Dyson and Ahmadou
Reading Time: 2 minutes

On your way to becoming a young and black intellectual to paraphrase Jay-Z, you have to pay respect to those who came before you. Two days ago, I had the chance to meet Michael Dyson,  who is “a Georgetown University sociology professor, a New York Times contributing opinion writer, and a contributing editor of The New Republic, and of ESPN’s The Undefeated website.” Through the years, I have followed him from a distance and have enormously appreciated his commitment to speaking truth to power. He is among one the few intellectuals who is truly committed to lifting the voice of the voiceless. As he always says, charity is not a substitute for justice.  Justice is what love looks like in public and we all must commit ourselves to challenging the social order that gives some the ability to accumulate wealth at the expense of the majority.

It was a great opportunity to sit with him and discuss subjects ranging from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornel West to the legacy of the first Black president and the minimization of James Baldwin by mainstream actors. I was struck by his easiness and humility. For someone who knows so much and has dedicated much of his life to learning, he did not sound paternalistic or condescending. As I aspire to follow his footsteps and add my voice to his call to action and reformation, our conversation shed lights on the responsibilities of intellectuals. He must be critical and self-critical; independent and nuanced; finally committed and serious. He must be decent, modest and realize that he is not a prophet. His responsibility is not to satisfy or impress, but to expose lies, speak truth to power and care about those who are negatively affected by our institutions or our collective indifference. In reality, public intellectuals have power and influence. Now, power without responsibility is a recipe for disaster. Consequently, as public intellectuals or intellectuals in general, we must become a source of lights, understandings and unity for our society.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: