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Michael Eric Dyson—professor, preacher, and “paid pest”—brings a critical eye and rhetorical flair to his analyses of hip-hop culture and his call for social justice. 

By Susan Frith | Photography by Bill Cramer

Two hundred students back from winter break are already trading noisy banter when Dr. Michael Eric Dyson strides into the lecture hall, reaches into his briefcase, and pulls out a stack of CDs. An urgent voice soon rises through the din:

Nobody cares, seen the politicians ban us
They’d rather see us locked in chains,
please explain
Why they can’t stand us?

As he reviews his notes at the lectern, the 44-year-old Dyson bobs his goateed chin up and down to the recording of hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur.

How can I be peaceful? I’m comin’ from the bottom
Watch my daddy scream peace while the other man shot him
I need a house that’s full of love when I need to escape
The deadly places slingin’ drugs, in thugz mansion

Suddenly the music is shut off. The class quiets.

Religious Studies 113 has begun.

“How’s everybody doing?” asks Dyson, Penn’s new Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities. “This class is a seminar on Schopenhauer—that right?” he deadpans. The students laugh. They are here not to study German philosophers, but to learn about one of rap’s most influential and controversial artists, Tupac Shakur. Just 25 when he was slain in a 1996 drive-by shooting, Shakur has sold millions of records that speak to a generation of youth, including those who feel themselves pushed to society’s margins. His lyrics both glorify the gangster life—which he saw as an almost inevitable response to poverty and racism—and critique its self-destructive outcomes. 

Dyson, an ordained minister, high-profile pundit, and outspoken social critic who joined Penn’s religious-studies department and Center for Africana Studies in the fall, goes on to explain the purpose of the course: “To look at Tupac Shakur as a cultural figure of enormous importance and to probe the ethical, moral, social, and political consequences—and especially the religious dimensions—of his thought.”

Transforming his usual baritone into a taunting rasp, Dyson poses this preemptive challenge: “Why you tryin’ to give world-historical importance to a dad-gum rrrrrapper?”

Though most who would dismiss hip-hop as a subject for scholarly analysis are probably absent this afternoon, Dyson proceeds to argue, tease, and even rap his way to some answers. In this class, Mos Def and Lil’ Kim meet Michel Foucault and Jean-Paul Sartre—“two cats also known for their hip-hop lyrics.” 

Shakur’s genius, Dyson contends, lay not in his artistry with words or his haunting baritone so much as his keen ability to ask fundamental questions about suffering and evil, evoking a kind of “thug theodicy”: “How can a God who is claimed to be ostensibly good and possessing power allow God’s children to suffer in the midst of a cultural context that seems hell-bent on destroying the very people who worship that God?”

In his biography of Shakur, Holler if You Hear Me, Dyson calls him a “hip-hop Jeremiah, an urban prophet crying out loud about the hurt that he constantly saw and sowed.” He goes on to add that, “Perhaps more than any other rapper, Tupac tried to live the life he rapped about, which had spectacular results in the studio but disastrous results in the world,” where the artist had numerous run-ins with the law on assault and weapons charges.

Shakur was a high-school dropout who devoured books and wrote poetry; a rapper who alternately defended and demeaned women in his lyrics. The son of a Black Panther activist, Shakur’s mind and soul were divided “between his revolutionary pedigree and his thug persona.”

Thugs bring “arbitrary correction to the imbalances that revolutionaries seek to redress,” Dyson writes. By giving in to the temptations of gangster life, “Tupac lost his hold on the frustrating but powerful moral ambiguity that makes the rhetorical representation of gangsta rappers effective. In fleeing from art to the actual, from appearance to reality, from studio to the streets, Tupac lost his life.”

More than six years after his unsolved murder, stories abound on the street corner and on the Internet that Shakur lives on—some fans suggest in Cuba. According to Dyson, he has become “the first black figure with a serious chance at the persistent cultural memory accorded Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean.” 

“As a result of his death and life,” Dyson tells his students, “he serves as a prism, a sharp lens through which we view the conflicts and contradictions of black urban existence.”

