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Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  9,438 ratings  ·  1,475 reviews
Short, emotional, literary, powerful―Tears We Cannot Stop is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read.

As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man's voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece "Death in
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published January 17th 2017 by St. Martin's Press
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Jacob In my experience, helping as an ally will look different for everyone. Some will not want White intervention, support, or "uplift" and others will wan…moreIn my experience, helping as an ally will look different for everyone. Some will not want White intervention, support, or "uplift" and others will want direct alliances. It's important to remember that the Black experience is not monolithic so allies should assist when necessary without coopting movements or attempting to lead them. Like Lorde says, we cannot dismantle the master's house with his own tools and, similarly, Friere writes about the need to work WITH people of color and not FOR them. Malcolm X also addressed this in his autobiography when he revisited a time when he told a White ally that they can't help. He suggested that White people can speak to White people about the needs of people of color and to confront racism when witnessing it. Of course, some would dismiss all of this and want White people to simply acknowledge their privilege and be willing to collapse racial hierarchies. We're always learning and we can't expect one answer to these loaded questions. I'd love to hear what other people have to say about this.(less)
Charlotte I cannot begin to explain how good this book is. I wish I had the language to do a review justice. Let me just say that for a white woman it was a rev…moreI cannot begin to explain how good this book is. I wish I had the language to do a review justice. Let me just say that for a white woman it was a revelation. I will have to buy a copy since I got it at the library so I can underline and write in the margins. I have never seen a more well written book on the black experience.

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Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I chose to read this book the day after a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one person and injuring more than 30 others.

Michael Eric Dyson's book, subtitled "A Sermon to White America," is exactly the kind of book that I wish the alt-right and white supremacists would read. Dyson, who is a sociology professor and an ordained minister, shares his experience of being black in America, and his thoughts on the election of Donal
Brown Girl Reading
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Interested in racism in the United States
Recommended to Brown Girl Reading by: reviewed for St. Martin's Press
The inauguration of the newly elected president of America is upon us. Racism has shown to be very alive and well in the United States, contrary to popular belief. People are all questioning how we could go from President Barak Obama to what was elected on November 7, 2016. Deep down I think we all know why and aren’t really surprised, but in essence most of us don’t want to admit what the problem really is.... ...more
I never took the time to read or listen to Michael Eric Dyson before. He became an ordained Baptist minister at nineteen, so for very nearly forty years now he’s been using words to educate and persuade. He’s very good at it. He teaches now at Georgetown University, but he has taught at many major universities around the country. He doesn’t sound like an academic; his language is salty, strong. It appears that in addition to teaching, he consults for MSNBC, has a podcast, lectures at other unive ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Let me acknowledge from the very beginning that, as a white man, any criticism I offer of this book may well be considered suspect. I do not offer this observation as a complaint, merely as a premise. Though couched in terms (and a subtitle) implying a dialogue with white America, Tears We Cannot Stop isn't really anything of the sort, and my role here (the author seems to imply) is for me to simply receive his truth and shut up. Which I am manifestly declining to do.

Allow me also to stipulate,
Michael Eric Dyson makes an impassioned plea for America to wake up, fess up, own up to the systemic racism that has existed since the original sin of slavery. Dyson uses both history and personal anecdotes to support the concept that white privilege and white denial are the primary forces that propel racism in America. This appears to be one of the first published books since the 2016 election that basically points to the results as exhibit A of the fact that America is foundationally a raciall ...more
Richard Derus
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it

#ReadingIsResistance to institutional racism's costs in a sermon aimed at those it benefits. My review is live today.

Michael Eric Dyson pens a heartfelt, stern, anguished plea for white Americans to examine their passive complicity in a zero-sum spoils system that perpetuates injustice. St. Martin's Press does us all a service by publishing it at this point in time.

This is Black History Month. It never hu
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“My friends, I know reading this frightens many of you. It may even anger you. Please bear with me. Until you make whiteness give up its secrets none of us will get very far.”

I listened to this book via audio so apologies if I misquote a bit in the review. I tried to type the words as accurately as I listened.

