Democracy in Black and White – Eddie Glaude | The Open Mind

Democracy in Black and White – Eddie Glaude | The Open Mind

Alexander Heffner,
your host on The Open Mind. Democracy in Black. That’s the title of
Princeton University Professor Eddie Glaude’s
important exploration of how race enslaves
the American soul. Chair of the Department
for African-American studies, Glaude argues
that racial inequality is institutionalized
within the present
democratic rule. One democracy for blacks,
one for everyone else. We exchanged notes in
a 2011 interview for The Root magazine,
in which Glaude
echoed my guest, Baratunde Thurston’s
insight that “post-racial or post-racist,”
while lovely concepts, is not the outcome of
the Obama presidency. Instead, it’s
precipitated, perhaps unwittingly, a
deepened racial chasm. Glaude contends that
economic inequality among black Americans
underlies the new civil
rights imperative. Of course, I’ll ask
Glaude to weigh in on the police-on-black
violence plaguing
communities of color, the activism
of Black Lives Matter, and the political debate
ensnaring his own campus about removing President
Wilson’s name from the School of
Public Affairs. But first, Glaude
concludes his book with the point that unrequited
is the economic justice for which Dr.
King preached. So, metaphorically, when
you climb into Democracy in Black and
walk around, Eddie, how does it feel? GLAUDE: Part of what I
want to do is to set the stage, right? And, and, and setting
the stage involves, uh, a basic claim. We talk about the
achievement gap, we talk about
the wealth gap, but at the heart of, uh,
the problem that continues to plague this country
is what I’m calling the “value gap.” And the
value gap is that, uh, no matter our
stated principles, uh, no matter what
we take ourselves to, to, to be committed to,
that in this country that is so-called
committed to democracy, white people are
valued more than others. And to the extent
to which that
belief obtains, it’s true, no matter
what the inputs are, the outputs are
going to be the same. Because it over-determines
how we think about democracy, right? So, in those
moments of breakthrough, uh, whether it’s
our refusal to, uh, submit to the
tyranny of King George, we reconcile, uh, our
demands for freedom with the
institution of slavery. In the context
of the Civil War, where we fight a
battle over the scourge of slavery, right? Uh, uh, we
reconcile ourselves, redemption with the South,
we reconcile ourselves to, uh, uh, white
supremacy and convict
leasing emerges. It’s not un…,
undone until the 1940s. Uh, we can begin to think
about the emergence of Jim and Jane Crow. At each moment of advance
there’s an assertion of the value gap. And what Democracy in
Black has always been about is a challenge to
the idea that the problem is just simply a gap
between our ideals and our practices, right? And to me, that stretches
the notion of what agency is all about, right? This idea that we are a
“shining city on the hill, as Ronald
Reagan would say, that we’re the
redeemer nation, and the only thing we
need to do is live up to our ideals, and
everything will be better. When in fact, what
I want to suggest, right, is that the value
gap is baked into the very idea of who we
take ourselves to be. It’s baked into
American exceptionalism. And what Democracy in
Black has always been about is trying to
disentangle democratic principles of
faith in everyday, ordinary people
from the idea that, because you
have white skin, you are valued
more than others. And to the
extent that’s true, right, Democracy in Black
has always been on the, at the center of advancing
the cause of democracy in this country. Not just for black
people, for all the, all the most vulnerable
people in the country. HEFFNER: In a very
real application, Eddie. GLAUDE: Mm-hmm. HEFFNER: Democracy
in Black has been disenfranchised in
disenfranchising people of color. GLAUDE: Right,
so, I mean, we, we don’t, you
know, it’s, it’s, we think about 2008, and
we think about it as this kind of extraordinary
moment of triumph, right? It’s, it’s the
kind of, uh, culmination of, of that
standard story of the black freedom struggle,
from Rosa Parks sitting in, in ’55 or the Brown
v. Board of Education decision in 1954, to King’s famous “I Have
a Dream” speech in ’63. Uh, his untimely
murder in ’68, to Obama’s
election in 2008. That’s the story. But what’s so
fascinating about 2008, is that at the moment
which people were celebrating,
uh, his election, so many people were
receiving pink slips on their doors, or
at their offices, right? Eviction notices
on their doors, or pink, pink slips
at, at their jobs. Uh, people were
losing their homes. Uh, folks
found themselves, um, caught up in,
in, in, you know, this extraordinary,
uh, carceral state, um, wondering about
whether or not their children will have a
