Walker and Jacqueline Woodson embodying the elegant righteousness of their lesbian identity and politics. Blackness and queerness have been intimate for far longer than the formal recognition that either identity has existed." (121-22) "Get Out brilliantly sets up the black body as the domain of a symbiotic whiteness, a whiteness that seeks the black body to host its deepest desires. The film begins in the suburbs, which has often been a site of utter terror for black bodies, an unsafe zone of symbolic whiteness that purges black presence, steals black futures, and leaves black bodies for dead." (139-40) "Throughout the roundtable discussion, Baldwin anticipated many of the ideas that it would take most scholars another generation to explore, like his views on whiteness; the ability to speak with eloquence about the difference between immigrants and the enslaved; the political economy of the ghetto; the link between social theory and pedagogy; moral philosophy and its relationship to race; the reading of history from beneath, from the eyes of its victims; and intersectional social analysis. Baldwin's contributions on this score often were and continue to be missed because Baldwin's speech was refreshingly absent of jargon, and he labored hard to explain his beliefs in ordinary language. "(149-50) "Ironically, Kaepernick has been accused of disrespecting an American flag that was long ago replaced by the Confederate flag for millions of white southerners. Those who hoist the Confederate flag indulge in romantic treason--since it is the emblem of secession from our country--often at, or on the way to, American football stadiums. He is said, too, to dishonor military veterans, though it is hard to see how, since the very freedoms for which they fought guarantee Kaepernick his dissent. Many Americans wrongly think of the military as the exclusive, or primary, guardian of American pride and patriotism. However, only in a totalitarian society does the military define, instead of defend, what it means to be American. We must never lose the battle for democracy in such careless formulations. We must not surrender to bullets and bombs what can only be had by belief and behavior--like the encouragement of dissent, the tolerance of wide disagreement about what it means to be American, and the freedom to protest for freedom." (248-9)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    In May of 1963, Robert F. Kennedy called for a meeting with James Baldwin, author and a strong voice in the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin brought several guests with him including the singers Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, as well as Jerome Smith, a freedom rider who was recovering from a severe beating by white supremacists. Kennedy expected a polite even deferential meeting. What he got was much more honest and angry - these leaders of the Civil Rights movement were no longer willing to be p In May of 1963, Robert F. Kennedy called for a meeting with James Baldwin, author and a strong voice in the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin brought several guests with him including the singers Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, as well as Jerome Smith, a freedom rider who was recovering from a severe beating by white supremacists. Kennedy expected a polite even deferential meeting. What he got was much more honest and angry - these leaders of the Civil Rights movement were no longer willing to be patient. Baldwin knew that new polices wouldn't change anything 'if the value of black life had not been established'. Instead, he and his friends angrily spoke truth to power to Kennedy about 'blackness seen through the prism of pain and trauma'. In his book What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America, political analyst and scholar Michael Eric Dyson uses this meeting to begin a searing and passionate analysis of race relations right up to the present. He looks at artists, actors, musicians, academics, activists, and political figures since this historic meeting including Barack Obama, what he accomplished and what he didn't. He makes it clear that the 1963 meeting opened an important conversation about what truth sounds like and it needs to be reopened if the country is ever to move forward past the trauma caused to the nation by America's original sin, slavery. Thanks to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    An exploration of the black experience of America in terms of a meeting between RFK and many notable members of the black community in 1963. The author begins by describing the meeting between RFK, James Baldwin, and many other prominent black artists and intellectuals in 1963. RFK was looking for validation but heard the deep pain and anguish regarding the condition of black people in America. At the time RFK did not truly hear it; as time went on it seemed he internalized some of what he learne An exploration of the black experience of America in terms of a meeting between RFK and many notable members of the black community in 1963. The author begins by describing the meeting between RFK, James Baldwin, and many other prominent black artists and intellectuals in 1963. RFK was looking for validation but heard the deep pain and anguish regarding the condition of black people in America. At the time RFK did not truly hear it; as time went on it seemed he internalized some of what he learned. The author spends the rest of the book describing various aspects of the interaction to show how the conversation about race in America is in many ways still at that same point as it was in 1963. Politicians want credit for what has improved but do not want to see how things really are. The author spends time discussing Cornel West and his interactions with Te-Nehisi Coates and Presidents Clinton and Obama in sharply critical ways. He goes into detail about Muhammad Ali and what he represented. The final part of the book is devoted to Black Panther and its value for the black community. A powerful and gripping read for those willing to dig into the issue. **--galley received as part of early review program

