To mark Juneteenth, a conversation with three contributors to "The 1619 Project" about what happens when we place slavery and its legacy at the center of the American story. Diane talks to New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie, history professor Martha S. Jones and Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine.
Guest Host: Derek McGinty
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, some believed it would usher in a post-racial era. But Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, was leery of these predictions from the beginning. He says people were caught up in the symbolic nature of Obama’s presidency — not the substance of his policy positions. Now as Obama enters his final year in office, Glaude says he believes he was right to be skeptical. In a new book, “Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves The American Soul,” Glaude calls for major changes when voters go to the polls in 2016. He joins guest host Derek McGinty to talk about race, democracy and the presidency.
- Eddie Glaude Author, "Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves The American Soul"; professor of religion and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University
Read An Excerpt
Excerpted from DEMOCRACY IN BLACK: HOW RACE STILL GOVERNS THE AMERICAN SOUL by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., published by Crown Publishing Group on Jan. 12, 2016. Copyright © Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Reprinted by permission.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYWell, thanks for joining us. I'm Derek McGinty sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is having a voice treatment. My guest this hour wants to make you uncomfortable. Strike that. Rather, he believes your discomfort and mine may be a necessary evil if we're going to have a serious conversation about what's really driving America's ongoing race problem.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYYou see, Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude does not believe that racism is simply a case of America falling short of its democratic ideals. No. No, he says racism, what he calls a value gap, is written into our Constitutional DNA and efforts to change it from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King, Jr., even to the election of President Barack Obama have all failed, at least in part, because white Americans have become frightened and angry and pushed back.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYLike I said, it's a bit uncomfortable. The book is called "Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves The American Soul." Eddie Glaude Jr. is a professor of religion and chair of the department of African American studies at Princeton and he joins us now from our NPR studios at Princeton. Welcome, Doctor, thanks for coming in or should I say, thanks for being here. We appreciate you.
MR. DEREK MCGINTYAnd I got to tell you, not the most optimistic book on race relations I've ever read.
DR. EDDIE GLAUDE JR.Well, thank you for having me. I think it has some -- it's like Du Bois says, it's a hope, not hopeless, but a bit unhopeful.
MCGINTYAll right. Let's get to this idea of a value gap, which you say was actually baked into the foundational principles of this country. Explain that for us.
JR.So the value gap is the belief that white people are valued more than others and that belief, I argue, has organized our social practices, has informed our political arrangements and has shaped our economic realities, right? And you can see that at the very moment in which the founding fathers are beginning to give voice to a notion of American freedom, at the very moment in which the principles of the revolution are being articulated, right?
JR.So you could hear John Adams say to King George, we will not be your Negros. So at the very moment in which they are giving voice to a conception of freedom, it's predicated upon an intimate understanding, knowledge of unfreedom. Or you see at the very moment in which the revolution is being executed, right, the way in which we are declaring our independence, you have slaves in Massachusetts petitioning the legislature for their own freedom, drawing on those principles.
JR.So even at the moment in which we're giving voice to the bedrock ideals of the nation, they're shadowed by the reality that there are some who are valued less than others.
GLAUDE JR.And you can trace -- I'm sorry.
MCGINTYGo ahead. I was just going to say certainly, you know, all you say I'm sure is true, but we've come to a time today where a very well-educated professor, who is an African American, is having a chat with a some-what less educated talk show host who is also an African American and things have certainly come a long way, right?
GLAUDE JR.Oh, absolutely. But the value gap is not about, you know, when the people say things haven't changed, right, they don't mean that today is the same as slavery or today is the same as it was during reconstruction or today is the same as it was in the 1960s. Of course, there's been progress. But at each moment, under different conditions, the value gap reasserts itself. It reasserts itself. And we see it today, right, in the ugliness, let's say, of the rallies of Donald Trump.
GLAUDE JR.We saw it in the response to the election of Barack Obama. And we see it in the hardcore statistical reality of Black America. We're in crisis. Over the last eight years, so much has happened in our communities. So the state of Black America isn't strong. In fact, it's quite fragile.
MCGINTYYou contrast, in your book, how Speaker Paul Ryan's hometown with your own and I thought it was very interesting to say that, as you say, that his life was so set apart from how the people in your town lived their lives, even though the two towns aren't that different.
GLAUDE JR.Yeah, you know, he appeals to small town America as an ideal representation of the United States. Right, this place in Janesville, Wisconsin, right, represents all that he thinks we need. It best represents the American idea, as he understands it. But I come from a small town in Mississippi called Moss Point, named after the moss that dangles from Magnolia trees. And Moss Point was also an example of environmental racism.
GLAUDE JR.The white town next door to us used to dump all of its waste in our town. Most of the town is beholden to local industry, Ingalls Shipyard, the former paper mill, which is now closed, the Porgie Plant. And there, I learned a very different lesson. I learned a very different lesson from my great grandmother who was a domestic servant in the houses of folks on the coast of Mississippi and she told me that I not only had to work harder, but I had to work twice as hard.
