“Long time coming” brings racism, American culture awkwardness into focus

By Cynthia Solis

Michael Eric Dyson’s “Long Time Coming” is a heartfelt book that uses the history of racism in America to show how it has shaped our culture and society in various heinous ways. 

He goes far back in history from the “Final Passage”, where African people were stolen from their land and forcibly placed inside slave ships, to when two white men murdered a young boy named Emmitt Till after being supposedly accused of cat-calling a white woman. Dyson then goes on to discuss the events that occurred on May 25, 2020, when police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd after the officer placed his knee on his neck for nine minutes. 

Dyson uses these stories along with others to portray America’s history of anti-blackness and violence toward the African American community, since America was first born, how it has survived and arguably has gotten worse. 

The book comprises five chapters, each chapter being addressed to a victim of either systemic racism or police brutality. The chapters are written to address the story of Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Hadiya Pendleton, Sandra Bland, and Reverend Cementa Pickney. 

The writing is well researched and sharp, informing the public about the injustices these five, along with thousands of other African Americans, have faced. Although the book is straightforward, making it an easy read, the reader can truly get a sense of Dyson’s pain, frustration, admiration, and even hope in his tone. This book is hard to get through. It forces the reader to swallow a tough pill, especially if the reader is not as familiar with African Americans’ daily hardships, just for being African American. 

Seeing everything that happened in 2020 with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement seems almost “normal” to read the name of a victim of police brutality. Still, if the reader looks at it as a whole (looking back at history), they are forced to realize that Black people have been slaughtered for hundreds of years. Since the ’50s (when Emmitt Till was killed), people have been forced to use victims of this abuse as a way to get more media attention. For example, Till was used as a “poster boy” for the civil rights movements. Not only that, but Dyson sheds some light on how the judicial system is extremely inefficient and has repeatedly allowed murderers to walk free. 

Dyson says that justice, like funerals, are for the living, that “[The dead are] denied first [of] their bodies, their being; then they are denied control over the social consequences of their nonbeing; finally, they are denied the very changes that only their deaths make possible.” He discusses how the United States educational system refuses to engage in discussions about slavery and its aftermath and how the police force in America are some of the largest enforcers of white supremacy today. 

In his book, Dyson discusses an idea of “white comfort,” which is essentially a comfort of not knowing much about Black life and being ignorant of the struggles Black people go through, stating it must go. 

The overall moral is to encourage people to reimagine the police departments, educational system, workforce, and all other aspects of life to stop systemic racism, abuse, misogyny, and xenophobia. 

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