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Dyson elaborates on this book in numerous YouTube videos - all highly engaging as he's a compelling speaker. Striking is how many parallels there are between the 60s and today and how little empathy we've practiced as a nation in hearing pain. Today's art is denial although that's becoming less of an option with Trump. Also striking is how a meeting like this could never even come about in the current administration - can you imagine Trump sitting down with a bunch of BLM or other African Americ Dyson elaborates on this book in numerous YouTube videos - all highly engaging as he's a compelling speaker. Striking is how many parallels there are between the 60s and today and how little empathy we've practiced as a nation in hearing pain. Today's art is denial although that's becoming less of an option with Trump. Also striking is how a meeting like this could never even come about in the current administration - can you imagine Trump sitting down with a bunch of BLM or other African American activists and listening for three hours? Dyson is appealing to a nation that has never had healing at the soul level. The conversion of the heart is something that legislation that can never attain to. It is a great book and worthy of five stars, but once again the audience that most needs to hear it will likely never pick it up.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cathi

    Listened. This is a great 'beginner' book that puts America's racism into context. Dyson is skilled at stating the facts plainly and elegantly, and heavily references well-known moments from our recent past to illustrate current state and work to be done. He pulls no punches, and although there were moments that could've been more explored (his almost token reference and poor explanation of intersectionality was disappointing, there wasn't much discussion about black women generally), this book Listened. This is a great 'beginner' book that puts America's racism into context. Dyson is skilled at stating the facts plainly and elegantly, and heavily references well-known moments from our recent past to illustrate current state and work to be done. He pulls no punches, and although there were moments that could've been more explored (his almost token reference and poor explanation of intersectionality was disappointing, there wasn't much discussion about black women generally), this book packs a lot of information and discussion into a small volume.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Connell

    I really appreciated the way Dyson weaves together the history and the present day. I found it to be a little plodding in the middle, but he came roaring back at the end - the chapter “Even If” is written with a sermon-like intensity. SO good.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Dyson drags several intellectual thinkers, authors, politicians and celebrities. This book is almost gossipy but the drama is policy, civil rights and black lives. It was a treat to read. Every analysis from Bobby Kennedy to MLK to Clinton, Cornel West, JayZ, and so on was insightful and balanced in its assessment. I particularly loved his many odes to James Baldwin, because I love Baldwin, but Dyson LOVES Baldwin. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a commentary on the top leaders and Dyson drags several intellectual thinkers, authors, politicians and celebrities. This book is almost gossipy but the drama is policy, civil rights and black lives. It was a treat to read. Every analysis from Bobby Kennedy to MLK to Clinton, Cornel West, JayZ, and so on was insightful and balanced in its assessment. I particularly loved his many odes to James Baldwin, because I love Baldwin, but Dyson LOVES Baldwin. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a commentary on the top leaders and thinkers surrounding race and policy and how it affects or is effected by the black community. It’s worth the read just for the worship of Baldwin and the roast of West.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cody Sexton

