Michael Eric Dyson’s “Pride” is a part of a series on the seven deadly sins that is being put out by the Oxford University Press chronicling the seven deadly sins in a biblical sense. Mr. Dyson is a professor of theological studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a social critic who has had an accomplished career as a writer, speaker, and activist. Dyson is probably best known for his critique of Bill Cosby’s recent outspokenness on the future of black America in “Is Bill Cosby Right or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind?”
Dyson For those of you unaware of what the seven deadly sins are they include: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust. Dyson first of all takes aim at the folks who seem to think that humanism and concern for things in this realm should be trumped by the same hellfire and brimstone point of view or right and wrong, black and white. Dyson says that the list of the seven deadly sins is likely to change as it has changed in places like Europe in order to adapt to the needs of today. Dyson mentions a survey of Europeans British people specifically to come up with the seven worse traits that you can find in a human being. Cruelty, adultery bigotry, dishonesty, hypocrisy, greed, and selfishness the one original to round out the field were the entire new list. Now some would say these overlap each other and certainly some of them do, or heck those Europeans are so divorced from God that they wouldn’t have the slightest clue as how to distinguish from right and wrong.
The main thing that I took from this book is that Dyson stresses the fact that there is nothing wrong with pride in your culture and pride in your country, but it becomes dangerous when that pride turns into outright hubris. Dyson goes on to say there seems to be a lack of willingness on behalf of the African American community to be proud often times because it will look to white Americans as if blacks aren’t also proud of their country if they are “too proud” of their culture. Dyson also points out examples of people such as himself who went from being welfare dad who dropped out of college to a Pulitzer Prize winning author.
He then goes on to cite former Congressman Kweisi Mfume who preserved from being a former gang banger who fathered seven children out of wedlock to become a man who graduated from Howard University with a law degree, was a former head of the NAACP and former Congressman who nearly became the Democratic nominee for the United States in Maryland in 2006. Dyson cites a wonderful example with Mfume because Kweisi did what he had to do without forgetting who he was and what he had to do to get there. Dyson brings up Mfume for good reason because there is this misconception out there that you have to be “white” in order to make it in this world in the eyes of many within the African American community.
To augment Dyson’s example of the discernment within the African American community that in order to make it you have to be a puppet of the white establishment is how two black girls who took one of his courses would constantly criticize Dyson and say he was another part of a minstrel show if he would give them a low grade on an assignment or make them rethink an answer if it ended up being incorrect. The girls would be loud and very uncouth when he was attempting to conduct a lecture. One of the other students finally went up to Dyson and said something to the affect of how much the student board always asks for more African American Professors and we finally get one and you get treated like this.
Dyson basically says you can be an intellectual without being an “Uncle Tom”, but sadly too many in black America haven’t found that out yet because in the culture that we live in many have decided that they cannot advance any further within society. Dyson realizes that in order for African Americans to lift themselves into the higher reaches of social hierarchy they are going to have to do this by themselves. Dyson quotes James Brown, the Godfather of Soul to buttress his point with the statement “I don’t want nobody to give me nothin’ just open up the door I’ll get it myself”
This is the brunt of the argument that Dyson makes in my eyes in support of affirmative action programs. Just let kids in the door and they’ll find a way to get the job done. Dyson says that often times these people who are trying to find their way in the door by showing their pride are often being shut out because the upper class in black America demeans the black underclass and doesn’t want to admit that this underclass even exists let alone that they have some sort of social responsibility to help correct the problem. Dyson talks about he was once invited to a Jack and Jill Club to speak in front of a bunch of upper income African Americans and I’ll let you read the book to see what their reaction is to his assessment to the status of black America. So be sure to get your hands on Michael Eric Dyson’s “Pride: One of the Seven Deadly Sins” to hear about the philosophical background of the concept pride, which writers inspired Dyson himself growing up, made him proud to be a black man and much more. I highly recommend this book.