GLAUDE JR.And it wasn't because I wasn't talented. It was because the world was organized in such a way, but because the color of my skin, right, that opportunity wasn't going to come my way at every turn, that I would have to work hard, twice as hard to be who I am today.
MCGINTYYou mention that and you talk about racial habits and that's what you say sort of perpetuates this system of the value gap.
GLAUDE JR.Right. 'Cause you know, we tend to look for loud racists, right? We want to look for those people who are shouting the N word from the rooftops, folks who are riding around or in their cars with Confederate flags and at night, putting on white sheets. Those are the easy targets and it allows us to say that those are the bad people over there. But racial habits are very different. Racial habits evidence themselves in just the way in which we move about the world in this non thinking way.
GLAUDE JR.Over 70 percent of our social networks are homogeneous. Most of white networks are predominantly white and those networks reinforce certain assumptions about other people. I tell the story in the book of when my dad moved us from one side of town to the other. He was the second African American hired at the post office in Pascagoula, Mississippi, the home of Trent Lott, former senator, and the place where William Faulkner honeymooned.
GLAUDE JR.And he moved us over to the other side and as we were moving into this big house on the hill, the police cruiser drove by. My dad dangled the keys and said, yeah, I own it. But I was playing with this Tonka truck outside with my new white neighbor and all of a sudden, I heard his daddy yell, stop playing with that nigger. And it was the first time I'd ever been called the N word. And I ran into the house and I told my father and my father's eyes went blank and he ran outside.
GLAUDE JR.Within a couple of years, most of the white families had moved out of that neighborhood. But we like to believe that that's what racism is, right, some child who just immediately experienced the American dream by moving up to a big house on the hill gets called a nigger and has to spend the rest his life working hard to prove that he's not. But that's too easy. I knew, at the age of 8, that we were moving from the black side of town to the white side of town.
GLAUDE JR.I knew before we even got on that hill that my old neighborhood would flood every time it rained, that our sidewalks weren't paved, that the baseball diamonds weren't as good, that the schools weren't as good. I learned racial habits. I learned the value gap in the very built spaces, right, in the very neighborhood I inhabited. So if we look for folk walking around calling people bad names or engaging in explicit racial discrimination, then we're gonna lose sight of the habits that are doing all the work for us, that's keeping the value gap alive.
MCGINTYEddie GLAUDE JR. is author of a new book. It's called "Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves The American Soul." He's professor of religion, chair of the department of African American studies at Princeton. He joins us from our NPR studios in New York. I'm Derek McGinty sitting in for Diane Rehm and the number here is 800-433-8850. We'll be taking your calls in just a few minutes. When you want to write us, you can join us at email@example.com, by the way. That's our email address.
MCGINTYAre you worried that any white person hearing this conversation is going to take this very personally and say, hey, look, you know what, things have come a long way and you're still angry about what happened 50 years ago?
GLAUDE JR.Yeah, I'm worried about that. I'm worried about it, but I can't allow that to dictate my political behavior. In the chapter "White Fear," I talk about the fear of activating white fear as a way of limiting how we deal with the race question, right, that somehow speaking about black suffering, talking about the fact that 38 percent of black children in this country are growing up in poverty. The number is continuing to rise. For the first time in the history of us keeping that data, we have more poor black children in the country than there are white children.
GLAUDE JR.And what makes that such a startling statistic is that there are three times more white children in America than there are black children. When we talk about the realities that are engulfing black lives, that folk are growing up in opportunity deserts where opportunities don't seem to come around, where their dreams are dashed and they're just simply going from the cradle to the prison, I can't be concerned about folk being uncomfortable. In fact, I want folk to be uncomfortable.
GLAUDE JR.We cannot be adjusted to injustice. We need to be uncomfortable in the face of injustice. So I think we need to have a much more honest and direct dialogue. I use this line at the end of the "White Fear" chapter if you recall and I know this got me in a lot of trouble with some folks, but there's a line from Malcolm X where he says stop sweet-talking them. Tell them how you really feel. Tell them what kind of hell you've been catching. Let them know if they're not ready to clean up their house, they shouldn't have a house.
MCGINTYWhat about people on the other of it would say, you know what, I'm white and I'm gonna stop sweet-talking you? I'm going to say, you have some responsibility for your own situation. I'm going to say, you know, why don’t clean up your house before you talk about mine.
GLAUDE JR.Right. I think that's absolutely right. You know, I think part of what we have to do is to understand -- and African Americans are as complex as any other human beings on the planet. We got folk out here who are making bad choices. We have folk out here who are not doing what they should do, right? It's not like we're accounting for all the poverty in Appalachia, right, by saying that folks are just irresponsible, right.
