Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University. In 2016, he gave a lecture at Politics and Prose bookstore in the nation’s capital. This lecture, supporting the release of his book, “Democracy in Black,” focused on the actions necessary to fundamentally change race relations in the U.S., specifically for African-Americans. These are 10 takeaways from his lecture.
Glaude uses this phrase, “The Great Black Depression,” to describe the devastation Black communities faced during the years Barack Obama was president. Despite a Black person holding the highest office in the nation, communities struggled with gentrification, increases in poverty and unemployment rates, violent death, and institutional collapse, Glaude said.
The value gap, as Glaude defines it, is the belief that white people matter more in the U.S. than Black people. This premise is foundational to the country’s existence, and it is reinforced at every step forward, he said.
U.S. society places heavy emphasis on interpersonal racism. However, the value gap is reflected and reproduced in the neglected environments of Black communities, Glaude said.
In order to close the value gap, Glaude invokes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and calls for a “revolution of value.” He believes we must change how we view the government, Black people, white people, and the idea of “The People” in order to bring about a change.
In order to reimagine race relations, Glaude believes “we need a strategy for the streets, a strategy for the courtroom, and a strategy for the ballot box.” There is not one simple solution. People must take action at different levels of society to make change, he said.
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Glaude describes Black people as a “captured electorate.” Democratic leaders do enough to secure the Black vote, then fail to deliver policy that will benefit this constituency, he said.
Glaude proposes a controversial voting strategy called a blank-out campaign, or down-ballot voting. He suggests Black people show up to the ballots and vote at every level except for the presidency, thereby sending a message to both Democrats and the Black political elite that they must work for racial justice.
In a message to young Black people, and in response to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s comments in Fisher v. University of Texas, Glaude says, “Excellence is your armor. To hell with Scalia. His world is dying.” What Scalia said, in effect, is that excellent schools aren’t the best places for some Black students.
Glaude said that Democrats and Republicans want people to vote from a place of fear because it “clouds the imagination.” By creating fear of the other side, politicians prevent the people from envisioning a reality truly in their best interest.
Professor Glaude examines how American exceptionalism makes it easy to ignore the truth about the country’s values. By treating racism as a separate evil instead of one built into the nation’s makeup, Americans avoid the tough conversation necessary to make meaningful progress in race relations.