Tears We Cannot Stop is a very loud book. If you find yourself put off by anger in politics (which is absurd in itself but whatever, I don’t have time for polite people anymore), then d
Cynthia Dunn
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
Unfortunately, this book will never be read by the people who need to read it and would benefit by it. I'm afraid that Dr. Dyson is preaching to the choir. ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

From the synopsis:

'Short, emotional, literary, powerful―Tears We Cannot Stop is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read.'

There are innumerable passages within this insightful and thought-provoking work by Michael Eric Dyson that I could quote here, but I'm not going to do that. I want you to read it for yourself.

The audiobook, narrated by the author, is just over 5-hours and in my opinion, is the most impactful way to rea
Jessica Sullivan
This is a book that I challenge all my white friends to read, no matter where you stand on the spectrum of confronting white privilege and systemic racism. Michael Eric Dyson delivers a powerful, engaging, personal, informational, inspiring sermon that's essential at this moment in time when racial division is especially high.

I urge you to read with an open heart and mind, to set aside your discomfort and listen to Dyson's plea for white Americans to reckon with the harsh truths of racism.

This was a difficult book for me to read, both because of how it was constructed and what it made me have to examine in myself.

Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown professor and Baptist preacher, delivers this book as a written sermon addressed to us white folks. Often blunt, angry, anguished and sweeping in his condemnation, he argues that white privilege is something all whites benefit from, most especially when they want to deny it most.

Much of the book revolves around his anguish over the killi
Clif Hostetler
This book is just what the subtitle says, "a sermon to white America." It is a plea to white America for understanding of the black experience in America. He speaks with gentle words, beginning many sentences with words such as, "Dearly beloved, I must tell you that . . . " Though his words are tender and intimate, “... a plea, a cry, a sermon, from my heart to yours,” the message conveyed is critical of a culture of "whiteness" describing it as often cruel and uncaring while at the same time be ...more
I frequently read books that will challenge me, make me think differently, open my eyes, and help me learn and grow. I chose this book for that very reason. And while it did give me a few new ideas it mostly frustrated and infuriated me. I'm not entirely sure who Dr. Dyson thought he was writing for? Is it for students like those he teaches at Georgetown who are young, inexperienced, and naive in regards to white privilege and institutional racism. Is it for older white people, entrenched in the ...more
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish every white person in America would read this book, especially those who deny racism still exists -- or worse, admit it does and yet don't think it's a problem. In "Tears We Cannot Stop", Michael Eric Dyson delivers an impassioned plea for change, recounting many personal and painful episodes in his own life, but also in the lives of countless others. He asks that we whites stop hiding from the truth, and start acknowledging our white privilege that allows for the oppression of people of ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Instead of "A Sermon to White America" this should be subtitled something like "Another Preaching to the Choir." It's really hard to imagine anyone that doesn't already care about race issues having the patience to read this. Even for me, someone who is concerned with race issues, it was really difficult to force myself to finish it. Most of the book reads like a cathartic diary entry, being more flowery religious fluff than actual information. The logic is inconsistent and hypocritical. The arg ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
A book that needs to be read, but probably not by the ones who need it the most. Written in the form of a sermon/epistle, Dyson preaches mostly about the advantages of being white in America in terms of getting ahead, being paid more, not fearing death when confronted by the police, etc. I thought his discussion of the distinction between the terms "nigger" and "nigga" to be particularly insightful. On the other hand, I did not agree with his oversimplification of the reasons why Donald Trump wa ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have to say this book was somewhat difficult for me to read. The hard truths it presents are good food for thought. It's constructed like a sermon, but the main narrative works on its own power. I learned some things I didn't know. The prose style is energetic and earnest, not overly preachy. It's topical and relevant with the BLM movement in the news. I'll continue reading more of the "Black Voices" titles recommended by my library. ...more
"I have no reason to doubt that at many other moments like this, on many other similar nights,hope might prevail. If you, my friends would make a conscious effort to change. If you would stop being white."