    If there was ever such a thing as an egotistical pop-scholar, or the figure of a media-hungry pundit-professor, Michael Eric Dyson would be its epitome as well as it’s apex. The focal point of this book is a 1963 meeting between Sen. Robert Kennedy and a group of notable African-Americans which included several prominent and celebrated figures, such as the writer James Baldwin, musician Harry Belafonte, singer Lena Horne, and playwright Lorraine Hansberry, as well as Jerome Smith, a well known Fr If there was ever such a thing as an egotistical pop-scholar, or the figure of a media-hungry pundit-professor, Michael Eric Dyson would be its epitome as well as it’s apex. The focal point of this book is a 1963 meeting between Sen. Robert Kennedy and a group of notable African-Americans which included several prominent and celebrated figures, such as the writer James Baldwin, musician Harry Belafonte, singer Lena Horne, and playwright Lorraine Hansberry, as well as Jerome Smith, a well known Freedom Rider. Dyson depicts this historic meeting as “a watershed moment in American politics” that began a conversation on race which continues to this day. But Dyson, being the intellectual huckster that he is, isn’t about to allow for any kind of “real” conversation to take place. Instead he uses this event as yet another catalyst to push his unique brand of revisionist history. What Dyson presents to us is a false narrative, one that has been carefully crafted to present white Americans as uniquely guilty of racism. However, the idea that any one demographic group “invented” race is noticeably ridiculous. Other more respectable sociologists have recognized, at least since the 1970s, that humans instinctively gravitate towards their own group identities. Even if we were to accept Dyson’s premise that whites have invented race, there are gaps in his argument. If race is a white invention, then why did so many American minorities embrace the concept? For example, in the 1830s, Cherokee Native Americans embraced slavery, asserting that they were equal to whites and superior to African-Americans. One could make the argument that only a minority of Native American and African-Americans owned slaves. However, the same was true in the American South, with only 25% of Southerners owning slaves. If one forgives the Cherokee and African-American slave-owners, surely one must also forgive their white peers. These complex historical circumstances do not diminish the scope of injustice in America but it does demonstrate that history is not a race-centered morality play. In Dyson’s narrative, whites alone are responsible for racial injustice. In reality however, whites were acting on a universal group instinct in establishing in-groups and out-groups. They were not alone in accepting racist dogmas and prejudices. It appears that Dyson lives in the United States of Amnesia, and not his opponents, as he so often likes to assert. I can’t help but think that Dyson’s time would be better spent in the classroom, as opposed to being on television, doing actual research, instead of cultivating this cottage industry of race that he has created for himself. But hey, I get it, this is how he puts bacon on the table, it’s his schtick and he has made a small fortune from it. That’s the shell game he likes to play, keep white guilt front and center in any discussion and the grievance money will just pour in. I also feel that he needs to stop hiding behind these big-word rants of his. He often speaks as if he’s trying to convince doubters that he really knows a lot of long and arcane words and can gabble them out fairly quickly to prove it, though, in his case, not always coherently. He strings together such a ridiculous stream of words that Stephen Fry, in a Munk Debate, pegged him most accurately when he referred to his style of communication as “huckstering snake oil pulpit talk.” The worst part about him is that he’s predictable in almost every way imaginable, as we can pretty much guess everything he’s about to say before he even says it. Why anyone in the media pays him any attention is extraordinary. This book is intellectual masturbation at best and has no sense of history outside of the narrow ideology that Dyson likes to peddle. Dyson is simply yet another intellectual conman and race-baiter and narcissist of the most vicious sort. If there is indeed a conversation that has been left unfinished in America, it’s between Dyson and himself.

  24. 4 out of 5

    M.A. Reads

    I was somewhat disappointed with What Truth Sounds Like. I don't know if that disappointment is more reflective of my expectations or the book's shortcomings. When I picked up this book, I expected to be transported back to 1963 and into the room where it happened, where RFK was challenged by some of the day's leading black activists, artists, and intellectuals to reconsider his ideas about race. But ultimately, Dyson is not a historian so much as he is a cultural critic. A towering intellectual I was somewhat disappointed with What Truth Sounds Like. I don't know if that disappointment is more reflective of my expectations or the book's shortcomings. When I picked up this book, I expected to be transported back to 1963 and into the room where it happened, where RFK was challenged by some of the day's leading black activists, artists, and intellectuals to reconsider his ideas about race. But ultimately, Dyson is not a historian so much as he is a cultural critic. A towering intellectual, Dyson writes with great facility and insight about race in America. However, the vast majority of this book isn't about what happened in 1963 but about the current state of things in America. In his chapter on artists, Lorraine Hansberry, one of the central figures at this gathering, gets less attention than Hamilton, Black Panther, or the Key and Peele Show. Similarly, RFK probably appears on fewer pages in the book than Donald Trump does. At this moment where Trump is consuming nearly all the oxygen in the room, I was disappointed to find that this book is just one more example of everything inevitably circling back to the 45th President. That being said, I do think the book's central question and Dyson's treatment of it is provocative and worthy of serious reflection. Dyson forces his readers (just like RFK and James Baldwin did back in 1963) to reckon with the gulf separating well-intentioned, cosmopolitan, white liberalism and black activism. Although ostensible allies in the fight for racial justice, the gap in lived experience nevertheless makes common ground difficult to come by. Dyson writes with great clarity about what it means for these two groups to simultaneously stand together and apart, both bridging old divides and opening new fissures.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Tyler

    It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Michael Eric Dyson. I adore that he is unapologetically black at all times without reservation and the love he has has for his people is shining bright in his latest work. There are many highlighted passages and things I’ve learned in What Truth Sounds Like but what I enjoyed most is that Dyson brings other activists & writers to the forefront. I am left with a long list of folks that I will now check out thanks to Dr. Dyson which makes this a book that wil It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Michael Eric Dyson. I adore that he is unapologetically black at all times without reservation and the love he has has for his people is shining bright in his latest work. There are many highlighted passages and things I’ve learned in What Truth Sounds Like but what I enjoyed most is that Dyson brings other activists & writers to the forefront. I am left with a long list of folks that I will now check out thanks to Dr. Dyson which makes this a book that will only ignite our desire to know more after we’ve finished reading the last two sentences: “If Baldwin and his glorious crew could gather again, they could hardly have a better place to reconvene and let the beautiful momentum of blackness wash over them as they sought to make America truly great. For the first time.”