GLAUDE JR.We understand structures. And so this is not a case of me making the argument that everything that's happening in Black America is a result of white supremacy or a result of the value gap. Black folk make bad choices like everybody else, but we cannot make the claim, Derek, I think, we can't make the claim that everything that's happening in Black America is a result of millions of black bad choices being made daily, right?
GLAUDE JR.People used to say that slaves were slaves because they had the incapacity to think on their own. People used to say that they ran away because they had the disease of drapetomania, right? You know, this is a long standing story, brother.
MCGINTYWe got to take a break, Professor. We'll take a break and we'll be right back. I'm Derek McGinty. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
MCGINTYWelcome back to the Diane Rehm Show. I'm Derek McGinty, sitting in for Diane, and I'm chatting with Eddie GLAUDE JR. He's written a book called "Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves The American Soul." Our phone number is 800-433-8850. Professor Glaude, I want to go back to that issue of personal responsibility because in your book you're kind of critical of folks who point to the problems, for example, of black criminality through that lens of personal responsibility.
MCGINTYBut I wanted to read you a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, in which he says, this is one of the last published works that he put out, was he said it is not a sign of weakness but a sign of high maturity to rise to the level of self-criticism. Through group unity, we must convey to one another that our women must be respected, that life is too precious to be destroyed in a Saturday night brawl or a gang execution. Through community agencies and religious institutions, we must develop a positive program through which Negro youth can become adjusted to urban living and improve their general level of behavior. What's wrong with that?
GLAUDE JR.Right. Nothing, absolutely nothing. Part of what we have to do is kind of disrupt this notion that it's an either-or account, right. The idea that black folk have to be responsible for their actions seems to me reasonable. But it's when folk make that the entirety of the account, right. The reason black folk are poor is because they're lazy, they're making bad choices. The reason that black folk are out of work is because they don't want to work. The reason that black folk don't live in decent neighborhoods, they don't keep their -- it's not because, you know, there are different resources distributed to those neighborhoods, it's because they don't want to keep up their neighborhoods, right.
GLAUDE JR.So there are different ways to account for these things, right. And I think -- and we need to say this, too. Historically, African-Americans have always talked about this notion of self-determination, what we need to do for our own communities. And the reason why we've talked about it that way is because the state has refused to extend to black folk thee benefits and burdens of citizenship.
GLAUDE JR.So in some ways this idea of black self-determination, of black self-responsibility, has always been in part an indictment of the failure of the state to extend the benefits of citizenship to all of its citizens.
MCGINTYI want to get to some comments from our listeners, and this is an email that came in from Catherine. She says, can your guest speak to white people who want to help and the backlash against what some call white guilt? There seems to be an idea that lifting black people up will somehow diminish the standing of white people. I see it in the #alllivesmatter. What can be done?
GLAUDE JR.Yeah, yeah, you know, I think that's part of what we all need to do, and this is what's important. The value gap in racial habits exist in all of us. It's not just a white thing. It's not just a black thing. It's not just a Latino thing. It's Americans. We all have to do this work. And part of the work that we have to do to close the value gap is uproot those racial habits, and we're going to have to do that together.
GLAUDE JR."Democracy in Black" has always been this, Brother Derek. It has been the efforts and actions of black people alongside others to make real the idea that this is a country of the people, for the people and by the people. But that notion of the people has always been expanded by black folk to include those who have been on the margins, and that involves making the claim that this is not a white nation in the vein of old Europe, right.
GLAUDE JR.And we have made that claim by making people uncomfortable, by putting our bodies on the line with others. So to the sister who just sent the email, I would say we all have to do this work to make racial equality a reality, and part of that involves understanding that equality is not a zero-sum game. That's the key because people think that if we really think about racial equality as a genuine ideal, somebody's got to lose something in order for somebody to gain something, right.
MCGINTYWell, that's an important point because she talks about, in that email, the backlash against what some call white guilt. And your book, you make the same point that each time there's been some level of progress, it's been stymied by those who say, you know what, I'm uncomfortable with this, or even I'm afraid of this, which may be even more important.
GLAUDE JR.And that's that reassertion of the value gap, you see. So at every moment of progress, whether it's the revolution, whether -- the American revolution, whether it's the Civil War and Reconstruction, whether it's the civil rights movement, whether it's the election of President Obama, at every moment there's been a reassertion of the value gap that some people in this country are valued more than others.
GLAUDE JR.And we're going to have to attack that at its ethical level, at its moral level, at its political level. And that's going to require some hard, honest work. It's going to require some hard conversations. And that's very difficult to do in these times, right?
MCGINTYSpeaking of conversations, we've got some phone calls. Bill in Tallahassee, Florida, you're on the Diane Rehm Show. Go ahead, Bill.
BILLHello, thank you for taking my call. I'm glad you brought this up, especially after last night. I'm a white, older male. I was born and raised in the South. I'm 56 years old. I've been a Republican my whole life. But I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and the reason was I just -- it wasn't because of race. It was because I didn't want to go to war again, and I thought the other side, that was where we were going. So I campaigned for him a lot. I went out, and I broke ranks with all the people I grew up with, and I voted for him, and I celebrated when he won.