This book angered, frustrated and inspired me simultaneously. Being a Young Black Male living in this society, I wish that we were past racism. I wish that we can all come together and live in union as brother and sisters, why are we still discriminated against by the color of our skin? Why are
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another powerful book by Michael Eric Dyson (this is the fourth of his books that I have read). It is a very well written work that was hard to put down. Dyson draws on history, current events, and his own personal story to give a sermon on the sins of racism and the effect it has had on how White people have treated Black people in America. In some respects I would compare this book with Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. The only difference is that it ends with Dyson giving prescripti ...more
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays
The frustrating thing about this book is the framing. For about the first half of the book, the subtitle is a misnomer - it's a screed, not a sermon. It's angry and divisive, talking categorically about how 'white folk' think and what 'white folk' do not feel. In the second half of the book, it shifts to a slightly more measured tone that is less abrasive. The effect is that the book completely misses the mark if it was actually intended to sway anyone's mind. If it is preaching, it is preaching ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Full review at

Michael Eric Dyson tells it like it is in Tears We Cannot Stop. Subtitled A Sermon for White America, it is just that. In both structure and tone, Dyson combines his experience as both pastor and professor. It is a moving and emotional book. But it’s also exquisitely literate and deeply meaningful.

As a white woman, I’m on a quest to expand my perspective. This book sets the tone for another year of questioning and learning. Dyson speaks right to his readers, ca
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
In this latest Dyson offering, Mr. Dyson is making a direct appeal to white Americans to give up their hold hold on whiteness and once and for all really try and understand what it is that Black Americans feel and deal with on a daily basis in our sojourn on these shores. Indeed, "that white America can definitively, finally, hear from one black American preacher a plea, a cry, a sermon, from my heart to yours." While Dyson presents a very compelling case, I'm afraid it will fall on deaf ears. H ...more
Simran Kaur-Colbert
Important not just for White America, but for all of America to read. As a South Asian American, my community of immigrants also aspires to assimilate and in many ways that means aspiring towards whiteness. Desi Americans must also sit with the discomfort that our community also has anti-black sentiments and benefits from those sentiments in American society. Our Desi culture also appropriates Black culture. Many in our community react like White America to calls for racial justice by BLM: we ar ...more
Mar 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Just another stereotypical self victimization narrative. a book trying to point out and end racism by being highly racist in tone and subject. here is a novel concept instead of placing blame always upon whites, why not instead look in a mirror and take responsibility for ones own actions and then place it upon the individual. it annoys me greatly to see books like this one being allowed to be published while other works of a higher magnitude remain unpublished and ignored.
Yesenia Cash
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Dyson just took me to school/church! I don’t do religion and I loved this so much!
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America by Michael Eric Dyson is exactly that: an elegantly written sermon of anger and forgiveness, hope and despair. Dyson is an academic, but he is also an ordained minister and he writes in the same rhythmic, poetical powerful language he must use when preaching. I liked this book for its raw emotions and beautiful language even as it made me sad and angry and horrified. I will never be able to understand hating someone merely based on skin color. That ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful, passionate, Professor and Minister Michael Eric Dyson uses a sermon as a way to talk to white people in America to examine the harmful myths around racism. He confronts one thing after another, and demolishes one objection or denial of reality after another put forth by people, whether conservative or liberal,
Using examples and stats, he asks his audience to take a really hard look at their inculcated ideas, to look more closely at their sanitized history books, at their systems (educa
Nicole Harris
If you are a white person and you are reading this review, you should stop now and immediately obtain this book and read it. I have to say that the audio was incredibly powerful and I highly recommend taking in Tears We Cannot Stop through the voice of Dr. Dyson. Last year Between the World and Me was my "this should be recommended reading for all" book. This far in 2017 it's Tears We Cannot Stop. ...more
Rachel León
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017, 2017
(4.5 stars, rounded up for being so important)

This book isn't light or easy, but it's essential reading. Michael Eric Dyson delivers a sharp and intelligent argument about how prevalent racism is in our country and why white people need to wake up and speak up against it. This book is a challenge and a call to action. He even offers a reading list and suggestions for what whites can do to confront daily racism and acknowledge white privilege. It's a seriously powerful book that should be require
Wow. Wow. Wow. This was a wake-up call read for me. I've been struggling with how I can stand up for racial justice and thinking about the privileges I have as a white person. This book brought me to a greater understanding about what it means to be black in American today. This is a sit and listen book and sometimes what he was saying was hard to swallow. It's a very honest and unapologetic conversation about race in America. We still have a long way to go. ...more
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Michael Eric Dyson is an American academic, author, and radio host. He is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University.

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