better future than they, than they themselves had. Um, and, and so, and
then you combine that with a kind of public
culture, a kind of political environment,
Alexander, where, uh, Republicans wrap
their patriotism in the flag of bigotry. Right, you
know, bigotry, uh, gets kind of
concealed by patriotism. And so we see in places
like North Carolina, places like Florida,
places like Pennsylvania, folks putting
on the ballot, right, efforts to
disenfranchise folk. If we’re a true
democracy, it seems
like we want everybody to vote. We want to try to get
everybody to get out and participate in the
electoral process. But, you know, we
have to kind of conc…, we have to
concede this claim. And this is something
that we have to put
our minds, wrap our minds around. The last major
piece of legislation, coming out of the
1960s, was 1968, the Fair Housing Act. Just 12 years later,
just 12 years later, Ronald Reagan was elected. So, between ’65 and
1980, we’re going to resolve generations
of problems, uh, generations of,
of racism, of, of the value gap? Because, we know
that, by 1980, right, there’s a
systematic attempt to undo, to, to
dismantle, uh, the gains of the black
freedom struggle, right? So, we’re living in
these extraordinary times. They’re, they’re,
they’re complicated. HEFFNER: It
seems like, Eddie, the, a prerequisite for
the disenfranchisement at the polling station
is an economic status
that is, like we said
before, inferior to, to that of, of
white people, or other people who have
the means to be able to defend their rights, and
have polling stations that will honor
their rights. So, when you talk about
economic devastation, you’re really
extending that view
beyond the 1980s. You’re saying, here,
that that is embedded in the tradition
ever since, and
we’re last year celebrating the 150th
anniversary of abolition of slavery, that at that
critical moment- and you’re a historian, so
I want you to weigh in
on this- when … people of color,
formerly enslaved
people could have been empowered in this
democracy with the right to own land, and in
fact, it was Senator
Charles Sumner of Massachussetts
who wanted to repatriate in that way, so that
he would admit the Confederate territories
if the land that had been occupied by the
Confederacy was divvied up so that this new class of
free people would actually have something of value. It, it goes back that far. GLAUDE: Right. HEFFNER: Do
people have a memory? GLAUDE: Ha. This is, I mean,
that’s a great question. I mean, we’re. we are, uh,
uh, as a nation, we are very good at
“dis-remembering.” Right, to take up a word from uh,
Toni Morrison’s classic novel, Beloved, uh,
there’s a way in which we, uh, uh, kind of
think about the past, Alexander, … that is
always in a way that is a confirmation of our
inherent goodness. Uh, the ugliness
of our actions, uh, don’t, uh, occasion
an opportunity for us to engage in
self-reflection, …
as a nation. … instead, we say,
we’re always on a road to a more perfect union. … the formula is,
is, is, is efficient, is, in its ability
to absolve us of
any wrongdoing. I like to say
that America, uh, kind of lives in a
kind of perpetual state of adolescence. It’s, it’s, it feels
like Peter Pan’s
Never-Neverland. We don’t have to be
responsible for anything. But the interesting
thing about this, though, is
that, just as, uh, in the aftermath
of emancipation and African-Americans
engaged in, uh, uh, picking
themselves up in the, in, in the aftermath
of the failed promises, began to save, began
to imagine a future for their children, the
Freedmen, Freedmen’s
Bank collapsed. And W.E.B. Dubois talks about
this in his classic text, The Souls of Black Folk
and what that meant for the economic
well-being of
this community. Just as that moment
was a catastrophe in the economic lives
of black folk, 2008 and the
housing crisis, right, can only be, uh,
considered as something that’s, uh, similar in its
effect and consequence. Most African-Americans,
their wealth resides in
their homes. Uh, and we see,
or we saw in 2008, just simply a devastation,
all the wealth of the ’90s. All of the
gains in the ’90s, completely wiped out. We saw the
wealth gap, you know, uh, between white and
black expand over the course of President
Obama’s presidency, right. We see so many young
black families falling below the poverty line. So many black children
growing up in poverty. So many black children
and brown children going to schools that
are not preparing them. Not only preparing
them such that they
can imagine a bright future, but
preparing them so that they can work in places
other than cleaning up buildings, right. ‘Cause they’re
being tracked, in some ways, to
particular parts of
the labor market. So, while people were
talking about recovery, and this is, this is
where the book begins, while people were
