‘You Ought to Vote Out of Self-Interest’: Michael Eric Dyson’s Message to Young People

By Kelly Macías
December 06 2019



Author, activist and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson has been talking about race relations since he was 11 years old. Dyson’s earliest memory of this dates back to the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which taught him about racial differences and prompted him to start speaking out publicly against injustice.

In a recent interview with Blavity Politics (video below), Dyson talked about his work, the importance of young voters and his advice for those who want to get involved in politics today. Dyson believes it is important to address the issues facing Black people, no matter how uncomfortable the truth may be.

“I’ve tried to focus on serious issues that are provocative, that are controversial, but that is substantive in terms of their consequence for Black America and my trying to grapple with those issues to make certain that the truth was told,” he told Blavity Politics.

One of the truths he spoke about was motivating young people to vote. He’s noticed that telling young people their ancestors died for their right to vote doesn’t necessarily move them to action. Still, he believes it is something they need to know.

“There were people who died and marched, who literally lost their lives…blood was shed on the ground to make certain that young people could vote,” Dyson shared. “But you ought to also vote out of self-interest.”

In addition to encouraging young people to vote and understand more about the political process, Dyson is also serious about hip-hop, a topic he’s written books about and taught courses on. His new book Jay-Z: Made in America will be released November 26, and is an ode to the poetic genius and political engagement of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. To celebrate the book’s release, he’s tweeting #50DaysofJay to share his reflections on Jay’s life and work.

Dyson has never been afraid to tell the truth, and he’s not likely to stop telling it anytime soon.

“If it was uncomfortable for white brothers and sisters, so be it. If it was uncomfortable for African-Americans and other peoples of color, then so be it… to try to get at the broader truth and the deeper reality we’d rather sweep under the carpet.”

Be sure to follow Dyson on Twitter (@MichaelEDyson) to stay caught up on his activism and the release of his book