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patience K Phillips

    What Truth Sounds Like, by Michael Eric Dyson, is a collection of historical quotes and details on historically profound and often hidden details. At first, the third person historical sharing of other peoples experiences felt distant and disenfranchise, for me. Deciding for anti-racist reasons is to finish the book. Even though I found it slightly boring, at first. Taking a temporary break was helpful. I’m enjoying the more recent historically relevant rhetoric on quotes. Although, listening on Au What Truth Sounds Like, by Michael Eric Dyson, is a collection of historical quotes and details on historically profound and often hidden details. At first, the third person historical sharing of other peoples experiences felt distant and disenfranchise, for me. Deciding for anti-racist reasons is to finish the book. Even though I found it slightly boring, at first. Taking a temporary break was helpful. I’m enjoying the more recent historically relevant rhetoric on quotes. Although, listening on Audio is slightly annoying when every time, which is many, a quote is remarked the narrator must stay ”quote” to begin and ”end quote” over and over and over again. Another book, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, was also difficult for me to taste during eating the context at times. The nearest I can figure out why possibly is I'm a mixed-race European. Italian, Greek, German, Scandinavian, etc. Even though my great grandfather, for example, Americanized his name to blend in when moving here to go unnoticed in his ’whiteness’ or other family fled religious persecution on the early 1700s to settle in the territory where Native Americans were our neighbors and friends who helped my people survive to eventually purchase land from these native people. I can not relate to the color dilemma as described by so many people I've read, listened to, or know personally. It's not so much the topics are new to me, unapproachable, or surprising. I think it's the historical context or times lacking current today now focus or in the case of the other book, someone telling me because I'm white I must be so and so or I'm lumped into a category simply by the color of my skin is as wrong as the reverse these books are meant to convey in understanding. I have no excuses for my color or my background. The biggest thing I learned after reading countless books, growing up in the NYC area, and moving intentionally into a neighborhood that was noted for its color diversity and issues are used I believed this is where God wants me to build a business. That story for another time. What I learned that has changed my language are color matters. In that, many grew up, and you know who you are, saying ” I don't see color” and would follow with I see the person. To be just non-racist is not enough. I've been more. To truly be anti-racist my dialog must include. ”I see color and I see you”. When someone says a blanket statement in fear or lack of understanding based on the color I must be more schooled to share an empathetic reply. Crafted to assist the friend or family to see the distinction of what color does mean to our nation and world. One example is a very dear friend, related to my godson, said a very racist comment in ignorance without malice. I made an anti-racist statement not directed at him. Opening up a difference of opinion. Not correction. When he shared an incident where he was treated poorly by police I replied with, ”what if this was a black person”. He immediately noted, ”they’d be dead.” Crafting anti-racism vibes that open hearts, similar to how I share the gospel message with people through my life and language means looking inward and examining my ways. Sharing an example through how I show up in the world. Minding my own business while in the same regard being a voice for the conversation. Unafraid by those who disagree. Being persuasive for me begins with exposure. Even though I did not enjoy some of the older historical details, by the end of the book, those moments helped make more historical sense as to the misrepresentation of history has not done until now. I'm so thankful to have people of color stand up and share these details about history. I'm growing my network and voice as an influencer. Saying ’anti-racism’ in all my descriptions is as important today as sharing I believe in God and by faith am saved even if you don't agree. Empowering happiness through literature (my motto) begins with knowledge, to create understanding, which converts wisdom into action. This book is one of many to help my mission. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ with the warning, for me, at least at first I became bored and transformed into super interested when content became more current historically. People I see today in the world are involved. Seeing how the presidency of a man of color lacked certain substances was eye-opening. Made me want to learn more and practice further how to change the conversation through my platform about anti-racism. Having a black kitty sometimes say “Wakanda” when he walks by or toward me. At the end of the book, this word is transformed into a deeper meaning and changed my ability to ground in Antiracism where this single word reminds me and is associated with a stream of phrases, circumstances, and feelings of which some I relate to into a superpower. When confronted with an opportunity to make a difference in the movement for all people through the color plight I’m all in. Ready to check myself, evaluate, and improve when needed, face the movement we are long overdue for within a single word, Wakanda. Having my cute tiny cat who’s all black with a bad rap himself, little Gabriel VanHelsing will help me practice multiple times a day with a flash trigger of what Mr. Dyson so diligently collectively illuminated me to see within the truth of our history and travesty within what’s possible when someone with my color skin shows up within the new reality we all deserve for the healing and health of our nation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was fascinating--I did not know about this meeting at all, and Dyson even draws his discussion forward to current black artists, intellectuals, and even sports stars. All in his trademark beautiful style. I agree with Dyson's conclusion that we need to finish this conversation about race--the hard thing is we have intelligent and eloquent people like Dyson on one side, and Trump And His Tiki Torch Parade on the other. Yeesh. This was fascinating--I did not know about this meeting at all, and Dyson even draws his discussion forward to current black artists, intellectuals, and even sports stars. All in his trademark beautiful style. I agree with Dyson's conclusion that we need to finish this conversation about race--the hard thing is we have intelligent and eloquent people like Dyson on one side, and Trump And His Tiki Torch Parade on the other. Yeesh.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Corvus