talking about recovery, I was talking to people
like Christine Frasier. I was talking to
people like Patricia. Christine lost
her home in, in Atlanta, Georgia. Patricia, who spent her
life as a police officer, public servant,
lost her home. Uh, thinking
about, uh, uh, uh, everyday,
ordinary people, trying to piece
their lives together. And so, this isn’t
just simply about, uh, uh, uh, a
civil rights, uh, uh, agenda item
of economic justice,
Alexander. What I’m trying
to figure out is
the paradox: what does it means for
the nation to talk about “we’ve recovered,” and
black communities and black people are
suffering in the way that they’re suffering? The only thing one
can conclude from that is that some
people just don’t care. HEFFNER: Well, evidently
they did not care about, sort of the disappearance
of black folks until police misconduct cases. GLAUDE: Mm-hmm. HEFFNER: How do you
explain that police misconduct in Chicago,
Ferguson, Baltimore … GLAUDE: Right. HEFFNER: Here,
in Staten Island. GLAUDE: Yeah. HEFFNER: Re-exposed the
plight of urban America? It had just been,
plain-and-simple, forgotten, hadn’t it? GLAUDE: Right, it had
been out-of-view, right. I mean, you know,
this is the one thing, uh, that we’ve been, so,
we’ve become so good at, as well, is blaming,
uh, people who are on the margins for their
circumstance, right. The most vulnerable are
most vulnerable because they’ve, they have
failed, in some way, not that we as a
community have failed, in any sort of way. Uh, and so, what
you saw with uh, uh, the case
of Eric Garner, what you saw with the
case of Mike Brown, uh, or Rekia Boyd, I
mean we can- Sandra Bland, uh, we- Laquan
McDonald- I mean, we can just, I
mean, the list goes on, and, and on, and on. These are, these
were just wicks, these were just tied
to the powder-keg, right, and what you see
are these young people who have this
amazing skill-set, uh tied to technology,
um, who have just simply had enough. They’ve been burdened,
overburdened with debt. They don’t see any
future in front of them. They’re over-policed. Public schools
are failing them, and they’re harassed
day-in and day-out. Stop-and-frisk, we
know about that, here in New York, right? Um, what that
meant for them, in their daily living. And so, and then
you have, right, uh, unrestrained
state power. Right, I mean they left
Michael Brown’s body, whether you agree
with how they
accounted for it or not, his body was
left in the middle
of the street for four-and-a-half hours. And it’s an
apartment complex. The streets aren’t wide
like Fifth Avenue, right? It’s an apartment complex,
so you could look out your back window and
see his dead body. So what are, what’s the
trauma for the kids in that space? And so what
you saw is this, this, this rally
around police brutality, right, becoming the
point-of-entry to speak to unimaginable
misery, to catastrophe. But that’s
just one example. We also saw, in
North Carolina, with the Moral
Mondays movement, the forward, Forward
Together movement, Reverend Barber. People are organizing
to speak to a wide
range of issues, as the mean-spirited
nature of American
public life has devastated
the lives of so
many people. HEFFNER: You write
here, in “The Resurrection, “We have to change the
terms of political debate. This involves changing
our view of government, our view of black
and white people, and our view of
what matters to us as Americans.” You
go on to say, “The idea of politics I’m
suggesting here assumes a different kind
of leadership. It insists on
the capacities and responsibilities
of everyday, ordinary black people,
and urges them to reach for a higher self, even
in opportunity deserts.” GLAUDE: Right. Right. So, part of what
I’m calling for is a “revolution of value.”
It’s my echo of Dr. King. That, if we’re going to
fundamentally change, uh, if we’re going to
save American democracy, uh, we’re going to have
to engage in a fundamental transformation of how
we orient ourselves, uh, to, to the
circumstances in
front of us. And that change, that
revolution of value has to take place
at three levels. We have to change how
we view government. And we change how we
view government by way of what we demand
of government. We’ve been sold a bill of
goods that government is bad, big
government is bad, it’s wasteful,
that it has no real, substantive role,
it’s oppressive, right? It’s only function
is for the defense, or to ensure to the
efficient workings of the market. The social safety
net has eroded. What is the role of
government in securing the public good? Instead of buying
into this old notion, this notion that has been
around since the 1970s, and of course, we
can trace it back much earlier, uh,
that government, big government is bad. Uh, what we need to do is
to offer a conception of government that’s tied to
a fundamental affirmation of the dignity and
