Summary: Democracy in Black addresses the ‘values gap’ between the claimed idealism of equity and democracy and the reality of history.
One of the problems with many White people in thinking about issues of race is that Black and other racial groups are still ‘other’. That ‘other’-ness is otherness in part because of the assumption of monolithic thinking. As with every topic, the more you know about an issue, the more nuance that you can see. The more comprehensive your approach to an item, the more variance within the subject that you can identify.
If you discuss Christianity, you have to ask what about Christianity is universal and what is particular to a subgroup. Catholic and Southern Baptist responses to one issue may be virtually identical, but nearly unrecognizably different in another. The very nature of worship and what the centerpiece of worship service of oriented around is different between Southern Baptist and Catholics, but they do still both worship the same God.
Democracy in Black is a political philosophy of societal change. Glaude is the Chair of the African American Studies Department at Princeton. He is the current president of the American Academy of Religion. His Ph.D. is in religious studies, and this is a book informed by Christianity. However, it is more focused on the methods and theory of cultural interaction and politics. In some ways, I think this is probably a book written a couple of years too early. It is rooted in a discussion of the role of race in the Obama era, and that is a critical discussion. But it does not fully engage with the racial backlash that gave rise to Trump.
Glaude wants to talk about values more than racism. It is not that racism is not shaping our values, but that the gap in our values is more extensive than mere racism, at least as many conceive of the meaning of racism.
“We talk about the achievement gap in education or the wealth gap between white Americans and other groups, but the value gap reflects something more basic: that no matter our stated principles or how much progress we think we’ve made, white people are valued more than others in this country, and that fact continues to shape the life chances of millions of Americans. The value gap is in our national DNA.”
Merely discussing racial gaps in wealth, education, health, or other areas often reveals how we think about race. There are those that continue to deny that actual disparities exist. Some admit the variations but place most of the blame on individuals. Others suggest that racial differences are rooted in history, culture, systems, resources, or some mix of many different causes. But Glaude, while not glossing over the complexity, wants to ensure that we see that these disparities are not abnormal, but ‘who we are’.