Michael Eric Dyson steeped himself in philosophy and religion as an undergraduate at a Baptist college and as a doctoral student at Princeton University. But his first encounter with theodicy—this reckoning over why bad things happen to good people—came when he was nine years old and heard the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. announced on the TV news. “I lived in a house in the ghetto of Detroit,” he explains during an interview at his campus office, where a bare-chested Shakur stares down from the wall poster. “We had a balcony upstairs. And I remember being very afraid to go up there. Because I figured if they killed him on a balcony in Memphis—and of course this is a kid’s mind—then they could kill me.”

The death of this gentle icon “made me feel vulnerable,” Dyson adds. “And as I began to learn about King, that issue of social justice and the disjunction between what you get and what you deserve, and why that occurs, certainly was jump-started for me.” Dyson cited King’s messages in a grade-school oratorical contest, which he won. He has been sounding off ever since—not just about King’s misunderstood legacy but about reparations for slavery, notions of “black authenticity,” and U.S. militarism, as well as attitudes toward women, gays, and lesbians in the black church, hip-hop culture, and society at large.

Dyson, who last taught at DePaul University in Chicago, has found many forums to express those views. He’s been a newspaper and magazine columnist; a commentator on CNN, Good Morning AmericaOprah, National Public Radio, and Politically Incorrect. He is the author of eight books, including, most recently, Why I Love Black Women and Open Mike. The former, explains Dyson, is “an unabashed love letter to black women, who have been bashed in hip-hop culture, and put down as bitches and hos, and assaulted in the broader culture as well, as welfare queens and mammies and jezebels.” The latter book is a collection of scholarly interviews of Dyson over the past eight years for a variety of publications, addressing philosophy, race, and theory; cultural studies; and theology.

Because of his high-profile image and writings for mainstream audiences, some have questioned Dyson’s status as a true scholar. In Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene, political scientist Adolph Reed criticized Dyson and other black public intellectuals for leaving the “left intellectual ghetto” in order to assume the “status of Black Voice for the American mainstream.”

Dyson says he feels obliged to span both worlds, producing critical scholarly works alongside books and commentaries that are accessible to the broader public. “I didn’t get a Ph.D. to wow people with my esoterica or my ability to engage in a jargon-ridden discourse,” he says. “Although I’ve done quite a bit of that, and I’m capable of deploying those terms. I want to join different discourses and rhetorics—those that concern highfalutin theories of philosophy and identity to those that are concerned about pop culture and how people get along, morally speaking, on a day-to-day basis.

“You know I’ve got to translate that,” he adds. “I’ve gotta, as they used to say—you know I’m a Baptist preacher—‘Make it plain! Whatcha sayin’ boy? Make it plain!’”

The man who makes it plain occasionally ruffles a few feathers.

“I can’t staaand him.” The voice coming out of Dyson’s mouth—an imitation of one listener on a radio call-in show—seems to represent the elderly black woman in the silk hat in the second pew, who thinks that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for Integration and Racial Harmony. Period.

Not the King in Dyson’s biography, I May Not Get There With You, who had radical ideas about fighting poverty and spoke out against the war in Vietnam. Not the King who came to the sad conclusion later in his life that most white Americans are unconscious racists. And surely not the King whose sexual foibles and musings on his own mortality gave him anything in common with the gangsta rappers reviled by many of the Civil Rights generation. 

The talk-show caller, like several others before her, had not bothered to read Dyson’s book. “So I had to come up with a Jesse Jacksonism,” he says:

If my book you do not read,
Do not attempt to make me bleed.

Dyson is not afraid to tweak icons and institutions—or to tinker with people’s perceptions of historic figures like King. 

“King was much more dangerous” than the sanitized images of him that are now used to sell burgers or win votes, he writes. “He is a much more demanding hero, a fiery icon whose hot breath continues to melt plastic portrayals of his social intentions. King meant nothing less than to change the world. He was out to make America behave against its will.”

At a January symposium on King’s legacy, organized by Penn Faculty and Staff Against War on Iraq, Dyson described King as a “critical patriot,” adding, “That meant that he loved his country enough to tell the truth.” Were he alive today, “I think that Martin Luther King Jr. would be opposed to this war,” Dyson said, referring to the possible conflict. The only way a lasting peace can be forged “is by our willingness to forgo the immediacy, the almost orgasmic release of beating up on another country in the name of defending global human rights, when, indeed, right here, the contradictions are ever present.”

