Michael Eric Dyson is back with his newly released book today, What Truth Sounds Like. What Truth Sounds Like is Dyson’s continued discussion of race in America, carried over from his book last year called Tears We Cannot Stop A Sermon to White America. It was a book that was written specifically to speak to white America, whereas What Truth Sounds Like is written for us all.
Dyson begins the book focused on a discussion about race in 1963 between Robert Kennedy, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, and Lena Horne among others. Kennedy was trying to find out their views on fighting segregation and discrimination in the north. There weren’t any civil rights leaders there, just “well-known writers and other professional persons who have served as unofficial spokesmen for their race.”(What Truth Sounds Like, p. 14)
This historical meeting is the catalyst for Dyson to talk about race in America. The opening chapter is an excellent beginning because it brings to light the difficulty of segregation and discrimination during one of the most critical moments in American history. Baldwin and his friends were accusing Kennedy of not knowing anything about black life or the struggles of black people. This is exactly the same reflection that could be made about white people today.
“Baldwin knew that America could only survive if it underwent an extraordinary social transformation-equality for all, hatred for none-that echoed the most noble ideals set out by our founding fathers.” (What Truth Sounds Like, p. 7)
As What Truth Sounds Like develops into chapters discussing the martyrs, the meeting, the politicians, the artists, the intellectuals, and the activists, Dyson goes through many of the different racial situations that have happened in the US in the past but specifically during this past 1 year and 136 days of Trumps presidency. He also talks about specific famous people like Mohammed Ali and his activism as well a mistake he made referring to Frazier with “You seen the gorilla? From Manila?”. He talks about President Obama – what he represented, his good points and the things that didn’t go so well. He mentions so many people from Harry Belafonte to Chadwick Boseman, yes Black Panther and Wakanda. Yes, Wakanda Forever!
If Dyson does anything, he portrays the complexity of race in America and how the country has systematically refused to deal with the problem at all. White people believed because President Obama was elected twice that there was no racism in America. How naive is that thought? One thing is for sure that Dyson says is that racism will have to be fought by both black and white people. What Truth Sounds Like breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly and even tries to give solutions to some issues. His style of writing is clear and detailed. The masses of information he writes about is backed up with notes found in the back of the book.
I highly recommend both What Truth Sounds Like and Tears We Cannot Speak. Moreover, if you prefer, get the audiobook which is being read by Dyson, who has a powerful, rich voice that will have you captivated. I urge you to watch the clip below of Michael Eric Dyson on The View, especially if you don’t know who he is. He’s highly intelligent and doesn’t sugar coat. He gives me life!
* I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
What Truth Sounds Like, 304 pages, St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 5 stars
Recommended to: Readers interested in reading about race relations in the United States