BILLAnd I voted for him again for 2012, and, you know, since then, a lot of the people I grew up with just don't talk to me. I broke ranks, and it's fear. We're in a position of power here where when you look, like, at last night, at the audience, one side, you saw faces of color and women, and the other side was just all white, old guys. And they don't want to lose power.
BILLAnd here in Florida, it's so apparent. Our last Democratic governor, Buddy, and I'm sorry, Lawton Chiles, he died in office in 1997. Since then, the Republicans have got governors and both sides of the state legislature, and they've had their way in the state. And we have a black caucus. We've got black politicians. And nobody gives them a problem because they don't pose any kind of a threat.
BILLThey don't have any power, and therefore we get along great with them because we get our way here. And I think the reason that you've seen such a kickback on President Obama is because he projected power, he changed things that -- and he started to change, and there's just a resistance to it, and from the very beginning they said...
MCGINTYAll right Bill, I hate to cut you off, but I want to give Professor Glaude a chance to respond to that. Go ahead.
GLAUDE JR.You know, Bill gives me hope. You know, Bill gives me hope, right. I mean, there's a sense in which he understands, he saw. I'm with him. I don't want us to go to war anymore, which makes the State of the Union all the scarier with all the bravado that was going on, you know, the celebrations of America's hard military power. But I think he's absolutely right. There's fear, and there's fear because everybody in this country is vulnerable.
GLAUDE JR.The economic realities of this new economy that President Obama mentioned last night has made everybody vulnerable, and white working-class folk, folk who just got a high school education, are finding themselves dying younger, right, because the forces have been unleashed. And black folk have the resources. We've been dealing with this for a while.
GLAUDE JR.And so there are some folk who are feeling vulnerable out there, and they're scapegoating, and they're scapegoating. So I have -- Bill, your insight and your honesty and your willingness to step out there gives me hope. It's you alongside others who will change this country, or shall we say more dramatically will save this country.
MCGINTYYou know, Professor Glaude, I have to tell you, you have been critical, at least in your book here, you were very critical of President Obama for as -- letting down black America. You say every time he has tried to address issues of race, he has basically moved away from attacking the problem, that he's been frightened away from it.
GLAUDE JR.Oh absolutely. I still see that. And last night I saw it very clearly, right. There's a sense in which President Obama has -- you know, race is almost like kryptonite to the brother. And I understand it because of the nature of our politics. But what I do know is by every statistical measure, Brother Derek, black America has suffered over the last eight years. You know, you have to ask the question, are you better off eight years later, and by every statistical measure we're not.
GLAUDE JR.And we have to scream from the rooftops. In some ways I call President Obama, and I called him this in the book, Melville's confidence man, you know, selling the snake oil of hope and change. But he's the last -- he's not alone in this regard, right, the Democratic Party is full of those folk.
MCGINTYBut in his defense, every time he tried, like I recall back when the professor from Yale was accosted outside his home by the police, I'm sorry...
GLAUDE JR.That was Harvard. That's Skip Gates.
MCGINTYSkip Gates. When Skip Gates was arrested or taken in by a police officer outside his own home, and the president said the police acted stupidly, and he was hammered for that, until the point he actually had that beer summit out on the White House lawn.
MCGINTYI mean, could he have been, as the first elected African-American president, could he have taken this on the way the way you wanted him to?
GLAUDE JR.Well, he could have, with the understanding that the forces are what they are, especially when they reveal themselves to be what they were, what they are. I think he could've been bolder, right. Once the Republicans made it clear that they had no intention to work across the aisle, could've been bolder. The -- I'm not really interested in the kind of symbolics of it all. I'm really thinking about the kind of practical matters, 240,000 homes were lost in black America as a result of the housing crisis, that the wealth gap has expanded over these last eight years now that white wealth is 13 times that of black wealth.
GLAUDE JR.We see a decrease in black unemployment. It's now at 8.8 or 8.3 percent. But we know that those numbers reflect the holiday hiring, right. We already know that Macy's is about to lay off 4,800 people. So before last month, the unemployment rate for black folk were at -- was at 9.8, 9.3 percent. And those were the numbers that created a panic in America generally during the Great Recession. that's the height of unemployment during the Great Recession.
GLAUDE JR.On top of that we already mentioned children in -- black children in poverty. So part of what we're seeing, of course mass incarceration and then of course black men and women being shot down in the streets day in and day out by the police, and so part of what we're saying is that black America is in crisis. We understand Republican recalcitrance. We understand, right, that there are some forces in the country that refuse to change and that are trading in fear. But we have to be bold because people are suffering, and we have to be -- and we have to be honest in our assessment of the last eight years, right.
GLAUDE JR.An I do that with the understanding that President Obama has faced unimaginable opposition. I do that with that understanding. Or I say that with understanding.