standing of everyday, ordinary people. That they deserve
a decent wage, that they deserve
a roof over their, uh, a roof
over their heads, that they deserve, right,
the opportunity to dream dreams and make
those dreams a reality. That’s the first thing. The second thing
is that we have to
change our view of black people, which
means we have to change our view of white people. At the heart of
this, I begin to, I’m arguing, is
the value gap. The value gap is the
belief that white people are valued
more than others. And that’s not simply,
uh, a view held by loud racists, like
Donald Trump, or others. That view is evidenced
in our racial habits,
Alexander. It’s evidenced in
the very spaces we
occupy, right? There’s a reason
why we know about
the black side of town and the
white side of town. There’s a reason why
know about Spanish neighborhoods, as
opposed to white
neighborhoods, or Irish. The very built space,
the built environment of the United States
reflects the value gap. We learn whether or not
we’re worthy or not in our schools, in
our workplaces, right, in our
neighborhoods, right. So we have to change
our view of black people. That we’re not disposable. That no population’s
disposable. And just because you’re
white doesn’t mean something, that you
deserve something more. And then the last thing
we have to do is change what
matters to us. It speaks to what
Occupy was talking about, that speaks to a broad
kind of critique of the deep and corrosive
materialism that I think, uh, that distorts
and disfigures the
American soul. We’ve got to, we’ve
got to start valuing
human beings. We’ve got to start
valuing these babies. HEFFNER: And how does
that value gap play out, as I mentioned
in the intro, on your own campus? GLAUDE: Yeah. HEFFNER: I, I was very
interested in your initial response to the
Wilson re-naming. This is the former
President of the University, former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson,
a bona fide racist. GLAUDE: Yeah. HEFFNER: The students
pushed for his removal, um, in the name of
a school on campus. Um, and … I
think that the, there are elements there
that speak to values. GLAUDE: Absolutely. HEFFNER: Now, there
are many monuments and memorials and
universities, but to what extent do you
equate naming a school in this, in this
discussion of values, with adulation? GLAUDE: Right. You know, I’m so
proud of those students. Um, you know, before,
uh, they sat-in the president’s office,
uh, there was a kind of uncritical embrace of
the legacy of Woodrow
Wilson at Princeton. Uh, they forced
a conversation, a conversation that is
ongoing at Princeton, a conversation
that has now widened, uh, to the nation broadly. Um, and, I think, um,
what’s important is that symbols
represent- certain
symbols, I believe, represent
our national
collective aspiration. Uh, and, uh, we
can’t, uh, whitewash, uh, uh, our past. We can’t deny it. Uh, but we have
to confront it. We can’t dis-remember. And what the
students have for-, have forced Princeton to
do is to kind of look at what does it mean to
represent Princeton through the image
of Woodrow Wilson. Not just simply
because he segregated, right, uh,
Washington, D.C. and the
federal bureaucracy, uh, or not simply because
his foreign policy, uh, uh, even with regards
to the League of Nations, but in terms
of Puerto Rico, the Philippines reflected
a commitment to white supremacy, even though
he’s the founder of modern liberalism,
in some ways, one of the key architects of
modern liberalism. And it’s much more than
just simply being
complex here, Alex. When the Soviet
Union failed, they attacked the
symbol of Lenin. Why? Because Lenin,
according to those folk, didn’t represent the
best of their aspirations. So as we’re trying to
re-imagine what Princeton will be in the
21st century, the students are
forcing a reck-, forcing a reckoning
with the central image
of the institution. And that’s the
conversation that we’re having, and I’m, I’m,
I’m, I’m so proud of them, and I’m so proud of
Princeton for
engaging in it. HEFFNER: I, I think
there are two sides to the coin in this
situation, in the
sense that being ahistorical can be
counterproductive, ultimately, if you
are mis-remembering, dis-remembering. Uh, how concerned
are you, if at all, that … um, removing his
name would actually have the opposite effect? GLAUDE: Right, right, so,
I think there’s different kinds of claims. I think, you
know, uh, when, it’s, it’s like
removing the N-word from Huckleberry Finn. HEFFNER: Right. GLAUDE: Right,
that, that’s, I don’t think that’s
the same kind of claim that’s being made here. I think, when we
choose our symbols, uh, symbols that
supposedly represent the best of our
collective aspirations, um, uh, it, it is
important for us, uh, to be
honest, and genuine, and unflinching in our
confrontation of the complexity of
