DON LEMON (HOST): Talk about what's really happening here. Is it really that perplexing to people that Black America exists in all kinds of shades? That doesn't change the black experience in America.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON (AUTHOR): Not at all. Thank you for having me, brother Don. You know, you would hope they were joking because if they weren't this exposes the vast lethal ignorance at the heart of so much whiteness. Whether intentional or not. We all know that Black is not a phenotypical reality. We're not talking about a genetic predisposition toward darker skin. We're speaking about an existential context. We're talking about a philosophical idea. We're speaking about rooted cultures in deep histories, that have vast traditions, that have generated complicated identities. And we know that Blackness in terms of its identity ranges from vanilla vitality to chocolate charm. And all ranges in between. So it's not about shade. It's not about a kind of inherited characteristic of race. Race is, as we've been arguing in school, and I would advise Dr. Peterson and brother Rogan to take a class. When we talk about race as a social construct, what we're saying is it's not about a biological determinism. It's about an inherited set of beliefs that depend upon a society to imbue it with meaning. And therefore, it's not simply about who you are, your skin color, your hair, your shade, and tone. Now, while they unsuccessfully challenged my Blackness, they damn sure proved their whiteness. Indifferent to history, oblivious to truth, and indifferent to reality.
LEMON: So just -- it was kind of a weird thing to say, to refer to people as Black. That's what he said, it's weird to refer to people as Black unless they are from Africa, not wearing any clothes. There's a fundamental misunderstanding, as you've been pointing out, of what it means to be Black.
ERIC DYSON: Absolutely. They're harkening back to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." Brother Rogan is smarter than that. People who are in Africa who don't wear clothes, who have deeper melanin, was he speaking about thousands of years ago? Is he talking about today? When he refers to what it means to be African. When he refers to what it means to be Black. Are you that obtuse, indifferent to truth, ignorant about traditions? But yes, so many people are. This is the same kind of ignorance that fuels the belief that CRT is being taught in elementary school. This is the same kind of ignorance that would have us believe that 1619 is an anti-democratic, anti-American project. This is the nature of the whiteness we continually confront. This is willful ignorance. This is not, oh my God, I just don't understand it. It's too complicated. No. What's too complicated is to acknowledge your whiteness, your privilege, your perspective. The shades through which you view the world and the ways in which whiteness provides a kind of lens through which we view it.