How Do We Talk About Race in America? Meet Doug Glanville (Part 2 of 2)

Doug Glanville 56ff1f7494371.image.jpg

As soon as I determined to address this topic in my blog, I knew the person I should turn to for guidance. Doug Glanville, who’s been a friend of my daughter’s since childhood, is one of those all-around amazing people. It was evident when he was young:  academically gifted, terrifically athletic, warm, funny, and friendly, he was clearly destined to make his mark in the world.

And so he has. After graduating as an engineering student from the University of Pennsylvania, he had an illustrious nine-year career as a major league baseball player—a center fielder for the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies. From there he became a commentator for ESPN. He wrote a book, The Game From Where I Stand, contributes frequently to The New York Times, and has written for The Atlantic.

Recently, he’s added “college professor” to his personal biography. Returning to Penn, he researched, developed, and taught a course on Communication, Sports, and Social Justice. He’s now refining the course to teach it at Yale in a combined political science and African American Studies effort that may also involve Women’s Studies and Yale Law School.

And yet…and yet. In the winter of 2014, shoveling the walk of his home in Hartford, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Tiffany, an attorney and Hartford Board of Education member, and their four children, Glanville was stunned to be approached by a police officer from the next town. 

A woman had complained that a man who had shoveled her walk had been menacing her for money, and Glanville fit the description: a black man in his 40s with a shovel, wearing a brown coat (though his coat was black). The officer approached Glanville with the words: “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”

Glanville has written about the experience in The Atlantic, (“I Was Racially Profiled in My Own Driveway”), and it’s well worth reading the entire article. Here’s a bit of it: 

Instead of providing the officer with his impressive personal and family background,

“I tried to take his question at face value, explaining that the Old Tudor house behind me was my own. The more I talked, the more senseless it seemed that I was even answering the question…After a few minutes, he headed back to his vehicle. He offered no apology, just an empty encouragement to enjoy my shoveling. And then he was gone.”

That episode eventually led to the passage of a new Connecticut law that prevents local police from crossing into another jurisdiction to pursue what they believe are violations of local ordinances. (A good description of the law’s broad impact appears in The Huffington Post.) At the signing ceremony, the Governor issued Glanville an apology.

Glanville explains his motivation for shepherding the legislation through to passage:

If I hadn’t been careful and deferential—if I’d expressed any kind of justifiable outrage—I couldn’t have been sure of the officer’s next question, or his next move. But the problem went even deeper than that. I found myself thinking of the many times I had hired a man who looked like me to shovel my driveway. Would the officer have been any more justified in questioning that man without offering an explanation? I also couldn’t help projecting into the future and imagining my son as a teenager, shoveling our driveway in my place. How could I be sure he would have responded to the officer in the same conciliatory way?

He has since been appointed by the Governor to the Connecticut Police Officers Standards and Training Council, where they deal with accreditation issues, certify and decertify police officers, and develop and adopt “a comprehensive standards program for local law enforcement units.” Glanville says: “I am proud to serve on the curriculum committee.”

And although he never received an apology from the police officer, rather than demonizing him, he saw him as presenting an opportunity—to help build bridges between communities of color and law enforcement through open engagement about the pitfalls of bias in community policing.

“We all have bias,” Glanville says, “but the stakes are exceptionally high in law enforcement. It is critical that we all invest in managing bias in our policing.” 

He attributes his ability to work with police—and his broad social vision—to his upbringing in Teaneck, New Jersey, the first community in the United States to voluntarily integrate its schools. “It was such a validating experience to live in a community where people from all walks of life saw each other in a united camp.” He went to plenty of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, he recalls. “In Teaneck, you had real embedded experiences.”

A white police officer, with whom he became close, was his summer league baseball coach, and his father, a psychiatrist who was well-loved in the community, often treated police in various places for the stresses of their jobs. When his father died, “They paid their respects to him as if he was one of them.”

 A large contingent of police, in uniform, did a walkthrough at his funeral to greet his family, waiting in line to pay their respects. Three police cars accompanied the hearse to the cemetery, where they stopped traffic to allow the procession to enter.

Those experiences enabled Glanville to be “caring and collaborative” in working with the police in Connecticut to formulate the legislation.

As a result of those formative years, as well as his close relationships with his fellow baseball players, he says, “As a black man, I see the power in the “#Me Too” movement,” for example. “We all want to be validated, treated fairly, given opportunities, have our pain recognized—to overcome generation after generation in the land of opportunity.”

But achieving social justice takes effort. “It’s easy to want to take your ball and go home,” he acknowledges. “That’s concerning: how can we grow when we’re in our own echo chambers? We need to be brave and step across the aisle and realize we have common work to do.”

In getting the Connecticut legislation through, “I took lemons and made lemonade. But that requires patience, and where is patience? It goes hand in hand with the way we digest information. There’s not a lot of patience to digest the long form. It’s more like: ‘If I didn’t see it, it isn’t real.’”

He has criticisms of social media for creating more doubt and manipulation, and he wishes there were greater balance in the television commentary programs. Bias is profitable, he notes.