those symbols, and make a choice. HEFFNER: Right. GLAUDE: And what we’ve
done in the past is that we’ve just
simply whitewashed that complexity. HEFFNER: I think what
you’re bringing to the attention of the general
public is that racism was not a footnote. I mean, the way that it
has been taught is that, he gave a standing
ovation to Birth
of a Nation, and therefore,
he was a racist. GLAUDE: Right. HEFFNER: But his
racism is more deeply
rooted than that. GLAUDE: Right,
and it’s in, and, you know,
and it’s, for us, it’s harder, because
he’s a national treasure. It would be easier
for the nation to, to, to cast Woodrow
Wilson aside if he
was solely a product, only a
product of the South. Even though he was
Virginia- you know, where he’s from, if
he was just the South. Because, the South,
often, as the region, bears the burden
of our racist past. But Woodrow Wilson
belongs to the nation, not just to the South. And because, so to con-,
so to indict him is to indict America. That’s why, that’s why
they’ve touched a nerve, and that’s why it’s
so important for us to honestly confront it. HEFFNER: Let’s
finish with one
more passage: “White fear requires
that we make white people feel comfortable about
race.” You go on to say, “If we are angry, we have
to express that anger in a way that white
people find politically
acceptable.” I couldn’t find a sentiment
that more clearly conveyed what was your early,
uh, observation that the President was
afraid of appearing as that stereotypical … GLAUDE: Yeah,
“angry black man.”
HEFFNER: angry
black man. GLAUDE: Right. HEFFNER: And so, when
you prescribe here, the issue can’t be
all about black people, we have to lift
all boats, um. “All of this
happens because of one unmistakable fact. If we talk directly about
black suffering in this country, we risk
alienating large segments of white America, and
jumpstarting their fears.” GLAUDE: And, and
people, people don’t see the
irony of that. Right, to say that, to
talk about black suffering directly, uh, risks
alienating white people. HEFFNER: Do you think
that’s going to chance as they see black
people the victims of a kind of new
millennium lynching? GLAUDE: I don’t know. ‘Cause when we look at the
data around the different perceptions, around
Michael Brown and
Eric Garner and Rekia Boyd and,
uh, Sandra Bland, and all the folks we know, uh, the data
is very clear. There’s just a clear
racial divide in the perception of, of,
around those murders, and the level of empathy
around those deaths. Um, so, my thinking is
this: we can no longer dance the dance, Alex. If my concern in, in,
in talking about the suffering of black
folk, is worrying about whether or not
I’m going to trigger, trigger the fears
of white folks, so I have to temper
how I speak about that suffering, how I
advocate on behalf of that suffering, then
we are going to reproduce the value gap, and the
habits that keep us in this dance, that
keep us going around and ’round
and ’round. HEFFNER: It’s been said
that the President is going to speak
his mind when he
leaves office. GLAUDE: Yeah,
I, that, and, to me, if he does, it’ll
indict him even more. By every
statistical measure, black folk are
catching hell. And we should be shouting
from the rooftops. Uh, um, uh, but, um,
trying to protect him, trying to resist, uh,
the kind of viciousness of the, of an
ideological right, um, many of us have
not been as vocal as we should have been. HEFFNER: I don’t think
we should conclude this powerful segment
without saying why
he may not have. Because this is a
bigoted country, and he doesn’t want
to be assassinated. GLAUDE: Right, I mean … HEFFNER: Is that … GLAUDE: More death
threats than any president in the history
of the country, uh, and, and, and, I
mean, this is real. And see, until
we confront that, with love, right, until
we confront the fact that, in our daily lives, white
people are valued more than others, which rig,
that belief then rigs our social practices, our
political practices, our economic
practices, such that, no matter what we do, the
outcomes will still be, uh, reflect, uh, um,
uh, the value gap. Until we, until
we get to that, until we
concede that, right, uh, we’ll still be
in this quagmire. And so, for me, in the
best of the black freedom tradition, we have to
do “Democracy in
Black” again. And if we don’t
succeed this time, I’m afraid, uh, for what,
what the future holds for our country. HEFFNER: Eddie, thank
you for joining me today. GLAUDE: Thank you. This was a pleasure. HEFFNER: And thanks
to you in the audience. I hope you join us
again, next time, for a thoughtful
excursion into the
world of ideas. Until then,
keep an open mind. Please visit The
Open Mind website at to
view this program online, or to access over
1,500 other interviews. And do check us out on
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on future programming.


