Book Review: Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American SoulDemocracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: January 12, 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

America’s great promise of equality has always rung hollow in the ears of African Americans. But today the situation has grown even more dire. From the murders of black youth by the police, to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, to the disaster visited upon poor and middle-class black families by the Great Recession, it is clear that black America faces an emergency—at the very moment the election of the first black president has prompted many to believe we’ve solved America’s race problem.
Democracy in Black is Eddie S. Glaude Jr.’s impassioned response. Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, it argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap”—with white lives valued more than others—that still distorts our politics today. Whether discussing why all Americans have racial habits that reinforce inequality, why black politics based on the civil-rights era have reached a dead end, or why only remaking democracy from the ground up can bring real change, Glaude crystallizes the untenable position of black America–and offers thoughts on a better way forward. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, Democracy In Black is a landmark book on race in America, one that promises to spark wide discussion as we move toward the end of our first black presidency.

In Democracy in Black, Glaude discusses in detail how and why the 2008 recession disproportionately impacted black people. He also writes about the value gap – the fact that white people are valued more than black people. His analysis is hard to dispute. Glaude doesn’t pull any punches. Anyone is fair game for criticism, not just conservatives. In fact, President Obama receives some of his harshest.

I’m always looking for more articulate ways to explain systematic and institutional racism to people and this book gave me some great ideas of how to do so. I thought this line was particularly good:

“Somehow people absurdly believe – and they have done so for most of our history – that black social   misery  is the result of hundreds of thousands of unrelated bad individual decisions by black people all across this country.”

 The major thing I didn’t agree with was him calling for black people to participate in an “electoral black-out” in 2016. I’m not sure black people voting none of the above would accomplish what he wants it to and for the 2016 election, it’s a really bad idea for obvious reasons.

Even though I read a lot about race, I felt like this book expanded my knowledge even more and will help me have better conversations with people about race in the future.

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

  • rhapsodyinbooks

    Great review. I agree with you about disagreeing with the idea of an electoral blackout. I think a big disaster would result!

  • S.G. Wright

    Interesting that he’s harsh on Obama. Sounds like he has some astute things to say about race in the U.S.