“Where is the show with people who have different suggestions talking with one another? I do think at times the media business is not helpful; it just reinforces opinions.”

Referring to the current political divide, he observes: “For starters, I’m not a fan of the blanket political labels, conservative/liberal. We all can be better.

“In the realm of social justice, conservatives get wholly painted as intolerant, just as we tend to overlook the arrogance in people who consider themselves liberal and believe they are completely right. Guess what? No one gets a hall pass here. Holier than thou is not effective in this climate. When the only counter-argument is ‘I’m right,’ we get nowhere.”

When he teaches his course, he stresses the importance of communication. “How you say things and present things matters. You have to have a message and tell stories to engage the listeners.”

For example, he discusses the impact of newspaper racial bias, citing a Huffington Post article that underscored how “white suspects and killers often get positive media spins, while black victims get more negative spins. Words truly matter,” he emphasizes. He also brings in both conservative and liberal views because he feels we all need more measured perspectives.

Is it ever helpful to call someone a racist? “Probably not,” he says. “Some people may be beyond repair. But there are ways to approach others.” When he hailed a cab in Washington, DC, to go to the Washington Nationals Stadium and the driver said, “I don’t know where that is,” he responded: “It’s 2018; you have a GPS.” But, he acknowledges, you have to assess the threat. “I do dive into things that aren’t comfortable—when I’m in a safe space.“

Glanville speaks of the different types of energy required to make the societal changes we need: marching, organizing, people working on policy—all of which he calls “slow work.”

We need both community development and social action, he stresses—“to understand how the game is played, how the system works, at the same time that we challenge the systemic issues needing bold change.”

And then, “It starts at the ballot box,” finding leadership that help us heal as a people and address hate, “but not with armed guards.” He underscores the importance of legislatively backing up the words on those pieces of paper with action.

Acknowledging the abuses in our history concerning the vote—the disenfranchisement, marginalization, and lack of follow-through in behalf of people of color—he points hopefully to the newly elected class of Congress: “There is something to be said about having people more representative of our country. It matters to get into the room, to be engaged in the process to make the system more fair and representative.”

If there’s one thing Americans agree on, it’s that we’re in challenging times. To Glanville, the challenges provide everyone with “the opportunity to be their better self for the collective good. We must think about the positive things and organize around them. We must find ways to be constructive.”

Please let me know your response to Doug Glanville’s challenging ideas and hopeful message. Can you relate to them? Do they encourage you to act? Do they generate stories or ideas from your own life? I am eager to hear from you.


(To let me know your thoughts about this post, you can click on the stars below: from left to right, click star 1 for awful; star 5 for excellent. WordPress folks have the option to “like” this post further below.)

18 thoughts on “How Do We Talk About Race in America? Meet Doug Glanville (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Annie has been on my case to react to these articles on race and I think that she’s been frustrated by my failure to respond. For those reading this, I’ll give you my background. From 1969 through 2001 I was a teacher/supervisor for an urban school district in NJ. As typical for an educator in most school districts I experienced many ups and downs during my career.
    Frankly, I’m pretty tired of speaking to people both black and white when it comes to race. The reasons for this are both simple and complex at the same time. The simple reason is frustration; the more complex reason has to do with human nature. The former is based on my failure to get many white people to look at the race issue from the inside out rather from the outside looking in. Human nature tells me that most people really don’t want to deal with an issue unless they see a clear benefit for themselves.
    I place the overwhelming blame on the race issue on white America. The only way for white people to change is to have significant contact with black Americans. The simple fact is that most whites can avoid dealing with African Americans in a significant manner for their entire lives. On the other hand, most black individuals don’t have the same “luxury.” The black experience is such that they have little to no trust of white people. History tells us that when two groups are in conflict, the stronger of the two must be willing to give more concessions in the short term with the hope of getting long term gains for both groups.
    To me, “meaningful” dialogue without “meaningful” contact will never result in meaningful change. My only hope is that the younger generations do not seem to have many of the hang ups of their predecessors. I think that they, both black and white, are more willing to establish the contact that I see as the only way for race relations to change for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve,

      You’ve made some compelling points, and your frustration comes through loud and clear. Unfortunately, frustration and fatigue with the topic of race have appeared several times in these dialogues. Hope for the more open, less hung-up future generations is the one bright spot mentioned repeatedly.

      As this is a dialogue–and you’re now here–I’m asking you to indulge me by reflecting on two specific questions. The first pertains to your years as a white teacher with many students of color. I know you developed some strong relationships that continue today. Are there any lessons for us, as we grapple with this issue, that arose from your discussions with your students?
      The second question pertains to your intense interest in politics. When you review Doug Glanville’s programs and thoughts, do they resonate with you in any way? (I’m assuming you were probably familiar with him as a sports figure and may have been pleasantly surprised to read about him here.) I’m most eager to hear your responses. Thanks.



      1. Hi,

        Though you didn’t address this to me (I’m still trying to get Steve to return and answer my follow-up questions), I had been missing your presence on Part 2, and I very much appreciate your “like.” If you have any thoughts about Doug Glanville’s efforts and ideas that you’d like to share, I would welcome them.

