Democracy in Black

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Non-fiction is one of those categories I really don’t read enough of and want to read more of.  Educating yourself on world issues is important and this book handles race in America and how African Americans still deal with racism and unequal treatment despite the fact that the year is 2016 and we claim to be a nation past that.  Because this book is jammed pack with information I decided to do a different type of review.  I’m actually going to do this by chapter and kind of go over the overall theme of each chapter and discuss my thoughts on it.

Chapter One-The Great Black Depression

This chapter focuses on things that occurred during the 2000’s, when our country was hit by a depression that has been compared to the Great Depression.  This depression affected people all across the nation, but the people who were hit hardest, statistically, were African Americans.  At the beginning of the chapter, he gives an example of one such woman who was affected during this time by all of the foreclosures that occurred.  Chis Frazer, lost her home is 2012 due to foreclosure.  The mortgage had changed companies multiple times over a very short period and Chris and her family had already paid six times more then the house was valued at.  She tried to get help from the plan President Obama had come up with to help people who were at risk of losing their homes because they couldn’t afford it, but she couldn’t take advantage of it because in order to qualify you had to be current on your mortgage.  “But if you’re current on your mortgage, you don’t need modification,” Chris was quoted as saying.  The current loan company decided to evict her, and her and her family were left without the home that they had grown in and without anywhere to go.  Throughout this chapter, there are even more heartbreaking stories just like Chris’s.  By the years around 2007-2011 (the 2008 depression had a huge impact on the entire country, but statistically African American families and communities have been shown to have been hit hardest), black unemployment was skyrocketing all across the country and it led to so many losing their homes and having nowhere to go.  In fact, by 2010, black unemployment was at 16 percent, while white unemployment was at 9 percent, a sizable difference when you consider the amount of people in the United States.  One out of four African American families lives in poverty, making less then $12,000 a year to feed a family of four.  Glaud also talks about “opportunity deserts”, areas in both urban and rural communities that do not have the resources to provide people a chance to go beyond their current stature.  They have an “absence of social networks that point out pathways for professions and educational advance”, and they have “heightened police surveillance that increases the likelihood of someone’s landing in the criminal justice system.”  Basically they are poor neighborhoods that exist under harsh conditions.

This chapter resonated with me because it deals with things that I see on a daily basis.  I live in a low income area and I work within my community in banking.  I see, every day, people who struggle to make ends meet, I see how little they make at dead-end jobs and how little assistance they receive from the government.  I also know people within the community who have children who go to the local school and I see the appalling level of education they are receiving, especially compared to the level of education my younger siblings are receiving in a public school about an hour away from here,  but that exists in a higher income area.  Every day, I hear about more homes going up for foreclosure, and see more people struggling to get by and it breaks my heart, especially when these people come in with their children and grandchildren.  When you drive through the community, you can see all of these stores and businesses that at one point existed and are now boarded up, you can see a community that at one point in time thrived and then somehow died.  Now when you hear about my community on the news, you only hear the bad, you only hear about the violence and drugs.  And I think this is exactly what Glaud is talking about, you have these low income communities, which are predominately African American, and you all you see is boarded up windows and fear, in a place where hope once existed.

Chapter Two–The Value Gap

This chapter talks all about how white people in America are valued more then black people.

“…but we do live in a country where, every day, black people confront the damning reality that we are less valued.  The data are crystal clear.  African Americans suffer chronic double-digit unemployment.  We lead the nation in rates of heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS.  Nearly 1 million of the 2.4 million Americans in prison are black.  When we think about the difference between whites and blacks in high school and college graduation rates, in access to health care, in levels of wealth, in salary differences with comparable education, in the childhood poverty rate, we can see that in this country, white people, particularly those with money, matter more than others.  It has been this way since the very day this country was founded.”

He talks about how throughout the history of this country, white people have always limited the ability to change and asserted that value gap.  He provides examples throughout history and how we like to glaze over that when we discuss history.  He draws examples from after the country abolished slavery, how so many African Americans lived in severe poverty and how members of the government wanted them to work to stand on their own in a world that still did not treat them the same as a white man and who had never had the advantages and start into life as most white men did.  According to the government, the problem had been solved, meanwhile, blacks still faced discrimination and in the years between 1882 and 1903, there were over 2,000 black people lynched.  These attitudes have continued into today and Glaud discusses a study that was done where 24% of the participants said that the problem of poverty was “too much government welfare that prevents initiative” and this was associated most often with African Americans.  People figure if you work hard you will succeed and make money, if you’re in poverty that means you’re lazy and that’s not true.  He also mentions that white people in this country like to disremember the past, basically cut out the parts where we did wrong and only bring up the good things, like abolishing slavery in the first place, but not discuss everything else that happened with that.