Back in the classroom Dyson chides golfer Tiger Woods for not getting involved in the struggle to gain access for women at the all-male Augusta National Golf Club, where the Master’s is played—the same facility that once would have barred Woods on account of his race. “Tiger Woods says, rightfully so, ‘I’m Thai and I’m black; don’t try to reduce the complexity of my identity’—even though, when you look at Tiger, right?, the L.A.P.D. might not be able to discern the variety of ethnic strands which weave so beautifully through his bloodstream,” points out Dyson. “And they might beat the wrong part of his body.”

During a commencement speech at the University of North Carolina several years ago, Dyson even dared to criticize basketball star Michael Jordan, an alumnus and big donor, for failing to support political causes that benefit African Americans. His comments were not welcomed. “You’re speaking about God? You know, this anesthetized, depoliticized Negro?”

“There was 30 straight days of response in the [local] paper to me,” Dyson recalls. “People were calling and threatening my life, threatening my family. My wife was calling me different names. She didn’t want people to hear my name at the airport because they might do something violent.”

Dyson admits he probably chose an inopportune time to quote a rapper’s use of the “F” word in that same speech. “In the paper you would think I had a cascade of profanities. I said one word. On second thought, I probably wouldn’t have quoted it again. Because I was on the buckle of the Bible Belt.”

At a different notch along that same belt, Dyson was kicked out of the Tennessee church he pastored 20 years ago for trying to ordain three women as deacons. He came to church one Sunday and found that his key didn’t fit in the door. Somebody let him in, and he gave his sermon as usual. Then a deacon stood up and said, “‘There’s a problem in this church, and we’ve got to work it out.’ It turns out the problem is me.” The church took a vote on the spot and gave Dyson a month’s severance. “I had a wife and a son, and I had nowhere to go.”

These days, as an occasional guest preacher with tenure in the academy, he’s free to “bring the noise.” If he’s preaching about women’s issues or gay and lesbian issues, he says: “I drop it in the midst of a sermon where I’ve already secured their assent, rhetorically speaking, by juicing them up, preaching in the old tradition: ‘Yes, brother Dyson!’

“Then I say, ‘Well isn’t it funny now, we are in a church where we’re fighting the white man in terms of social injustice and we turn around and replicate the same thing up in the church.’ Sometimes it works,” he says. “Sometimes it goes over like a brick cloud.” Either way, “I feel it incumbent on me to tell the truth about what I believe.”

“I’m a paid pest,” Dyson adds. “I can’t rest too easy on any tradition or position. I’ve got to challenge them all, and challenge myself, and continue to grow.”

Photo by Bill Cramer

It would be an understatement to say that Dyson enjoys a lively debate. He’s taken on Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who led efforts to end Affirmative Action in that state’s higher-education system and Charles Murray, author of the controversial The Bell Curve. But one of his most bitter exchanges was with Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson on the issue of slavery reparations.

“I would not want my kids sitting in Michael Dyson’s classroom, because they will be deceived,” says Peterson, a black conservative activist who is the author of From Rage to Responsibility and founder of the BrotherhoodOrganization of a New Destiny. 

Peterson opposes reparations, arguing that African Americans blame whites too much for their problems and need to “return to morality.” Dyson supports reparations, contending that, “People who have made [or inherited] huge amounts of money from the exploited labor of black people now owe those people something out of justice.” (Though he’s not enormously concrete in explaining what forms reparations should take, Dyson mentions “educational opportunities” and “shifting the resource base.”)

Their debate in August before the National Association of Black Journalists was an ugly one. The audience booed Peterson for his comments. Afterward, in his Chicago Sun-Times column, Dyson dismissed Peterson as a “self-hating black man who despises black culture.” Later, writing for Savoy magazine, Dyson called him a “racial parasite” who criticizes African Americans to earn “pats on the proverbial head” from “fawning white right-wingers.” 

“Michael Eric Dyson is an angry racist demagogue, and in his anger, he is misleading people, especially black Americans,” says Peterson during a telephone interview from his office in Los Angeles. Since Dyson is possibly the only Penn professor who has offered me a hug before and after each interview, I told Peterson I didn’t exactly sense hatred coursing through his veins. “If you want to know if he resents you or not,” Peterson says, “disagree with him on problems in the black community.” Peterson goes on to sound his main message: “I believe that blacks are suffering not due to racism, but due to a lack of moral structure in the family. The U.S. Census report says that 70 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock. That’s a moral issue, not a race issue.” 

