Imagination, Morality, and the Value Gap

Dr. Glaude

Bethany Scott is a freshman at the University of Alabama with a major in Human Performance Exercise Science, with a focus on Nutrition on a Pre- PA track. She graduated High School in Augusta, Georgia, but as a military kid she was able to travel and live in many different countries. This post was written as part of REL 360: Popular Culture/Public Humanities.

Everyone knows that as your age increases imagination decreases, but one question that comes to mind is, does your imagination affect your morals? An eye-opening event took place at the University of Alabama, on March 24th, in Lloyd Hall. In front of a large crowd, Dr. Eddie Glaude a professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University, delivered the 2016 Aronov Lecture and argued that “the Negro problem” and what he calls “the value gap” results from a failure of moral imagination.  Imagination puts us into the lives of those whom we tend to see as different from us, and we are then able to take on their concerns or aspirations. Imagination allows us to understand and relate.  Glaude believes that the world lacks imagination which says something about our characters. Glaude sees “the Negro problem” and the value gap as matters of character.

To further explain “The Negro problem” it is the idea that many Black Americans like to prematurely claim that the problems with the Black race are solved and the fight for complete equality is over. This assumption that the fight for complete racial equality is over then leads to even more issues. With this assumption there will continue to be discrimination. The amount of educational and job opportunities will not increase for the minority groups, and there will be a continuous struggle to achieve complete equality. In 1903 W.E.B Du Bois predicted correctly that “the color line” separating the darker and lighter races would be the problem of the 20th century. With this persistent color gap, the problem of the value gap then surfaces.  ‘The value gap’ is Glaude’s term that refers to the way the White body is valued more than any other race. Not only that, but each body is then given different meaning. For example the Black body in American society is usually interpreted as being a criminal or violent. This idea plagues the efforts of those who continue to have demands for racial equality. Labeling the Black body as violent and a criminal directly correlates with the issue of White fear.  Glaude explained White fear as a response to the belief that Black people will impact the country negatively. This fear leads to an automatic judgment as well as assumptions about one’s character. The assumption then troubles people of color to go out of their way in order to seem less threatening.  If one does not wish to smile, then there should be no obligation to smile because of someone else’s fear.  Unless we stop dancing around racial issues, Glaude argues, the habits of character that perpetuate the Negro problem and the value gap will never be uprooted.

The minority race cannot kill the idea of whiteness. That is something those with racial privilege must do. For their part, Glaude claims, Black Americans must reclaim the power of imagination.  Imagination greatly influenced the slaves of the South. Their imagination allowed the slaves to see beyond slavery. With imagination, not only are you able to see beyond the current condition, it also involves empathetic projection.  Glaude’s lecture was an educational experience. Throughout the entire lecture I was on the edge of my seat.  Individually I learned that, as a society we of all races must attend to our characters if we wish to alter our narcissistic tendencies and selfishness and become open to new ideas.

Join Us for the 2016 Aronov Lecture Tomorrow at 7pm: “Democracy in Black — The Value Gap”

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Our annual Aronov Lecture will be held tomorrow night at 7pm in Lloyd Hall room 38. We are very pleased to welcome Eddie S. Glaude from Princeton University. His lecture is titled “Democracy in Black — The Value Gap.” You can find out more about Prof. Glaude’s work in this recent Salon interview about his newest book, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul.

And be sure to follow the conversation, comments, questions, and live-tweeting of the Aronov lecture on our Facebook page and on Twitter at #Aronov2016.

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