Michael Eric Dyson stands as one of the more prominent Black intellectuals of this generation. His ideas on politics, race, and culture often initiates critical thinking or backslash. Regardless of his position on a particular topic, it’s guaranteed to spark a response one way or the other.
Dyson continues to push to envelop in his latest book, The Black Presidency. An observation and critique, the book sheds light on Obama’s terms in the Oval Office and how he will be remembered when it comes to his impact on Black progress.
Before a recent speech at Morehouse College, Dyson sat down with rolling out to discuss his new book and the legacy of President Obama.
Your new book sheds light on President Obama legacy when it comes to Black issues. Why was it important for you to address this?
Well the book is an appreciation of President Obama. The forces he’s been up against, the obstacles he’s confronted, the obstruction that he’s endured, the attempt to address the issue of race or failure to do so and the broader society’s inability to either encourage him in the effort to address it directly or his own attempt to avoid it. So, all of those factors are at work and what I wanted to do was address those issues in an honest and open way to appreciate the great good he has done, but also to talk about some of the lapses and failures as well. And one of the things that I address, of course, is that under President Obama, Black people have not flourished or thrived as much as others in the society. His hesitancy and sometimes outright failure in addressing the issues that are pertinent to our community.
What do you think was the biggest thing that held President Obama back from actually creating policies and things that would directly help or affect African Americans?
Well, there was a great hesitancy because America didn’t really want to hear about race. After he did the “Beer Summit” with Skip Gates, his poll number tanked, and there was great controversy. And so he took the lesson on that, not to speak so honestly and openly about race and that discouraged him for years until , really, Trayvon Martin, when he made a powerful speech and a powerful reflection on the issue of race. But there had been a gap in between there. So I think the hesitancy was encouraged by America’s inability to address the issue of race, his own nature disinclination to address is more openly and honestly for fear that it would create consternation in the masses and some blow back. And his own natural instinct to be more reticent about it and hesitant about it than forthright.
Michael Eric Dyson will speak at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson, Tennessee on April 21.