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"Democracy in Black" by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (Book Review)

Updated on April 13, 2017
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MsDora, six-year online writer, shares poetry, creative writing and reflections on how writing and writers influence our lives.

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."

Source

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 master's 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

Photo by Sameer Khan, Fotobuddy LLC
Photo by Sameer Khan, Fotobuddy LLC | Source
  • 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.

Glaude on Reagan's Speech (1.5 mins.)

Personal Opinion

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's Recommendations

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.

Disclosure

I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books (http://www.bloggingforbooks.com). The opinions I have expressed are my own.

© 2017 Dora Isaac Weithers

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    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 5 months ago from The Caribbean

      Shauna, your comment is kind and encouraging. I also agree with your observation on racism, and your perspective on how we should respond to it. Thanks!

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      Shauna L Bowling 5 months ago from Central Florida

      I always enjoy your book reviews, Dora, whether they're books I would pick up or not - you're that good!

      Racism will never die in this country, or the world for that matter. Someone will always find the need to call the race card. All we can do is be the best we can be in our own section of this world and treat others as we'd like to be treated.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Catherine, you're absolutely right. Still hoping that all the writing and the reading on this issue will eventually make a difference.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 6 months ago from Orlando Florida

      America still has a lot of work to do to become a post-racial society. Books like this one help define the issues and inspire the leaders of tomorrow. Thanks for this information.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, thanks for reading. This book gives educated insights which will certainly awaken our interest in the topic.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Another well-done book review, Dora. Much to think about here. I never read the book, but I have had contact with some of its passages. Thanks for another round of food for thought.

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      Dora Weithers 6 months ago

      Martie, I value your input on this review. The topic is certainly familiar to you and my readers can learn from your observations.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 months ago from South Africa

      Racism is most certainly a very sensitive reality all over the world. Being omnipresent, it is one of the most handy justifications for failure, below-average performance and wrong-doings. Racism and xenophobia - hating whomever doesn't belong to the clan - are deeply rooted in mankind's urge to survive and to have sovereign power (in order to ensure survival). Man's tendency to 'seek like' will forever lead to racism, xenophobia, classism, sexism, and all these kind of prejudice.

      Very thought-provoking review and encouragement to buy and read this book.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Audrey, the author is of the same opinion that there needs to be honest conversations about the matter. That would be a good start to decide how the nation follows through. Thanks for your observation.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 6 months ago from California

      So interesting--I don't know the book or the author--and I live in the SF Bay Area-so right in the heart of the liberal heartland. I do think we are experiencing a blacklash of sorts after Obama--and I do not think we as a nation have had any sort of meaningful conversation on a national level about race--and until we do, race will continue to be an enigma to most--how to have that conversation is for me, the pivotal question

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      You're welcome, Alicia. The book has some very interesting information and the author gives some insightful interpretations.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This sounds like an interesting book that is definitely worth reading. The topic is important. Thank you for introducing me to the writer and his work, Dora.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      And thank you for reading, Natalie, and for sharing your perspective. The author may be writing from a vantage point that's different from where you are; consequently individuals may find reason to agree with you and also with him if they shift their perspective. Matters like these are decided on the facts (which are usually different) each person has. I really appreciate your input.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 6 months ago from Chicago, IL

      This is a well written and interesting review of what appears to be a book with an important message. Growing up in the south with some amazing black leaders including Rev. Abernathy, Congressman John Lewis and Mayor Andrew Young, I haven't considered the role of some black leaders in downplaying the discrepancies found between white and black communities in this country. It seems that black leaders perhaps fall into two camps, those that are focused on establishing equality of the races of those who are careful to avoid not just actual confrontation but feared confrontation and thus do the opposite by negating real differences. Those who sugar coat disparities are doing a monumental disservice to blacks and whites alike - blacks as when people don't see that certain differences exist they aren't going to try to change circumstances and whites because they will not be able to learn about black culture when there are settings they are not likely to encounter black peers. This also means that when differences are observed if black leaders fail to state why the differences are occurring that it could be presumed to be the fault of individual black or the population as a whole as opposed to our society continuing to fail to provide the same opportunities for black people as white people. This is an excellent review and I hope to be able to find the book. Thank you for opening my eyes a bit wider.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Coffequeen, if you are interested, the website for signing up is in my disclosure. I like the idea too, because I get to choose books that I think I can learn from, plus it gives me subject matter for an article (review). You are sure to find books that you like. Thanks for your comment.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      JG, I appreciate you including your wife in this topic. It means that you value her opinion; it also means that you respect what I have written. I can see what a fun exercise this will be for both of you. Thanks for your input and sincere regards to you both.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Manatita. The books keep me company in bed before I fall asleep. I do enjoy that, plus I get another article to write for my review. Reading is easier than writing for me right now.

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      Louise Powles 6 months ago from Norfolk, England

      It's a good idea that you get books sent to review and blog about. I like that idea. This sounds like an interesting read.

    • jgshorebird profile image

      jgshorebird 6 months ago from Southeastern U.S.

