Michael Eric Dyson’s Long Time Coming is a timely, heartfelt book that uses history to slice our nation open and show how racism is a sickness that has shaped our culture and society in a variety of insidious ways.
Long Time Coming grapples with the cultural and social forces that have shaped our nation in the brutal crucible of race. In five beautifully argued chapters—each addressed to a black martyr from Breonna Taylor to Rev. Clementa Pinckney—Dr. Dyson traces the genealogy of anti-blackness from the slave ship to the street corner where George Floyd lost his life—and where America gained its will to confront the ugly truth of systemic racism.
From the abused, stolen bodies pressed together inside slave ships to the lynching of Emmett Till to the battered body of George Floyd pressed against the ground under a police officer’s knee, Dyson uses the history of anti-blackness and violence against Black people to map out the way systemic racism was created and how it has operated, uninterrupted, since America’s birth.
In the book’s five chapters and postlude, Dyson addresses Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Hadiya Pendleton, Sandra Bland, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, all Black victims of systemic racism and police brutality. Each chapter is a letter Dyson writes to explore “the frameworks of perception that we are compelled to adopt to justify questionable or biased racial claims.” The writing is smart and the research that informs it is great, but what makes this is an important book is Dyson’s voice, which is strong but always pregnant with frustration, pain, admiration and, ultimately, hope.
Ending with a poignant plea for hope, Dyson’s exciting new book points the way to social redemption. Long Time Coming is a necessary guide to help America finally reckon with race.