Democracy in Black – Is Race Enslaving Our Souls?
None of us think we’re racist.
- We don’t use the n-word.
- We have friends of all races and colors.
- We don’t sell our house if someone different moves in the neighborhood.
And as students at Auburn University proved this week when Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader, rented a space to speak, students of all races joined together as #AuburnUnites. With one voice they spoke out to disapprove of racism of any kind.
Author and Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude puts it like this,
“Overly racist acts [like calling an innocent child a n*****] are increasingly rare in this country; after all, it is decidedly out of fashion these days to be a racist.”
Maybe things are better. But we’re not there yet.
Just because racism may be more subtle in some ways (while in other ways, it’s still blatant), it still exists.
And just become some may tire of hearing it, racism won’t go away just because we don’t want to talk about it.
Or just as bad: if we refuse to believe it even exists.
“Our segregated lives and our deep fears keep the problems of black folk from coming into full view. And even while hidden, the devastation spreads like cancer. This is the way we deal with race matters in this country: willful blindness. Any other approach threatens our national sense of morality.”
How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul is the subtitle of Glaude’s new book, Democracy in Black.
It’s a hard-hitter. It’s not a feel-good book. But it’s an important book if we’re serious about wanting to change.
Are whites valued more than blacks? Glaude proposes that this “value gap” still exists in America, saying that our racial habits reveal a belief that white people are valued more than others.
“Inequality comes from the habits we exercise daily—habits that aren’t revealed in racial slurs or blatant acts of discrimination, but in the choices we make and the lives we live, even when those choices and lives seem to have little to do with race.”
And even if not overtly, these soul-shattering habits still operate, often from leftover systems still in place from 50 or more years ago.
“These assumptions about black people and homeownership, about black folk and work, about crime, sex, education, health, and politics, are all rooted in an ugly racist history that we like to believe we’ve put behind us.”
What can we do about it?
Changes need to occur at broad levels: governments and institutions and businesses and schools.
But while we work on that, we can do things right where we are, in our own communities.
“Some issue, concrete and right in front of us, should be our focus.”
As always, listening is a great place to start. Have face-to-face conversations. Read widely from those outside our circles. Work for change in our local districts. Suspend our current beliefs to open up to more accurate ones.
And stop fearing young black men. One statistic quoted from Daily Kos contradicts the idea that white people are in danger from black people:
“The odds of a black person killing a white person are about 0.0000212. With those numbers, ‘[y]ou really have far more reason to be scared of say, getting on a ladder, than you do of getting murdered by the hoodie wearing teenager you see on the street. The fear is irrational.’”
As Glaude says, “White fear is the danger. Not black people.”
White people not only can change how they see black people (which, too often, is as failing). But white people can also change how they see white people, too.
All our souls are at stake.
* * *
Please share your thoughts here.
- Whose Life Matters?
- Do You Believe What They’re Saying?
- Separating or Attaching
- Stop the Humilitation
My thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of this book.
- Encounter Another Human Being
- 7 Books I Recommend – April 2017
There’s another aspect at work, and it seems to me to be more serious than colour-bar prejudice.
We’re losing sight of the individual, and moving – black and white – toward a kind of class totalitarianism.
I’m Asian, so I don’t identify with either white or black…but I’m either dumped into the ‘white privilege’ pool, or told I should be an angry minority.
My skin colour is different; my facial features are different; my body type is different. Nothing I do will change either these, or how people perceive them. (I’m Mongolian, with features that are almost Semitic and a skin tone that comes straight from the Yangzhou.)
But I can change hearts through my actions, giving in neither to anger nor to collective guilt, because they don’t solve my problems.
They don’t solve ANYONE’S problems.
I really appreciate Lisa’s caring, thoughtful essay, and yet your words really ring true, Andrew. Thank you for *your* thoughtfulness and courage in including them. My niece, who is half Mexican, often feels very marginalized in America in discussions on race. She has experienced real prejudice and has been seared by it. Racial difficulties in America (in the world) are far more expansive than just “black and white.” So often this is not mentioned. Hearts change, one by one, as we approach individuals, in love, not defined or limited by race, but seeing and appreciating people for the beauty and gifts they bring individually. I’m hardly saying this well, and for that I truly apologize. And I repent for times when I have let fear rule my life and, therefore, govern my actions…. like it did when my daughter brought home her Muslim friend from Saudi Arabia for dinner. I resisted this at first (to my own shame). But oh how interacting with this wonderful young man, one on one, welcoming him into our family changed my life. He is a delight, and I wouldn’t have missed our friendship with him for anything!
Isn’t it interesting how it sometimes takes a personal relationship with someone for us to break out of our biases? I appreciate you sharing this story about your niece, Lynn. I’m sure this has been an especially difficult season for her. I also appreciate your confession about your initial feelings toward your daughter’s Muslim friend. What a beautiful ending to your story though! I think about how many wonderful blessings in my life that I would have missed if I hadn’t taken a few “risks” similar to that and gotten to know people who might have initially frightened me for one reason or another. Thank you, God, for second chances!
I listen to a podcast called Code Switch and it has been very enlightening to hear of other racial biases many have towards others beyond the black-white-brown divides that we usually hear: Asians, Iranians, Caribbeans, etc. It’s interesting that you’ve gotten lumped into a stereotype on both sides of the issue.
Changing hearts through your actions: that’s the way to go, Andrew. Thanks for sharing.
I believe a fair amount of racism is fueled by blacks. It’s like they won’t let the past go. A lot of crimes are committed by blacks on blacks. I know poverty has a lot to do with this. I was raised in the South and went through the riots. My Mom and family used the “n” word. I went in the USAF and was immediately asked to date blacks, which I didn’t. I don’t have a racist bone in my body and my son was not raised to either. He has become a little racist because of the way blacks act. This is all just my opinion. My thoughts 🙂
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debbie. I have just started reading “The New Jim Crow” which is helpful commentary on understanding racism that still continues today. Thankfully my parents didn’t allow the ’n’ word, but I know my grandparents used it without even thinking about it. 🙁
I heard someone tell some jokes that were downright degrading and disrespectful recently, and it hurt so much. The rest of the evening I felt like crying. Even now yet, they churn my stomach. Thank you for addressing this important topic, Lisa. If we all could look through Jesus’ lens, we would love and accept each other, no matter how different we are. Love and hugs!
I’m glad you’re so sensitive to it, Trudy. If more of us would be that way, may we could make a bigger dent in stopping some of the racial badmouthing. It especially hurts when someone we know says things like that. 🙁