MCGINTYLet's talk to Chris in Columbia, South Carolina. Chris, go ahead.
CHRISHey Derek, great show, and I forgot the professor's name, but anyway...
CHRISYeah, nice to talk to you.
GLAUDE JR.Thank you, Brother.
CHRISGreat conversation so far. One thing I've noticed, and I told the screener, is the number of white people, if you say the words white privilege, they immediately get their back up. You know what I mean? It's easy to spot, like you said, the case -- the guy in white sheet. It's easy to point out, you know, he's a racist. But, you know, normal, everyday people, you know, when you say -- mention something like white privilege, you know, just the idea that, you know, I can get out of bed in the morning, I'm a white guy, I don't have to worry about race unless I choose to.
CHRISYou know, a black guy gets -- in the same time gets out of bed in the morning, he's got to worry about where he goes, what kind of car he drives, how he dresses because you know, if he's dressed wrong and in too nice of a car, they'll be -- the cops will be sure he stole it, and he may get shot for it.
GLAUDE JR.I mean, this is just, I mean, absolutely. You know, I tell a moment, you know, I used some data in the book, Derek, where I talk about social networks. You know, there's this sense that, you know, black folk don't want to work, they don't want to -- they want a handout. And, you know, there's social science data that shows that, you know, social networks are reproducing opportunity. So there's this one interview of this white guy in New Jersey. He says, you know, I worked hard for everything I had.
GLAUDE JR.It turns out that his dad introduced him to the union boss that got him the job. Or another interviewer said, right, I did -- you know, these white folks are -- you know, these black folk, I'm just sorry to say, they're just lazy. They don't want to do nothing. And it turns out that his friend not only gave him the test for his job but also gave him the answers to the test for his job, right.
GLAUDE JR.So there are these ways in which social networks produce -- reproduce all these opportunities, and that's really true. And then second point I want to make really quickly is that I'm a parent. My son is at Brown. He's doing wonderfully. But, you know, the cops threatened him. He was out doing an assignment. They pulled up on him, hand on a weapon, and asked him where -- what is he doing here, how long he's -- and told him to leave. And that's my baby.
GLAUDE JR.So you're right, you're right. There are these significant, daily challenges that we have to face.
MCGINTYProfessor Eddie Glaude, he's the author of the book "Democracy In Black," and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's go back to the phones, David in Fairfield, Connecticut. You're on the air, go ahead, David.
DAVIDHi. Well, I didn't grow up with the white privilege. In fact, I grew up as a ward of the state of New York, in and out of foster homes and predominately in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, over 20 foster homes. And I grew up as the only white kid in any school I ever went to until I went to high school. My point is that it was fraught with bigotry and white-boy this and cracker that, and so there was a lot of racism at that time, and so when I -- when I hear that this is a one-sided thing, I just find that disingenuous.
DAVIDI think bigotry is on both sides. When you talk about 70 percent of social networking is homogeneous, I think you need to point out that that's on both sides of the track, not just on one side.
MCGINTYAbsolutely. All right, professor?
GLAUDE JR.Absolutely. I mean, you know, we're a segregated society, right. I mean, schools are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. But I don't want to engage in this strategy of equivalence, right, that is to say that, I mean, black people can be ugly, they can be mean, they can be hateful. We're human beings. We can also be loving. We can also be caring, right. But I do know, like my dad for example, is rageful. My dad grew up in the coast of Mississippi. He doesn't like white people.
GLAUDE JR.And when I say that out loud, people get, you know, they get all unsettled. Well, he grew up in Mississippi, in Jim Crow Mississippi. He has every reason, right, unless he has some super-ordinate moral gene that keeps him from absorbing all the stuff that he absorbed. Cornell West jumped in a pool once, a good friend of mine, he jumped in a pool in Sacramento, California. All the white people jumped out of the pool, and then they emptied the pool of water in front of him.
MCGINTYHow long ago was that? How long ago was that?
GLAUDE JR.This was when he was a kid, Cornell West.
GLAUDE JR.Albert Raboteau, a colleague of mine, author of "Slave Religion," couldn't grow up with his father, grew up on the coast of Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, couldn't grow up -- didn't grow up with his father because a shop owner shot his father in the head because his father dared to confront him after he treated his wife disrespectfully. So there are these experiences, not only that go from murder to these micro-experiences that have -- that are in the souls of black folk, some black folk.
GLAUDE JR.And so you shouldn't be surprised, right, if some black folk around this country don't like white people. I mean, that's not a surprise.
MCGINTYYou even suggest that part of that white fear you speak of is the fear that people will strike back because of those incidents of which you speak.
GLAUDE JR.Right, it goes all the way back to the Haitian revolution, right. Oh my God, what happens if these slaves actually rebel? It goes back to the Black Panther Party. What does it mean for these black folk to be running around here with guns talking about freedom, right? So part of what I'm saying is -- I began by saying black folk can be hateful, they can be mean, they can be prejudice because we're human beings, right.
