Dr. Michael Dyson endorses community action against Aryan Nations group
By Amy M.E. Fischer / The Daily News
The "good white people" of Longview have a responsibility to take a stand against a white supremacist church hoping to organize here, said a renowned black Georgetown University professor who spoke at Lower Columbia College on Wednesday.
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, author of "Debating Race," issued a rousing call for action that reinforced local politicians' and activists' plans to rally against the Aryan Nations group holding a recruiting meeting Dec. 9.
Community members are planning a march and a picnic for the afternoon of Dec. 9 at Victoria Freeman Park, which is next to the city building where the Church of Jesus Christ--Christian will meet that night. Tonight, the Longview City Council is expected to adopt a resolution reaffirming the community's values regarding diversity and nondiscrimination.
Dyson, who also is an ordained Baptist minister, said it's a "powerful beauty" when white people publicly oppose blatant displays of racism in practical, reasonable and legal ways.
"Gather together in empirically verifiable numbers. ... You've got to speak loudly and articulately and say that it's wrong," said Dyson, 49, addressing an audience of more than 200 people at LCC's student center.
"If we don't take a stand against it, we will be run over by it," he said, asking white ministers to preach against the so-called white supremacist church and for schools to hold teach-ins. "Marshal every ounce of resistance to the presence of this, to shame this out."
And rather than try to prevent the white supremacists from sharing their views, "bring it out," Dyson said. "We want to see what you believe."
Otherwise, they may act like they're "one of us" -- until the day they forget to "take their sheet off," he said, referring to the Ku Klux Klan's garb.
Throughout the evening, Dyson hammered home his message that it's important to critically investigate issues of race and ethnicity in America, even when the discussion becomes uncomfortable. Early on in his speech, he warned that his words would cause discomfort -- and he didn't disappoint.
He asked why white European immigrants who came to the United States 100 years ago are trying to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the country. If the anti-immigration policies many Americans want their government to adopt had been applied to the Lithuanians and the Poles, "a lot of you would have been kept out, too," Dyson said, referring to America as the "United States of Amnesia."
He questioned why historically oppressed minority groups have begun adopting white supremacist ideals by viewing people different from themselves as inferior. It's wrong for blacks to justify their bigotry against gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the name of God, he said. That's exactly what white supremacists do to justify their racism, he said.
Some of the most effective white supremacists are people of color, Dyson said, naming U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Citing Thomas's opposition to affirmative action programs, Dyson said white people would be considered "repulsive" and "ridiculous" if they spoke about blacks the way Thomas does.
Dyson also railed against Bill Cosby's "bourgeois" criticism of poor black people, saying the comedian's words served to reinforce negative cultural stereotypes.
Ultimately, our culture assigns an artificial worth to race, Dyson said. Race isn't inherent or biological -- its significance depends on social intercourse, he said.
"Isn't this ridiculous? And yet we hold fast to these truths that we think are self-evident -- and yet are socially concocted," Dyson said.