I definitely agree that we like to disremember the past.  I saw it all throughout my own education.  The history books have been rigged to merely show America in a positive light, to pretend like through the years we’ve only become better and yet we still have so much inequality in our world not just among blacks and whites, but also Mexicans, people of Middle Eastern decent, Native Americans, women, the LGBTQIA community, and so on.  If you want to be worth the most in this country, you have to be a white, cisgender, straight male.  Yes, in a sense we have come a long way, but that value gap still exists and it still hinders peoples’ success.

Chapter Three–Racial Habits

This chapter focuses on stereotypes and biases that exist.  It really talks about how we see people by the color of the skin, how we see predominately white neighborhoods and the comparison to how we treat them to predominately black neighborhoods. It discusses how police officer patrol black neighborhoods and how they may react when they see a group of black male teenagers.  He also discusses how white people don’t like to talk about race with people of color because they don’t want to be told that they’re wrong and feel like they owe someone of color something, which came from the mouth of a correspondent of the Whiteness Project.  The chapter talks about people like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and he quotes Obama,

“I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that–that doesn’t go away.  There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were in a department store.  That includes me.  And there are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me, at least before I was a senator.  There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.  That happens often.  And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened on night in Florida.”

With this Obama came up with a plan that consisted of a few things:  1. professional training for police on racial bias; 2. looking at laws like “stand your ground”; 3. get support through public-private partnerships, clergy, athletes, entertainers, etc. to address the condition of African American boys; and 4. “national soul-searching removed from the political arena that demands each of us examine our choices and actions to see whether we have worked hard to rid ourselves of the biases that perpetuate racism in this country”.  But this of course did not change things.

I believe that racial profiling is a huge problem in this country that exists and occurs far too often.  Like I said before I live and work in a low income area, with a higher rate of violence, in a predominately black area and when I moved here, people asked me, aren’t you afraid to live there, to which I said no.  I, myself, have only seen the good in people in my community and I don’t like to try to stereotype the community in the way that others do.

Chapter four–White Fear

This chapter kind of continues on the discussion from the previous chapter and talks about how whites fear blacks and the reasonings behind why they do that, often leading to whites to say that people like Trayvon Martin could have been seen as dangerous simply because young black males commit a larger amount of crime.  This means that they should be looked at with suspicion.  However, in one study it was found that “the odds of a black person killing a white person are about 0.0000212.  Groups like the KKK were founded in history because of fear of change and these people terrorized black men who tried to vote and men who had relations with white women.  And the horrible thing is that the KKK still exists today, and is one of many organizations that like to blame things on African Americans and treat them as if they should be feared and taken care of.  Glaud talks about how drugs came into these neighborhoods and led to further policing and an astronomical amount of people being imprisoned; including black women who had the fastest rate of incarceration during the 90’s. He also talks about how, somehow, the talk of racism has been turned around to whites and how “sixty percent of working-class white Americans believe that discrimination against whites is a bigger problem that discrimination against blacks”.  He talks about how people like Obama are afraid to bring up these issues because it may cause a sense of accusation which can further hurt the country, but how these issues need to be discussed.

I thought this was a very interesting chapter that was definitely very honest about how people associate certain things with African Americans and how white males seem to have this sense that they are now somehow the victims.  I see on Facebook all the time, posts from people who say that blacks are too sensitive and if anybody is being discriminated against it’s white males because they are not receiving the same “privileges”.  It’s all a load of crap, and white males have done it all too often as of late in respect to a lot of different situations.

Chapter Five–Restless Sleep After King’s Dream

So this chapter deals with Martin Luther King and how this country chooses to remember and disremember certain things about him and how his speech has been used by others to promote equality when it doesn’t truly exist.  Dr. King to the world has become a mere four word sentence “I have a dream”, beyond that, nothing else.  He talks about how various presidents and politicians have used his words, including Bill Clinton:

If (Martin Luther King) were to reappear by my side today and give a report card on the last 25 years, what would he say?  You did a good job, he would say, voting and electing people who formerly were not electable because of the color of their skin.  You have more political power, and that is good.  You did a good job, he would say, letting people who have the ability to do so live wherever they want to live, go wherever they want in this great country…But he would say, I did not live and die to see the American family destroyed…I did not live and die to see thirteen-year-old boys get automatic weapons and gun down nine-year-old boys just for the kick of it…That is not what I came here to do.  I fought for freedom, he would say, but not for the freedom to kill each other with reckless abandon, not for the freedom of children to have children and the fathers of the children walk away from them and abandon them as if they don’t amount to anything…My fellow Americans, he would say, I fought to stop white people from being so filled with hate that they would wreak violence on black people.  I did not fight for the right of black people to murder other black people with reckless abandon.

Basically Clinton here is saying that African Americans need to stop being so violent towards one another, they need to stop leaving their children, and need to be more responsible, basically he is perpetuating the same stereotypes that blacks have had to deal with forever in this country.

