From the New York Times bestselling author of Tears We Cannot Stop
"Entertaining Race is a splendid way to spend quality time reading one of the most remarkable thinkers in America today."
—Speaker Nancy Pelosi
"To read Entertaining Race is to encounter the life-long vocation of a teacher who preaches, a preacher who teaches and an activist who cannot rest until all are set free."
—Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock
For more than thirty years, Michael Eric Dyson has played a prominent role in the nation as a public intellectual, university professor, cultural critic, social activist and ordained Baptist minister. He has presented a rich and resourceful set of ideas about American history and culture. Now for the first time he brings together the various components of his multihued identity and eclectic pursuits.
Entertaining Race is a testament to Dyson’s consistent celebration of the outsized impact of African American culture and politics on this country. Black people were forced to entertain white people in slavery, have been forced to entertain the idea of race from the start, and must find entertaining ways to make race an object of national conversation. Dyson’s career embodies these and other ways of performing Blackness, and in these pages, ranging from 1991 to the present, he entertains race with his pen, voice and body, and occasionally, alongside luminaries like Cornel West, David Blight, Ibram X. Kendi, Master P, MC Lyte, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alicia Garza, John McWhorter, and Jordan Peterson.
Most of this work will be new to readers, a fresh light for many of his long-time fans and an inspiring introduction for newcomers. Entertaining Race offers a compelling vision from the mind and heart of one of America’s most important and enduring voices.
Cultural commentator Dyson (Long Time Coming) analyzes "the terms of Black performance" in this wide-ranging and artfully conceived collection of essays, speeches, and interviews. Eloquently illustrating how "Black folk didn't just express the pain and suffering of Blackness, they also gave voice to inexplicable joy and defiant victory," Dyson examines the careers and cultural significance of entertainers including Michael Jackson, Beyonc , Nas, and the Isley Brothers. Elsewhere, Dyson poignantly reflects on the "intertwined pandemics" of Covid-19 and systemic racism: "From the start of our forced intimacy with North America, Black folk have been trying to breathe air that is free of the pollution of captivity, of coerced transport, of enslavement, of white supremacy, of social inequality and perennial second-class citizenship." Other pieces include a conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates that touches on atheism, white supremacy, and James Baldwin; a speech praising Nikole Hannah-Jones and her 1619 Project; and a forceful call for America to apply to Black reparations "the same ingenuity it used to fashion restrictions and limitations on Black life in chattel slavery and Jim Crow." Throughout, Dyson maintains a firm grip on the cultural moment and offers razor-sharp insights into American history, politics, and art. This is a feast of insights.