  1. Bobby Ingram says:

    I listened to the 4 minute mark, and Eddie seems to be quite a racist.
    But then , that is what he is selling in his book ..yes ? I get along fine with the blacks I meet
    around my neighborhood, but this guy along with any other author who uses 'separating' Americans by color. gets my contempt. Because..?
    Because he is smart enough to see all that Racist Ranting has not helped the black community.
    If You have facts showing blacks have progressed since 1972 please stand and deliver. I'll listen.

  2. YeaGG says:

    What an intelligent man he voices the concerns not only of intellectual whites but of the millennials and college students like me who are afraid of what will happen in the future if we are not allowed to talk about what is taking place everyday in our society….this man is no rascist but simply trying to protect us from the future

  3. JBourneID says:

    Has President Obama not said that in America, white lives are valued more than the lives of black and brown people? Has he not explained in some depth how this is so? Is Glaude's issue that he hasn't said it "forcefully enough"? What specific words or tone would he prefer the President to use? What would be the result if the President did so?

  4. charlotte Hill says:

    "Touch a nerve", I like that, when I repeat, I will give you credit the first few times, after that's mine (smile). Its Done by Design. If one is not at the table; they are on the menu…or, serving what's on the menu.

  5. Ernestine Dingle says:


  6. Mike Turley says:

    Dear professor , I agree with you but why is your loyalty so deep with the Democrats, could u be a libertarian .thx

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