“I think Rev. Peterson thinks that is the unified field theory of black pathology, to pinch off Einstein,” Dyson retorts. “One theory to explain everything. Hmm. Black pathology to explain the Ku Klux Klan. Yeah that’s what hung those black men. Yeah that’s it. Or even now, let me see, Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo, [assaulted or shot] by the police. “Oh no, it turns out their parents were married.

“Are out of wedlock births a problem for some? Oh, absolutely. But for the entire nation, not just for black people,” Dyson says. “We can be forthright about our own moral failings. But let’s apply it equally across the board. Let’s apply it to poor white culture. Look at Jerry Springer.”

Dyson’s teaching assistants have just handed out the thick course syllabi, which list two of his own books. “I’ve got kids,” he quips. He then tells students that if they are having trouble paying for all of the assigned books, they can contact him for help. He’s been there. “Now don’t hit me up because you just want to have your money and go buy you some more loot DVDs,” Dyson warns. “Because I’m gonna call your mama. And if she [says], ‘Oh, I gave him a million and a half dollars,’ then I’m gonna be mad.’” 

“He’s very approachable,” observes Tavis Smiley, a longtime friend of Dyson’s who uses him as a regular commentator on his National Public Radio show: “He has a very real world sense about him, because he grew up in the streets of Detroit, and while he’s attended and matriculated at and is now teaching at an Ivy League institution, he has never forgotten from whence he came. And he has a wicked sense of humor.” 

Smiley, who routinely cuts up with Dyson on the air (“slipping from the King’s English into Ebonics and jumping back into the King’s English”), predicts students will gravitate to his classes because he has “style and substance,” and can be “flashy and flamboyant at times.” When Dyson wants to make a point, “he’ll break out into a rap lyric in a heartbeat,” Smiley says. “That’s good, because when you’re speaking to a hip-hop generation, as he so often does, one has to ‘represent.’ But if you listen to what Professor Dyson has to say, he’s quite a remarkable intellect.”

Though Dyson grew up poor, his world was rich with role models—the fifth grade teacher who encouraged him to memorize Paul Laurence Dunbar’s vernacular poem, Little Brown Baby, which he publicly recited for a blue ribbon; the next-door neighbor who gave him a gift of the Harvard Classics; and the Reverend Frederick Sampson, who “gave me a sense of the ministry as a powerful place to express one’s own spirituality, but also to organize the religious and spiritual capital, if you will, of black America.”

Photo by Bill Cramer

Before Dyson became a minister, however, he was a teenage father. When his girlfriend became pregnant, he did what he thought was the right thing at the time and married her. Eventually their union couldn’t withstand her “steeply declining affection” on top of the strain of poverty. When Dyson lost his job, he had to hustle on the streets of Detroit to make ends meet; they went on welfare for a time. “I thought my son was going to be deformed because there were many days we didn’t eat,” Dyson recalls. “We lived in a house that had a hole in the wall, where squirrels would come through,” he says. “It was terrible.”

One advantage of growing up with his son was the entrée it gave Dyson, a Motown enthusiast, into the younger world of hip-hop. He began listening because he wanted to be sure his son understood the “contradictions and complexities” of the culture, he explains. “And I dug the music, so to speak.” Dyson published his first article in the early 1990s on the intersection between rap and religion. “I understand both [the Civil Rights and hip-hop] generations, being caught between them,” he states in his new book, Open Mike. “What I try to do is become a bridge between these two, while being critical of both.”

“I think most of the people in my class would take on this course [on Shakur] for no grade, just out of interest,” says Kate Lehman, one of Dyson’s students. A junior philosophy, politics, and economics major from Indianapolis, Lehman says she has been listening to Shakur’s music for “as long as I can remember.”

Dyson “has such a wealth of knowledge about the subject and the people involved in Tupac’s life and the rap industry,” Lehman adds. “He has a way of capturing everyone’s attention. The best part is how he ties it to gender and race and social issues that you would find in a typical university class.”

