"Democracy in Black" by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (Book Review)
The fact that the American people elected a black president in 2008 and 2012 may have caused some to believe that racism had faded into the past, and that the civil rights struggles of the 1960s were finally bearing large fruit. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. thinks differently. In Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, he proposes that the value gap and the racial habits which sustain it never even diminished.
"Barack Obama, is of course, not the reason . . . But his presidency hasn't helped anything; rather he is emblematic of the problem. We've come so far as a nation that we can elect a black man to be president of the United States, but racial inequality gets worse on his watch."
The Book and the Author
Democracy in Black was published in January 2016 by Broadway Books and is found in the Social Science, Ethnic Studies and African American Studies categories. Within its 274 pages, there are nine chapters with extras including an Afterword and Suggested Reading.
Glaude is currently the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. His first book, Exodus! Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America published in 2000 won the Modern Language Association's Book Prize.
He is a native of Moss Point, Mississippi and a graduate of Morehouse College. He holds masters degrees in African-American studies from Temple University, and in religion from Princeton University.
Themes Throughout the Book
Glaude's aim in Democracy in Black is to expose the silence about what he calls the Great Black Depression, and to propose ideas which can rid American democracy of its racist baggage. He informs readers that:
- Reports of recovery after the economic recession of 2008 does not include black communities. Percentages of black unemployment and home foreclosures are far above what they are in white communities. He gives the stories and statistics to prove it.
- The white concept that blacks are dangerous and that black lives value less than whites are largely responsible for the deaths of young blacks like Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri; Trayvon Martin of Oakland, California; Sandra Bland from Hempstead, Texas and several others across the nation.
Glaude (center) at the “Ferguson is the Future" symposium
- Since racism was falsely declared gone following the Civil War and Reconstruction, and again after the passing of King's Civil Rights Act, and again after America elected a black president, many believe that blacks have no one but themselves to blame for their social and economic problems. They cite the examples of blacks in political and academic leadership as proof that all blacks can succeed.
- Glaude names self-styled black leaders who are more of a hindrance than a help. They show up when the media is present, not because they have vested interest in the victims and their families, but because of the opportunity to add to the list of events they led.
Coming from a background in which people in direct authority were mostly black, my interest in the value gap that Glaude writes about was sadly lacking. He clarifies through the stories he tells, and the comparative statistics he presents that black lives have been and are treated with less value than whites. It is hard not to take him seriously when he traces the common thread of racism downplay in the speeches of presidents as far back as Reagan right up to Obama.
Whether readers are fully aware, or considering Glaude's arguments for the first time, they will realize that there is still much work to be done, both by blacks and whites, in closing the gap and moving forward to the equal-opportunity America which the nation presently pretends to have.
It is impressive that he does more than diagnose the problem; he provides workable recommendations. In addition, his presentation is not difficult to follow.
Glaude is of the opinion that the old self-styled black leaders have dropped the ball by sugar-coating the realities of America's racial habits, in an effort to avoid confrontation with those who would oppose them. It will take the boldness of younger people in grass roots organizations like Millennial Activists United from Ferguson, Missouri and Forward Together, a multi-racial organization from Oakland, California who are not afraid to disturb the peace in order to get attention. He gives illustrations of how these and similar organizations have worked in the past, and what he hopes they can accomplish in the future.
In addition, he lists and explains specific changes which must happen in the way people view government, how they view black people and how they decide what ultimately matters to Americans.
I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books (http://www.bloggingforbooks.com). The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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© 2017 Dora Weithers