GLAUDE JR.But we have to understand the context in which people are being shaped, right, and we can't just simply assume that white rage, right, over the loss of privilege is the equivalent of black rage over the experience of white racism.
MCGINTYEddie GLAUDE JR., is the author of "Democracy In Black," and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. We'll be right back.
MCGINTYWelcome back. I'm Derek McGinty sitting in for Diane Rehm. And this is "The Diane Rehm Show." We're having a fascinating conversation this afternoon -- or at least I think so -- with -- or should I say this morning -- with Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. His book is called "Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul."
MCGINTYAny number of you have called and emailed. I want to bring this email in because it involves someone who has had a lot to say about race and has become very famous because of it. "Would your guest please comment on how his work reflects and expands upon the arguments that are contained in the recent work of Ta-Nehisi Coates & Bryan Stevenson?"
GLAUDE JR.Well, you know, I think part of, I think it's really interesting to read the books together. My book is a bit different because I'm really pointing towards what we might do. I think -- when I think about Brother Coates' book, I worry that white supremacy has become like oxygen. And it's very difficult to imagine how one responds to it. The conclusion of the book is that we just simply question and struggle.
GLAUDE JR.And that, to me, sounds a bit adolescent, you know, two-year-olds question and struggle. We need to do more than that.
MCGINTYOh, well, don't -- okay. Go ahead. I'm sorry.
GLAUDE JR.And, you know, when you think about his young son, you know, going into his room after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson and the answer to the young brother is to kind of describe the plunder and the fear, instead of describing what's going on in the streets. These young folk who are engaged in fighting back, who are trying to open up space for reimagining American democracy.
GLAUDE JR.So my -- I think what I'm more interested in is not this kind of individual kind of grappling with the devastation of white supremacy. I'm more interested in how social movements can transform the nation. So there's more of a doing in my text, I think…
GLAUDE JR.…then in Coates'.
MCGINTYWell, now that gets to another email we have here from Lily, in Tacoma Park, who asks you to "clarify better how you describe as a value gap as being something different than inherent and basic bigotry and racism. It seems the values you're talking about in which there's a gap between black and white are different because of people's feelings about race. And I would think that this is the basic definition of racism and bigotry," she said.
GLAUDE JR.Right. So basically, you know, you engage in, you know, the value gap is my way of describing elements that have -- that we have described in very different ways. Right? Whether it's white supremacy, whether it's bigotry, whether it's racism. But we talk about the wealth gap. We talk about the achievement gap. But what I wanted to say that underneath all of that -- the empathy gap -- underneath all of that is the value gap, that we value human beings differently in this country.
GLAUDE JR.And this is important because we -- it helps us understand the phrase Black Lives Matter. Right? Black Lives Matter isn't about an assertion that black people matter, it's -- 'cause we know that. It's an assertion that white people don't matter as much. Right? And how would our -- how will our lives look, our social arrangements look, our political realities look if we value every human being equally?
GLAUDE JR.So I thought value gap was a way of kind of capturing that as -- 'cause the arc of the book takes us to, right, what I'm calling this revolution of value. Right? This change in how we view government, this change in how we view black people and this change in how we view what matters. And that involves work in the streets, work at the ballot box and work in the courtroom.
MCGINTYYou know, one of the boardwalks of the black community over the years -- and you know this -- has been the black church, which you pronounce as dead in the book. And I got to say, that's a pretty tough diagnoses.
GLAUDE JR.Yeah, you know, but for a Christian, when is death the last word? You know, it, you know, it's really a…
MCGINTYI don't know if I can let you slide with that one.
GLAUDE JR.Yeah, but it was, it was a provocation. Right? 'Cause in the chapter between the two worlds, what I'm trying to deal with -- 'cause I don't just simply talk about, you know, the value gap. Right? I'm talking about our complicity in all of this as well. Right? There's a critique of the black political class, critique of Reverend Al Sharpton, critique of Barack Obama in the book, a critique of us, in terms of how we understand blackness.
GLAUDE JR.But there is a description of what I take to be, Brother Derek, the collapse of black institutional life. If it's the case that today the value gap still obtains that white people are valued more than others, which makes us vulnerable. And in the past that has obtained under different conditions. But we had institutions that provided us with safe spaces, so that we can cultivate the capacity, right, to imagine ourselves differently, so that we can act in the world.
GLAUDE JR.I'm a Morehouse man. I went to Morehouse. I got all of that in me. Right? But what happens now when institutions like Morehouse are struggling to keep their doors open? When black churches have changed in terms of their social function, where they work more like big box corporations, like Home Depot or Wal-Mart and they're moving out into suburbs. And they don't seem to have a social gospel.
GLAUDE JR.Or they're not connected to neighborhoods. I'm sorry. Go ahead.
