Princeton University professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. discussed the dynamics of race and racism in the United States during a virtual event hosted jointly by the Institute of Politics and the Ash Center's Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project on Wednesday.
The forum, titled “Reckoning with the Soul of a Nation,” was moderated by journalist Amber Payne, the co-editor in chief of the Emancipator, a racial equity project produced by Boston University and the Boston Globe.
Glaude called on President Joe Biden to do more to address racism and racial inequality in the United States. He said he met with Biden at the beginning of his term and told him he had the opportunity to “be a transformative president with regards to race.”
Glaude said the Biden administration has failed to push legislation seeking to address racial equity through Congress. He discussed several pieces of legislation that have stalled on Capitol Hill, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Build Back Better Act, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“I’m not so sure what the administration’s agenda is with regard to these matters,” he said.
During an interview prior to the event, Glaude said policymakers must take deliberate steps to address systemic racial inequality.
“We have to admit that racial inequality isn’t just an accident, that it is the result of deliberate policy on the part of the United States,” he said. “We’re going to have to be just as deliberate in our efforts to dismantle it as we were in our efforts to create it.”
Glaude called on young people to reject the “framework of scarcity” and “the idea that there’s only so much pie to go around” when pushing for policy solutions to inequality.
“Part, I think, of the way in which we reach young people has everything to do with policy,” he said.
Payne, the forum’s moderator, encouraged attendees to pursue various forms of activism.
“I hope that for those in the audience and those listening, you find your way in — you find your activism,” she said. “I think it's just taking that personal look at what you can do.”
At the start of the forum, Glaude spoke about the history of systemic racial injustice in the United States, including in the country’s founding.
“There’s this idea of America as the shining city on the hill, as this example of democracy achieved,” he said. “And that particular ideological imagining runs up against our practice.”
“If we’re going to grow up as a nation, we have to confront that fantasy — we have to confront that lie,” he said, referencing writer and activist James Baldwin's observations of racial inequality in his essay, “The White Problem.”
Glaude said backlash to racial justice efforts, including restrictive voting laws that have been passed around the country, has been a form of “betrayal.”
“The republic stands on the brink, once again,” he said in an interview. “We need to be diligent if we’re going to survive this current storm.”