        In reference to your response to me in Part 1, I did know the background of the house slaves vs the field slaves. Somehow, since we were talking about financial power, I was thinking along those lines. Thanks for reminding me about the color differentiation. Coincidentally, I was in a conversation last night about the other places in the world where that color hierarchy does and doesn’t exist (including Trevor Noah’s discussions in his wonderful autobiography, Born a Crime), and in the Latinx community and in certain countries in South and Central America.


        Liked by 1 person

      2. Annie,
        No problem at all. I can’t say much about Doug other than he seems like a balanced individual with a hopeful vision for all people. I like that. I wish him much success in his endeavors. In reference to differences between the house and field slaves, yes this sadly affected us all where the colonies existed. The demoralization effort was widespread. It will take some time to deconstruct, but the leadership and issues today we face seems to be working against those efforts steadfastly. We do not have time to waste, nor do we want to bury anymore bodies or see more incarcerations due to driving while black, shopping while back, studying while black or anything else while being black…period.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Annie,
    I think you nailed it in your opening statement an all around amazing person With his experiences and background he seems to have the ideas of steps to be taken to help improve our problem with race relations. He mentions though, that progressive leadership is necessary. He could be one of these leaders.
    One concern is that he seems to be such an outstanding, fine and knowledgeable person. He may be too good to be involved with the people who are also supposed to be our leaders- our Congress.
    Mr. Glanville fits the title of Statesman, who thinks of country first vs. the politicians who think of what’s best for them and Party. It would be too bad to see him get mired in the bickering mess in D.C.. They are overmatched by him. Hopefully in some way he’ll be able to get his ideas to become reality
    Of course I would think just as highly of him even if I wasn’t also a U of Penn graduate!


    1. Hi, Donthedoctor,
      I’m sorry I didn’t think to ask him if he’d consider running for office. I agree with you: he’d be a terrific political leader, but he may not want to get mired in the ugly process. One never knows, though. He’s certainly attracted attention for his good works already.


  3. Hi Anne..I applaud Mr. Glanville’s philosophies and thoughts about race relations and his desire to create social change.I have had the good fortune of having grown up in a community near Teaneck long before integration where there was an incredible interaction between the black and white communities.My close high school friend dated a black girl and I believe he took her to the prom. For most of us, there seemed to be an acceptance of the school community without separating the groups by race. I have recently had the pleasure of working with a black PA in my office and found the medical community was very accepting. I also know that I am naive to think I can understand what it is like to be black in America when I am white My life’s journey has been very different than his..just because of skin color and thus opportunities..thanks for your thoughts. Noah


    1. Hi, Noah–

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you that one’s surroundings while growing up are extremely important in shaping our attitudes. Doug Glanville is very clear about that, and so is Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of We Were Eight Years in Power, which I quote from in Part 1. I just heard from a black high school classmate who wrote that we don’t really know how valuable our high school experience was. He added: “When you know it works, you never give up!” That made me very happy.

      As far as being a naive white person, I believe every thinking white person with any degree of self-awareness realizes that there’s no way for us to appreciate the experiences that people of color regularly endure in this country (as well as in other places). One of my fellow bloggers put what I think is an extremely valuable educational video on my blog in connection with Part 1 of this dialogue. It’s called “Deconstructing White Privilege,” and you can find it by scrolling back through the comments. Though it’s 20 minutes long, I hope you and everyone else who reads this exchange will spend the time watching it.

      Good to hear from you!



  4. Hi Anne,

    i really enjoyed reading this blog post and especially Doug’s contribution.
    While I am excited by the thought of Doug running for public office, it scares me at this time when so much hatred is spread by our so-called President and his blind followers.
    More optimistically, I do believe that some good will come as a tremendous backlash against the hatred.

    When I was in the doctor’s office last week I came across this issue of National Geographic Magazine. It is very much on point with this discussion.



    1. Hi, Fran–

      That National Geographic issue looks like it’s worth reading from cover to cover. What a find! Thanks for providing the link.

      I wouldn’t worry about Doug. I have no idea if he’s even considering a career in politics. He’s very involved in the efforts that now engage him, and he certainly has a realistic view about life–so I can’t see him jumping into something without careful consideration and deep discussions with his family. But I’ll bet at some point people will be pushing him in that direction. Regardless, he’s masking a very positive impact in the actions he chooses to pursue, and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so.



  5. What an exceptional, balanced person. Certainly, I learn from his example. The idea of seeing opportunity instead of demonizing, of building communication rather than exchanging barbs, of teaching as a means of change . . . these are remarkable acts and worthy of emulation. Possibly he’s had a whole lot more challenge and thus practice in dealing, but his example stands. Thanks for bringing him to our attention, and for the links to learn more. I always learn from you — not just content-wise, but how beautiful sentences are put together! Thank you, Annie. Keep ’em coming!


    1. Denise,

      You have a talent for synthesizing, and I think you’ve certainly captured some traits that are the essence of Doug Glanville.

      And, of course, I deeply appreciate your vote of confidence and encouragement–especially as you know how much I admire your writerly gifts!



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