MCGINTYYou mentioned the pastoring of people like Creflo Dollar…
MCGINTY…who are very, very interested in taking in dollars.
GLAUDE JR.Dollars. I mean, it -- as I said, it's a gospel for the current economic times. And it fits so perfectly because if you haven't -- if you're not making money, if you're poor, according to that theology, it's actually a reflection of something wrong with you, as opposed to systems and structures, right, that have reproduced the outcomes that limit opportunities for you to dream real dreams.
MCGINTYLet's take some more phone calls. Nicholas, in San Antonio, Texas, you're on the air.
NICHOLASHello. Thank you so much for taking my call. And this is a wonderful, wonderful discussion. So I really appreciate it. I would love to hear the guest comment or -- comment on this perspective I have. I grew up in south Alabama in the early '80s. And I was across town bussed from a very privileged part of town across town to the very, very poor part of town as part of the forced integration that occurred in Alabama.
NICHOLASAnd as a kid in that situation, I'm really fortunate to have had that perspective because otherwise I would have never seen that part of town. And, you know, it's only maybe a town of 50,000 max. And, you know, it was so segregate that I would have been fearful to go into a place that looked like the third world. And I'm not exaggerating. I mean it was little shacks with, you know, tarps over the roofs and clapboard lean-tos. And right across…
NICHOLAS…the street from the elementary school -- and seeing that really affected me as a kid. And I looked at the black children in my class and realized, man, you know, you come from a completely different place. And it was apparent that the different -- the white and the black kids, within our relationship with one another, we couldn't relate to one another because we had totally different experiences. And seeing that, looking back on it now, I realize that, you know, we've got a lot of work to do.
MCGINTYThank you, Nicholas.
GLAUDE JR.Nicholas, that's a powerful description. I grew up on the, you know, I wonder what part of south Alabama you're from. Right? I grew up about 40 minutes away from Mobile, Ala. And you're absolutely right. If our worlds are segregated, you know, in 1968 the Kerner Commission Report was issued. And it said, you know, there are two worlds, a black and a white world. Right? And in some ways it's still the case. It still obtains.
GLAUDE JR.We have moments of genuine integration, but rarely in any space is there genuine integration in this country. And so there are some experiences that are wholly foreign. People just simply don't know. And so what stands in their stead are stereotypes. Right? Whether you have a suit on or whether you have a hoodie on. Those stereotypes, those images of who we are stand instead.
GLAUDE JR.So I think if we come into -- if we come -- or we confront honestly the fact that our schools are as segregated now as they were right after Brown v. Board, that you have not only schools that are segregated, you have schools that are now pockets of hyper-concentrated poverty, 'cause people are creaming off the top in terms of the charter school movement. This is one of the interesting contradictions of President Obama's State Of The Union last night.
GLAUDE JR.He says we want to hire more great teachers to teach in our school, teach our students, but, you know, over 90,000 black and brown teachers have lost their jobs through privatization.
MCGINTYI want to get to an email…
GLAUDE JR.Right? In the charter school movement.
MCGINTY…who comes your way -- that comes our way from Liz, who says this, "It is ironic this professor does not recognize that is father was able to move up through hard work. In addition, he and his son attend Ivy League schools. He uses grandiose phrases, but they seem to amount to bigotry. Speaking about black America divides our country by color and alienates supporters."
GLAUDE JR.You know, that's precisely the point that I've been trying make, that I wanted to expose in the book. So just to talk about it, right, is to become a bigot, is to be labeled a bigot. And I want to be very clear that I am an exception. And the exception doesn't, you know, doesn't prove -- the exception actually proves the rule, in my view. And so I don't want to believe that talking about the suffering in my community somehow perpetuates bigotry.
GLAUDE JR.Unless you want to concede to the claim that to say something specific about the circumstances of black people ignites the racism in white people. And if you want to make that claim, then we have another conversation to have. Then we need to have another conversation.
MCGINTYWell, you know, the next part of that question, though, to me at least is implied, is that what do you do about what you're talking about? I mean, can the government fix it? Or is it up to us to fix it? I mean, who steps in to make this better?
GLAUDE JR.We do. This is what I call a revolution of value. Right? And that revolution of value involves us. Right? Remember, democracy in black is efforts and actions on the part of black folk, along with others, to make real the idea that this a country of the people, for the people and by the people. And that involves action in the streets. In the book I talk about the Forward Together Movement in North Carolina.
GLAUDE JR.In the face of the rightward shift in North Carolina you have an amazing multi-racial coalition and alliance that's happened in North Carolina under the leadership of Reverend William Barber and NAACP there. Where you have folk who are talking about, you know, pro-choice to immigration to anti-racist policies, all across the board. And they're bringing pressure to bear. You have Black Lives Matter, you have folk who are talking about a decent wage, $15 minimum wage.