“There’s been so much tes-tos-ter-one in hip-hop,” Dyson tells his class. One can almost picture his stretched-out syllables swaggering in the air. “It’s a man’s world. Right?” To contradict this notion he breaks out into some Lil’ Kim:

Keep your stone sets
I got my own briquettes

Despite the contributions of female rappers, hip-hop remains “femophobic,” Dyson says. “Can you be a feminist and at the same time listen to that? Can you shake your behind while nullifying the intensity of the rhetorical assault on your person? What is this ambivalence toward feminism that is not simply in hip-hop, but the culture in general?” 

Dyson’s probing mind soon settles on another question: Why does it take a white rapper like Eminem—undeniably gifted—to awaken the larger culture to the “redemptive power” of the genre? Eminem, “to his credit,” has acknowledged that if he were black, he’d sell half as many records, Dyson says. “Why is it that the literacy of hip-hop, the rhetorical genius, the metaphors, the tropes, the analogies, the allegories, the extraordinary cartoonish character of some of its most dramatic narratives”—not to mention the genre’s sheer diversity of styles—“get overlooked or dismissed when the performers are black?”

The class will also untangle questions about black authenticity, Dyson says. “You ain’t keepin’ it real!” he calls out, assuming another persona and pacing swiftly as if his body is trying to keep up with his brain. 

Dyson admits that what surprised him most in his research on Shakur was the rapper’s erudition. Visiting the home of a friend with whom he lived, Dyson was struck by Shakur’s vast and sophisticated book collection. “Why is literacy such a source of scorn [and viewed] as something that’s not truly, authentically hip-hop, urban, or black?” After all, he says, “you can’t be illiterate and be a serious hip-hopper.”

Dyson suggests that this narrow view of black authenticity—“rappers, pimps, and players”—comes in response to the previous exclusion of poor blacks from middle-class archetypes of blackness (think actor Sidney Poitier)—archetypes that were themselves created to combat “vicious stereotyping” by white society, as witnessed so graphically in the early 20th-century film Birth of a Nation.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character—Martin Luther King Jr.

In his biography of King, Dyson calls for a moratorium on reciting those famous 35 words. He’s speaking tongue-in-cheek. Dyson does believe, however, that this excerpt from King’s 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial has been parroted too often to support agendas that King himself would have opposed. “Many people disingenuously pretend as if that day [that King dreamed of] has arrived, that we all live now in a kind of ethnic paradise.”

The Affirmative Action cases that are being considered by the Supreme Court over the use of race as a factor in admissions at the University of Michigan show the difficulty of trying to argue for racial justice in “the United States of Amnesia,” says Dyson. That’s his name for a country that is “unwilling to acknowledge past racial discrimination, or to suggest that it remains a problem.” Some white people argue, “‘I wasn’t there,’ or ‘I wasn’t even born then,’” Dyson says. “But not having been there when something was conceived doesn’t mean you haven’t taken advantage of it. 

“There are so many ways in which privileges are automatically granted [to white people] as a result of living as a member of a dominant group,” Dyson adds. “If white people more often had to be in a minority position and negotiate [when] their way was not presumed to be the right way, that is when we’d begin to have some real dialogue about race in America.”

The classroom also has the potential to spark frank discussions on race—and Dyson says he’ll encourage that at Penn. “We’re polite on the surface,” he says, “but beneath the surface it’s roiling, a fierce universe of passion that needs to be analyzed, articulated, honestly engaged, and dealt with.”

Sometimes, he teases, his white students need a bit of “affirmative action” to help them speak up. “Make sure they don’t sit there and clamp down because, ‘If I speak up and criticize you, I’m a racist.’”

Views about race often emerge in more subversive ways, however. The announcement last spring that Dyson was coming to campus prompted a brief cybersquall of anonymous postings on The Daily Pennsylvanian’s Web site, including this message:

Posted 05/30/2002
Oh great. Another black ‘leader’ forging ahead in the scholarly “discipline” of black studies! Let’s hope one day we can be like Harvard and have all the trendy, bullshit P.C. professors in all the pretend academic departments like women’s studies, black studies, gender studies, and gay studies! Only then will we fully destroy the foundations of western culture with such rubbish.—Penn Guy

Another student, signing in as “True Scholar,” wrote in to question whether “the type of ‘popularized’ work done by Dyson” could be considered “serious scholarship.”

