A Princeton friend invited me to the November 30th book signing of: “Teaching White Supremacy-America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of Our National Identity” held at Labyrinth Books. The author, Donald Yacovone and commentator Eddie Glaude, Princeton Distinguished University Professor, hosted a presentation of the book followed by a question-and-answer session. A personal discussion with Mr. Glaude after the event that should have been a positive, educational experience for both of us quickly turned into a verbal brawl.
Why can’t an audience member ask the panel to describe what they mean when they refer to a person becoming the “best human” and get an explanation without being instructed to read the book? Of course, reading the book is always “an” answer but to further communicating the importance of the work, during a book signing, there needs to be a ready and meaningful understanding of its key concepts such as what the author and commentator means when referring to the “best human.” This commentator came up empty leaving this attendee feeling the book’s ideas lacked credibility.
A subsequent personal discussion with the commentator resulted in his becoming antagonistic and disparaging when asked whether the racism that was advanced in the book really existed and therefor that the books premise was much ado about nothing. I was told that racism was everywhere and as an example that it is evident in the zoning regulations in Princeton where neighborhoods separated by a street have homes suited to those with different economic means. One can easily argue, as I did, that America is the freest country in the world and that he is wrong to look at things this way. That triggered the commentator into a raised voice, pointed finger and lecture.
As if that was not enough, he made an ad hominin attack that the entire room could have heard. To his credit he did apologize when it was clear that he said a terrible thing.
One wonders if racism has long been displaced by one of the many fundamental premises in our country’s founding; that all men are created equal. Yet that there remain those among us that dedicate their efforts on insisting that America is racist when all that can be objectively observed are simply the results of individual freedom of opportunity. Regardless, one would expect an intelligent or wise professor to handle any question with dignity and perhaps grace and be appreciative of any meaningful question that might further a mutual understanding.
We are entitled to expect such from Mr. Glaude, as a representative of our distinguished Princeton University.