GLAUDE JR.We need to bring pressure to bear, to open up, right, the politics in this country. Because what -- it's at the core, Brother Derek, and I know I'm going on a bit long here. But let me just say this, what's at the core of this is that the folks in power want us to believe that our only options are those right in front of us. And what we need to do is begin to release our imaginations from that.
GLAUDE JR.And together, even with the sister who just accused of me of being a bigot, if we can begin to have honest conversations maybe we can begin to build the kinds of coalitions to imagine a different kind of country. 'Cause if we don't, the country's gonna go to hell.
MCGINTYIt's interesting because though her statement was confrontational toward you, that is exactly the kind of honesty you're looking for, right?
GLAUDE JR.Exactly. That's exactly what we need. We need folk to come out from the closet. We need to stop masking. We need to tell people how we really feel. And I know one thing for sure, that given all the misery in black America, we need to stop dancing. We need to stop engaging in the dance and we need to undermine this model of leadership which sends these folk off into these dark rooms, in these backrooms who are brokering on our behalf, because all of that, all of this, Brother Derek, distorts how we participate in the democratic project.
MCGINTYMy guest is Professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. His book is called, "Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul." The phone number here, 800-433-8850. I'm Derek McGinty and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go back to our phone lines. Elma, in Little Rock, Ark., you're on the air.
MCGINTYI'm sorry, Irma.
IRMAI think it's my fault because I was so excited when she answered the phone because I've listened to "The Diane Rehm Show" many, many years. But I just had to -- I'm a senior. I'm 85 years old. And I wanted to tell the young author I congratulate him, but he has it wrong, saying that the president has not done as much as he could. Number one, he's the first black to be elected to that office.
IRMAHe was not elected to represent blacks only. If he had done that, he wouldn't be alive today. And that's my comment. And this is what I have shared with more blacks that have said to me, President Obama's not doing enough. Are you asking for him to be killed?
IRMAI think he's done enough.
MCGINTYIrma, I think you for comment. What do you think, Professor?
GLAUDE JR.Oh, Ms. Irma, I so appreciate your call. And it's -- the call actually reveals the state of the country. Right? So I don't want to get into the particulars of whether or not Obama -- President Obama has done enough for black folk. In asking him to respond to the conditions of black America, I'm not asking President Obama to be the president of black America. No one is asking that. We want him to respond to a constituency that has voted for him twice above 90 percent. Right?
GLAUDE JR.That's all. It's just a constituency that's trying to ask for policies that reflect their support. But the idea, think about this, Mr. Irma's 85 years old. She thinks, she believes in her heart that if he actually tried to address racial inequality, that he would be killed. That speaks volumes about the state of race in this country.
MCGINTYYou know, but I can't help but go back to the fact that he was elected in the first place. My father, my late father now, 86 years old when he died, never could -- he couldn't believe it. He could not believe he would ever have seen such a thing. And, you know, the fact that the county has come as far as it has, I think that's what sticks in the craw of a lot of people who are listening to us right now.
GLAUDE JR.Yeah, and, you know, I think we've reached a point, Brother Derek, where these firsts, you know, shouldn't make us so happy as much as it has in the past. I think -- I just want us to be more politically mature. Right? And what I mean by that is, you know, I'm a progressive, whatever that word means. I understand my politics are to the left. President Obama, when you read "The Audacity of Hope," he has governed precisely like -- he had governed and he has been consistent from head to toe in what he laid out in the "Audacity of Hope."
GLAUDE JR.And "The Audacity of Hope," what's in that text is consistent with Bill Clinton, which is consistent with the Democratic Leadership Caucus. Right? This is a form of Democratic politics, right, Democratic Party politics, right, that has been deliberate in a shift to the center right. These are Eisenhower Republicans. And if you're -- and, you know, Bill Clinton said it and so has Barack Obama at times and in different ways.
GLAUDE JR.And if you're concerned about working people, poor people, folks on the margins, if you're concerned -- 'cause the best of the black freedom struggle is about justice, right, for everybody. The best of the black freedom struggle, right, goes back to the King that -- the Dr. King that the president invoked last night, right, involves a world in which everybody not only could dream dreams, but to make those dreams a reality. We have to be much more forceful in holding him in account -- holding him to account, holding each other to account, because, to be honest with you, Brother Derek, the days of Barack Obama are numbered. What are we gonna do after he gets out of office?
MCGINTYIn 30 seconds, Professor, is there room for hope, especially when you're listening to the tone of the campaign?
GLAUDE JR.Yes. The hope is us. The hope is us. I have no other faith. We are the hope we've been looking for. Ms. Ella Baker said we are the leaders we've been looking for. That's all we need to do, is get together and be committed to democracy.
MCGINTYProfessor Eddie Glaude Jr. The book is called, "Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul." We will hope that we have been at least somewhat emancipated by this conversation. Professor, thank you so much for joining us. He's in our NPR studios in New York. I'm Derek McGinty, sitting in for Diane Rehm. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And thanks for being here.
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