      Ms. Dora,

      It's such a "hot button" topic. I do not want to do it injustice. Still thinking on it. Letting my black wife -- I am white -- give me some input.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 6 months ago from london

      Well Dee,

      You are now an authority on these reviews. You seem to have the time too. I mean so many pages to read?

      I feel that you have done an excellent job, with a great degree of objectivity, after all, you are just presenting a review of the book as best you can. You gave me a sense of what it's all about and there in lies your great contribution. Joy and Peace.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      JG, I think I would have liked for you to write the long response. I'm anxious to hear you rebuttal to the professor's conclusions. We learn by listening to each other. Thanks anyway for your short answer

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Mary, that's a mystery for some of us who receive different messages from our parents and teachers. Thanks for sharing your observations.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Paula, there'll always be more books to read. One by one, you'll get the job done. Thanks for your very kind comment.

    • jgshorebird profile image

      jgshorebird 6 months ago from Southeastern U.S.

      Ms. Dora,

      I have read this and have considered. Initially, I had a long response, but have refrained. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the professor's words, (watched one of his lectures) but have issues with his conclusions.

      Thanks for keeping my brain active.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 6 months ago from Brazil

      Great review Dora. Although I haven't lived in the US for many years, I think these problems have only become worse or at least that is the way the media shows it.

      There is another book called The New Jim Crow which puts forth the idea that laws were brought in to target blacks. Thus still enslaving them albeit in prisons.

      I don't know why Americans see a color first and then the person.

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      Paula 6 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I truly enjoy book reviews and you've done a masterful job with this one. Thank you. I have such a stack of books waiting to be read, I need to get in gear and move!....Have a great day, Ms. Dora.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Flourish, the author agrees with you--a huge opportunity missed. Perhaps Obama thought that he would lose popularity or power if he got real. Thanks for your input.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, the whole situation looks hopeless, doesn't it? Still, effort from every single person who adjusts his or her attitude may affect a family or community. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

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      FlourishAnyway 6 months ago from USA

      If there is anything that the Trump election exposed it is the fact that racism (as well as other forms of hate and fear) still is alive and well. As much as I love Obama I can say h missed a huge opportunity in not having a national conversation about race or in stirring people to act on the hope that got him elected.

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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Wonderful review, my friend, and I'll add it to my book list. Racism, sadly, will not be eradicated during my lifetime. I wish the opposite,of course, but we are too big of a country here in the U.S. and it is impossible to change the wiring of over 350 million people.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Vladimir, I am encouraged to have you comment on my article. I understand and accept your position. It's a matter of different interests for different people. I welcome your input. Thank you.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Eric, we can only learn more from more discussion, if that is our intention. I like that you can state an opinion, but at the same time wanting to hear from someone else. Thanks for your balanced input.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Lori, thanks for your valuable input. I have not paid much attention to this topic either, but I wanted to read this book because I wanted to understand the author's perspective that racism increased under the black president. I recommend the book because I think it will make other people aware, as it did me, of some pertinent facts that we do not have. I like your attitude of being open to know.

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      Vladimir Karas 6 months ago from Canada

      There are folks of all races who don't really make it in life---but when it befalls white folks, they can't use racism as an excuse. I will always have a problem understanding why so many---and I mean many other-than-white folks could achieve great successes in life, with no one standing in their way--- and that would include some billionaires, some people in art, science, especially music and sports, and yes, a president. Of course, I am not a sociologist, and I might be confused in these matters---it's only my uneducated impression. To be honest with you, I personally don't see why even talk about racism so much---we are all human beings.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I find this area extremely interesting. I will probably get the book or at least sit with it in the library.

      Personally I just feel that this is not a national issue for the US. The differences are so regional down to neighborhoods. And I think we are now in a time where attitudes are far more important.

      But I am all for the "speaking out of turn" in order to start more discussion.

      My wife is discriminated against in some places and I am in others. Go figure.

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      Lori Colbo 6 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      You are very good at writing book reviews. How cool you get these free books to review.

      This one has me curious. I feel like racism here in the states amped up considerably when Obama got into office. I would never say racism is completely eradicated, as long is there are people there will always be some sort of racial, religious, or other kinds of bigotry but it seemed like the pendulum swung so far and there were issues with objectivity and hypocrisy, perhaps on both sides. I did not follow every story of cases similar to the Ferguson case really closely, but it seems like every time a black person was shot it was always racism, even when found the investigation said it was justified. Never mind there are many opposite incidents that are not made a media storm (shootings of white people by black cops). They both happen.

      I have not studied this issue in depth like the author so there are things I may not be aware of but he said some black leaders are part of the problem, they could handle things differently. I would say yes. I liked some of the things Ben Carson said because he grew up in an urban area with a large black population.

      What I have come to get upset over is that whenever a political candidate is deemed a racist (whether true or not) everyone who supports that candidate in general because of a diverse amount of issues that person stands for, all supporter/voters are called racists among other things. Guilty without knowing who supporters were personally. However, like I said, there are things I may not be informed well on. I will look into this book and read with an open mind. It's good to get perspectives on every side. The trick is to have discernment. Thanks for your review.