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Michael Eric Dyson 

Debating Race author to sign book in Atlanta

Michael Eric Dyson is a self-described public intellectual who is an author, college professor, ordained minister and, until last week, hosted a nationally syndicated weekday radio talk show that was carried locally on WAMJ-FM 102.5. His most recent book, Debating Race, is a collection of transcripts from his many discussions and debates on the subject in several different media. He will appear at the Shrine of the Black Madonna at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, and at Waldenbooks CNN Center at noon Thursday, March 22.

How far do you believe we have come as a society so that blacks can have this open dialogue about race without some fear that they might be airing "dirty laundry" that might give others, whites in particular, some kind of upper hand?

I've always felt it's better to be more honest than less honest, more public than less public, and willing to engage these issues up front and in a straightforward fashion. Black people do not all think alike or agree on these critical social issues. But hopefully in the midst of that there will be enough of an intellectual energy and pattern of engagement that emerges that suggests we're not simply playing to stereotypes or reinforcing prevailing notions of who black people are that may be negative.

What do you think of Ann Coulter's recent comments in which she indirectly called John Edwards a "faggot"?

Well, you know, I've always admired Ann Coulter's intelligence even if not the way she applies it to social issues, which contrasts sharply to mine. She appreciates me for not looking at her dress size or whether she's pretty or not and getting to the issues at heart. So we have a reciprocal appreciation and respect for each other's minds and the ability to talk lucidly about complex social issues. But from there, we part. And unfortunately, I think what she said about Edwards is deplorable and something that needs to be acknowledged and talked about. And I find it extremely unfortunate that Ann Coulter would say that and not specify her disagreements with Mr. Edwards and then outline, as she's capable of doing, the basis of her argument with him. Avoid the ad hominem and ad feminine to which she is sometimes so cruelly subject. If you don't want it done to you, don't do it to somebody else.

Is it safe to say that, at the very least, you like to talk?

Talking, as I say in the book, is better than killing. I think when you have moments of public illumination ... then you have to seize the floor as best you can, tell the truth as quickly and as insightfully as you can and get then your viewpoint across. Yeah, I like to talk but I like to talk with a purpose. ... You have to seize the opportunity.

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