Honestly I had never seen that quote before by Clinton and it truly surprised and horrified me at the same time.  Whether he meant to or not, he was insinuating that blacks are lazy and violent, and he used the words of a man who is supposed to represent something larger to do it.  But it does not surprise me that people have taken his words and twisted them to their own advantage.

Chapter Six–Between Two Worlds

In this chapter, Glaud discusses how African Americans are kind of between two different sides.  One side shows years of expansion and success among African Americans and then there’s the other side where there are still so many who are unemployed, in poverty, and suffering.  How some African Americans are divided in that some identify as African, others as black americans, and others as just americans.  He also discusses how institutions that have been created specifically for african americans, like churches, schools and colleges, clubs, newspapers, so many of them are failing because they don’t receive the funding that they need to stay open.  You have these historically black colleges that used to education 75-85 percent of black Americans in higher education and now only account for about 9 percent of black students and it doesn’t help when programs like what Obama created for two year colleges come about because they schools already fight for people over going to the two year colleges, and Obama didn’t make the same policies applicable to these public universities.  Churches and newspapers and social clubs have also had to close because they aren’t getting the funding that they need; and these were all organizations that asserted black success and created a sense of community.

Unfortunately mis-funding is an epidemic that has hit all of the United States.  I’m constantly hearing about schools and churches that are being shut down.  9 times out of 10 these are in more poverty stricken areas and it’s a shame because you are only discouraging the members of these communities and taking away opportunities for the members.

Chapter Seven–President Obama and Black Liberals 

This chapter discusses a lot about how the black community thought that things would be different or better under a black president and yet that haven’t changed, in fact things over the years have only gotten worse in some respect.  Of course many of these things were kind of set in motion prior to Obama taking the presidency but it only worsened certain things.  He was not the “progressive savior” that so many people wanted him to be.  Glaud also talks about people like Obama have worked to deracialize things and work towards thinking of things on a more universal level, but how that alone makes black issues not seem as important as they are.  And he goes on to talk about three different events in time that led to liberals like Obama and how they handle black issues, or don’t handle really.

This was certainly an interesting chapter that really kind of delves into the problems that so many people have with Obama and how he seemed like such a wonderful candidate at first because people saw him for the color of his skin instead of what he was actually about.  It’s also interesting because it discusses how he kind of avoids issues with race, in a way that I had never really noticed before.

Chapter Eight–A Revolution of Value

In this chapter, Glaud really discusses how we have to have a revolution of value in this country, meaning that we have to realize that white people are not more valuable then African Americans and that has to go beyond just committing to racial equality.  That we have to break the habits and make changes on a social and political level.  It has to occur not only on an individual level but also in communities and in government.  To do this we need to “1. change in how we view government; 2. a change in how we view black people; and 3. a change in how we view what ultimately matters to us as Americans”.  We have to look at black people the same as we look at white people and we have to believe that they are valued just the same.

Something about the way we see the world has gone out of whack.  People profit from the incarceration of millions.  Corporations make money off the sick.  Forty-five percent of our children live in low-income families.  We have incarcerated 2.4 million Americans (the number has quadrupled since 1980).  And the top 1 percent keep getting richer, while working people of all races have seen their wages stagnate; many have lost their jobs, their homes, and any hope that they might bequeath to their children a brighter future.  This looks dramatically worse in black communities.  And some people walk around this country as if all is well, ignorant of the moral crimes about them.

This is probably my favorite paragraph in the entire novel.  The truth behind it is so sad because it is exactly what America has become and the only way to change that is to change what we value as a country and to do something about it.

Chapter Nine–Resurrection

This is kind of the conclusion chapter which really discusses how African Americans need to get more common people involved politically and to help rebuild these communities that have just fallen apart.  The people need to become actively involved in bettering themselves and their communities and working to make a difference and show that they do care about the issues at hand and that they are no longer going to stand with the treatment that they have been receiving.

All-in-all, I thought this was a very interesting read that brought to light so many different problems that still unfortunately exist in America today and need to be dealt with.

I would like to thank Blogging for Books, who sent me this copy for review, as well as Crown Publishers, the publisher of the novel.  Although I did receive the book to review, the comments above are my own honest opinion.

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About MindyGrimmBlogs

I'm a 20 something enthusiast of all things geek. I live in Pittsburgh, PA and work as a banker during the day. At night I geek out in a variety of different ways whether it be playing board games, video games, seeing movies, reading books, buying comics and collectibles, or anything else that strikes my fancy. This space is going to be a place for me to share my views and reviews and hopefully connect with others who enjoy such things as well. If you would like to contact me for anything regarding reviewing a book or anything like that, my email is mindygrimm19@gmail.com.
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