    When I began Michael Eric Dyson's "What Truth Sounds Like," I found myself wondering if this book was going to be for me. I was previously unfamiliar with Dyson's work and the first passage of the book seemingly speaks of heroes and patriotic martyrs. I worried I was walking into another neoliberal revisionist telling of important histories of racial struggle and justice in the United States. You know, the kind where we hear things like Rosa Parks was just a tired woman on the bus and not a radi When I began Michael Eric Dyson's "What Truth Sounds Like," I found myself wondering if this book was going to be for me. I was previously unfamiliar with Dyson's work and the first passage of the book seemingly speaks of heroes and patriotic martyrs. I worried I was walking into another neoliberal revisionist telling of important histories of racial struggle and justice in the United States. You know, the kind where we hear things like Rosa Parks was just a tired woman on the bus and not a radical civil rights activist. I was pleased to find that continuing forward lead me into an informative and fairly well analyzed catalogue of race issues in the United States. Dyson's writing style is captivating and held my attention throughout. It is clear that Dyson thought deeply about this book and his position in society before writing it. His attention to his own perspective and how that both informs and limits his knowledge clearly helped him write the book. While the book's title references a discussion between RFK and James Baldwin, this discussion is not what the entire book is about. It is more of a connecting thread that Dyson uses to analyze elements of social justice, pop culture, politics, and policy throughout the decades. We do learn about this conversation, about the Kennedys (and their shortcomings regarding understanding race,) Baldwin, and other important figures present in the conversation such as Lorraine Hansberry. But, Dyson also discusses a wide range of public figures who have spoken about or influenced racial justice in some way including Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Colin Kapernick, Cornel West, Ta-nehisi Coates, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton among others. Dyson's book is fairly inclusive of a variety of intersecting struggles with race. He regularly mentions gender, sexuality, class, colorism, immigration status, and other issues. This is particularly important given that James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry were gay and lesbian on top of being Black which added a whole other level to the amount of social sludge they had to trek through to make their way in the world. There is also a great deal of information that Dyson included that showed the multidimensional nature of people the left likes to view as perfect, infallible heroes (which strengthens our toxic call-out culture.) The book is well researched which creates a good foundation to build the analyses Dyson expresses in this book. I feel like I understand more about what it was like to exist in different time periods than I did previously. Dyson does well criticizing the racist and oppressive history of the United States without sugar coating it, but in the last third of his book he does fall into neoliberal patterns I was worried about. He has a whole section on Hillary Clinton in which he jumps through several hoops to defend or ignore the extensive problems with her, essentially blames Black people and other radicals who criticized her during her campaign as at fault for Trump winning, perpetuates the myth of the "white working class" being responsible for electing Trump when most Trump voters were affluent or at least middle class whites, and other problematic and false assertions. During this he does make some good points such as rich famous academics not having as much to lose or that people critiquing Clinton did not do the same when Obama took similar actions. But, he completely glosses over the fact that the system is completely corrupt, many people with felonies could not vote due to extensive criminalization that Clinton supported, and the 2016 election was essentially a choice between two republicans: one closer to the center (Clinton) and one further to the right (Trump.) Clinton's convenient adopting of social justice language last minute cannot erase decades of racism, homophobia, war crimes, and other such beliefs and policies that have had deadly effects. Dyson's assertion that people should only be critiquing Trump instead of Clinton shows ignorance that does not fit in with the rest of his well researched and nuanced analyses he presents in the rest of the book. Forcing people to vote for someone who took active steps to keep them from having rights, because someone else does this more, makes voting pointless. Overall, the book is interesting readable, and well timed. Dyson must be a fast writer because there are issues he talks about in this book that I remember happening quite recently. It is worth the read while keeping in mind that Dyson occasionally contradicts his radical analyses and politics at times by falling into neoliberal trappings.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    Am reading about half a dozen new nonfiction books on race relations and issues in 2018. Each takes a slightly different perspective. Dr. Dyson is intelligent and articulate, but am not sure this is the best of the lot, but it is unique in that it draws in the role of Robert F. Kennedy during the Civil Rights era. The strengths include comparing current events with a pivotal meeting fifty years ago when Kennedy attempted to understand race issues better by listening to a group of influential blac Am reading about half a dozen new nonfiction books on race relations and issues in 2018. Each takes a slightly different perspective. Dr. Dyson is intelligent and articulate, but am not sure this is the best of the lot, but it is unique in that it draws in the role of Robert F. Kennedy during the Civil Rights era. The strengths include comparing current events with a pivotal meeting fifty years ago when Kennedy attempted to understand race issues better by listening to a group of influential black voices. These people included James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Horne and Freedom Rider Jerome Smith. That meeting did not go so well. Kennedy also had a somewhat difficult relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. Kennedy liked the change-is-slow approach and his guests were more in the we-have-had-enough mode. Dyson offers important observations about the different experiences of light-skinned versus dark-skinned blacks, celebrities exerting their influence into politics, voting trends, reluctance of black politicians to rock the boat, attitudes and actions of activists, and much more. He openly discusses disappointment in President Obama, ineffectiveness of Hillary Clinton, and his active dislike of President Trump. He makes disparaging remarks about a few other specific politicians. Perhaps they are accurate, but by doing this, he may also be disenchanting some of his readers. He spends time with a lot of current celebrities such as Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick, and Kendrick Lamar which indicates he has his thumb on the pulse of current concerns, but this also seems to lessen some of the big picture issues. He is especially fond of the 2018 Black Panther film and would like the real world to operate similarly to the film's. Perhaps the best take-aways include acknowledging the extreme frustration of America's black citizens when too many young men are in prison, are shot, not given a fair chance at jobs, and more. He wants white people to understand that the playing field is still not equal. We need to work toward a new vision politically, economically, and culturally. Much to ponder.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt Fitz