Those kinds of comments are typical fare for someone in his position, Dyson responds, adding that, “You can’t kvetch about the negative drama that comes your way without at the same time acknowledging the incredible perks that attend our path as well—after all I’m a highly regarded, highly rewarded black intellectual.” At the same time, he notes, “To suggest something about a person’s work before reading him or her is irresponsible intellectually, whether you’re conservative, liberal, or radical.” The critic of his scholarship, for example, must have overlooked the 80 pages of footnotes and bibliographic citations in his King biography.

Dyson has even less patience with the comments of the student who identified himself as Penn Guy. “Those who would dismiss the legitimacy itself of African-American studies are ridiculous. I mean when we’re talking about Western society, we can’t even talk about what the West means without speaking of slavery and without thinking about black people.”

But there’s also a racial element at work in those e-mail comments, he says. “You know sometimes a highly articulate, intelligent black man is a threat to some people. 

“I’ve written eight books in 10 years,” Dyson says. “I’ve been fairly productive. I’ve written in journals that 5,000 people read and I’ve written for The New York Times and The Washington Post. So I’ve tried to do it all.”

His prolific output didn’t escape the attention of the search committee that hired him. Dr. Samuel Preston, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, notes with no small amazement that “we assembled 140 pages of book reviews” on Dyson’s books when considering his candidacy. “This is 10 years beyond his Ph.D. He’s attracted an extraordinary amount of interest from scholars and intellectuals.”

Dyson’s hiring came out of Preston’s appointment of an interdepartmental search committee to increase the representation of African-American faculty and scholars working on African-American issues at Penn. Chaired by Dr. Tukufu Zuberi, director of Penn’s Center for Africana Studies and professor of sociology, the committee brought a number of people to campus, including Dyson, who gave a “dazzling” public lecture and “left a clear impression of an enormously talented man who was willing to consider coming to Penn,” Preston says.

With his expertise in cultural studies, religious studies, and African-American studies, the search committee felt that Dyson “was an ideal candidate for what we wanted to do in developing the future of the Center for Africana Studies,” says Zuberi. “We thought he would bring a unique set of characteristics that would enhance the quality of scholarship and the quality of teaching in the program. 

“We thought he was doing some breathtaking and pathbreaking research,” Zuberi adds, calling Dyson’s analyses about African-American icons such as King, Malcolm X, and Shakur “an ingenious way of raising the question about who are the important people, and why do we have icons, and what is their place and purpose in the society.”

The chairman of the religious-studies department at DePaul, where Dyson last taught, was less enthusiastic in his appraisal of the departed professor. Quoted in the January 23 Philadelphia Inquirer, Rev. Jim Halstead said, “He’s part of a big system that pays superstars and is impressed with them, but in terms of what it does for students, that’s a very interesting question.” 

“Superstar intellectuals are nothing new in American society,” responds Penn’s Zuberi with some amusement. “And having very famous and engaging scholars is nothing new for the University of Pennsylvania,” or for Africana Studies at Penn. “I mean Mary Frances Berry is on our faculty, Kenneth Shropshire is on our faculty. Elijah Anderson is on our faculty.”

“Unlike some other institutions,” Zuberi says, “Penn is large enough for [Dyson] to find a very comfortable space. He is not going to be standing out there alone. He has a lot of colleagues who are standing there with him, and who are actually supporting the kind of research he is doing. We’re not going to be intimidated by him being a star.”

Preston, the SAS dean, also has no problems with professors in the role of public intellectuals, as long as they make time for scholarship. “I think the evidence is this is a man who can do both,” he says, “and I certainly don’t want to discourage it.”

Which is good for Dyson, who thrives in the spotlight. “You try to get better and better,” he says. “You want to get sharper, smarter, more insightful, more concise, all in terms of the public stuff, and in your own work, you want to get deeper and broader and more capable of doing what you do well.”

In debates he enjoys surprising people who are used to only “right-wingers being sharp and hard and feisty. I try to do that from a left perspective. I try to give as good as I get.” Dyson does have a softer side off the dais, though. He once came to the aid of Affirmative Action foe Linda Chavez when she fell down on the way to their debate. “She was ‘Oh, bless your heart!’ as I helped her up and tried to dust her off. Then we went at it that night. No mercy.”

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