Merit more important than race, says Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University, emphasizes the importance of building strong bonds between different backgrounds and classes in a speech last night.

by Jess Hoogendoorn

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson bridged age and racial gaps as he rapped, quoted and conveyed his message, “Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line” yesterday, at 7 p.m., in the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) Theater.

Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University, gave students and community members the opportunity to reflect on African-American history. He explained that Black History Month, which starts today, is devoted to give people the chance to think critically and sharply about the issues of diversity and social policy.

“African-American history is American history, black history is American history,” said Dyson. “The telling of American history must include everybody. We can never understand American history without understanding black history.”

Dyson also elaborated on the importance of learning. He explained that people of all races should make educated decisions and not come to any conclusion simply based on race. He referred to his own belief that politics should be based on merit, not pigment. Dyson made it clear that he judges politicians and others based upon their character and not their political skin.

The professor also explained that diversity is a “key value because it allows us to understand the perspective of multiple groups.”

He added that although diversity often carries a negative connotation, it actually is positive. He said minorities have had to work harder to be accepted into the mainstream.

“That’s what we were told, we were told you better come in twice as good and working hard,” said Dyson.

He urged African-Americans to stop the ongoing generation and class wars. Dyson specifically cited the issues Barack Obama is facing as his “blackness” is being questioned. He explained that there needs to be less division between groups because “sometimes the most effective white supremacists have black skin.”

Dyson was chosen to speak because he “bridges the gap” between the hip-hop generation and the older generations of black power, the Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley movements, according to Joy Clayton, president of the Black Student Union (BSU) Dyson addresses diversity on a level beyond “black [and] white,” Clayton said. He was named by Ebony magazine as one of the 100 most influential black Americans.

“[Dyson] is an intellectual who can articulate himself in a way that may take people a while to understand, but at the end of the day it’s going to challenge the Rider community to think beyond what they learn in the classroom,” Clayton said.

BSU is sponsoring many other events throughout the month of February to celebrate Black History Month. The theme of this February is “Red, Black, and Green. What Does it Mean?” The colors represent the official Pan-African flag that was established in 1920, said Clayton. The flag unites all African-Americans no matter what country they hail from. The colors have a lot of historical meaning behind them, but most people are not aware of their significance, said Clayton.

“College is a chance to experience other cultures, experience different things,” Clayton said.

Other events occurring in February include BSU Chill Night, Soul Bowl, a Protestant Campus Ministries service led by Rev. Toby Sanders and a Student/Faculty Mixer. There will also be the Celebration of Black Love, the Second Annual Black Male Conference, a poetry night entitled Introducing On Fire, Midnight Run, an “African Champions” themed Bronc Buffet, BSU Color of Music and Gospel Fest 2008.

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