Glaude (Chair, African American Studies/Princeton Univ.; African American Religion: A Very Short Introduction, 2014, etc.) explores the worsening state of racial inequality under the nation’s first black president.
In an illuminating analysis of the crisis in black communities in the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and others, the author argues that African-Americans have suffered “tremendously” during the presidency of Barack Obama, whose “snake oil” promises of hope and change must be viewed against the devastating effects of a “Great Black Depression.” Hardest hit by the 2008 recession, writes Glaude, African-Americans lost more than 50 percent of their wealth by 2011. They lost homes, savings, and jobs, with national black unemployment reaching 16 percent in 2010. Illustrating the effects through the stories of black families in cities around the country, the author describes the increasing poverty of black communities that have become “opportunity deserts,” where hardship and joblessness create “isolated places for disposable people.” Most white Americans remain “willfully ignorant” of such places because of a “value gap” (the belief that white people are more valued than others) and “racial habits” (unthinking behaviors that sustain the value gap). White people must examine their assumptions—that black people are dangerous—and change the country’s policies and structured racism. “White fear blinds us to the humanity of the people right in front of us,” writes Glaude, who finds plenty of blame to go around—from Obama’s disappointing lack of action in support of blacks to the failures of traditional black liberal leadership. What is required, claims the author in this forceful book, is a new grass-roots movement based on the capacities of ordinary black people and built on the successes of “black lives matter” protests.
A powerful and thoughtful call for “a revolution of value and a radical democratic awakening” aimed at ending America’s persistent racial crisis.