    There's a popular sign we've likely all seen at the women's march of late that says, "I'll see all you nice white ladies at the next BLM march too, right?" or words to that effect. It really explores the intersectionality of progressive/social movements and the walls or chasms that still exist between white and black progressivism. As this book articulates, the 2016 campaign of H. Clinton to make political inroads with POC by focusing on "policy and law" was met with resentment because it lacked There's a popular sign we've likely all seen at the women's march of late that says, "I'll see all you nice white ladies at the next BLM march too, right?" or words to that effect. It really explores the intersectionality of progressive/social movements and the walls or chasms that still exist between white and black progressivism. As this book articulates, the 2016 campaign of H. Clinton to make political inroads with POC by focusing on "policy and law" was met with resentment because it lacked the heart, compassion, and experiential pain that begets changes in "policy and law." This book explores a similar event happening in May 1963 when US Atty General Robert Kennedy met for an unofficial and unrecorded meeting with a group of black civil rights leaders to include James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Edwin Berry, Kenneth Clark and Jerome Smith. That meeting did not go well because Robert Kennedy, as M.E. Dyson expounds upon, wasn't ready to be an audience to heartache and witness of the black community or the anger with the Kennedy administration's dithering on Civil Rights. This book will make many people think. And many of its readers uncomfortable. In fairness to both JFK and RFK, this meeting was 23 May 1963. On 11 June 1963, just 19 days later, JFK gave his famous speech that Civil Rights was not just a legal imperative, but a moral one as well. He then advanced his civil rights legislative agenda that would be passed a year later and after he was killed. RFK certainly helped shape his brother's agenda and helped provide him the moral courage to say the uncomfortable on 11 June.

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