Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama

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Overview

Race is, and always has been, an explosive issue in the United States. In this timely new book, Tim Wise explores how Barack Obama’s emergence as a political force is taking the race debate to new levels. According to Wise, for many white people, Obama’s rise signifies the end of racism as a pervasive social force; they point to Obama not only as a validation of the American ideology that anyone can make it if they work hard, but also as an example of how institutional barriers against people of color have all ...

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Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama

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Overview

Race is, and always has been, an explosive issue in the United States. In this timely new book, Tim Wise explores how Barack Obama’s emergence as a political force is taking the race debate to new levels. According to Wise, for many white people, Obama’s rise signifies the end of racism as a pervasive social force; they point to Obama not only as a validation of the American ideology that anyone can make it if they work hard, but also as an example of how institutional barriers against people of color have all but vanished. But is this true? And does a reinforced white belief in color-blind meritocracy potentially make it harder to address ongoing institutional racism? After all, in housing, employment, the justice system, and education, the evidence is clear: white privilege and discrimination against people of color are still operative and actively thwarting opportunities, despite the success of individuals like Obama.

Is black success making it harder for whites to see the problem of racism, thereby further straining race relations, or will it challenge anti-black stereotypes to such an extent that racism will diminish and race relations improve? Will blacks in power continue to be seen as an “exception” in white eyes? Is Obama “acceptable” because he seems “different from most blacks,” who are still viewed too often as the dangerous and inferior “other”?

Tim Wise is among the most prominent antiracist writers and activists in the US and has appeared on ABC's 20/20 and MSNBC Live. His previous books include Speaking Treason Fluently and White Like Me.

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Editorial Reviews

Adam Bradley
The punning title of his book, Between Barack and a Hard Place, belies the sobering material within. Wise paints a stark picture of racial inequality in the United States today…Wise's short book reads like an old-school polemic: Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" for the 21st century.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Wise, a white anti-racism activist and scholar (and author of White Like Me), pushes plenty of buttons in this methodical breakdown of racism's place in the wake of Barack Obama's victory. In the first of two essays, the author obliterates the canard of the US as a post-racial society; bigotry and insititutionalized discrimination, he contends, have simply morphed into "Racism 2.0," in which successful minorities are celebrated "as having 'transcended' their blackness in some way." While racial disparities in employment and income, housing, education and other areas persist, Obama has become an amiable sitcom dad like Bill Cosby, putting whites at ease by speaking, looking and acting "a certain way"-not to mention avoiding discussion of race. In his second, more incendiary essay, Wise concludes that whites must take responsibility for racism. What the majority of whites fail to grasp, he says, is that they continue to benefit from a system of "entrenched privileges" centuries in the making, and that racism remains a serious obstacle for millions of African Americans. There's no sugar coating here for whites, nor are there any news flashes for Americans of color, but Wise bravely enumerates the unpalatable truths of a nation still struggling to understand its legacy of racist oppression.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872865006
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 2/1/2009
  • Series: City Lights Open Media Series
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 278,027
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Wise was the 2008 Oliver L. Brown Distinguished Visiting Scholar for Diversity Issues at Washburn University. Wise tours constantly and delivers dozens of lectures each year. He is regularly sought for interviews and has been on 20/20, Paula Zahn, NOW with Bill Moyers, MSNBC, and Donahue. His previous books include Between Barack and a Hard Place and White Like Me.
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Table of Contents

Preface 7

Barack Obama, White Denial and the Reality of Racism 17

The Audacity of Truth: A Call for White Responsibility 111

Endnotes 150

About the Author 160

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Customer Reviews

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( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2009

    Eh!

    Read this book in one sitting. Found it to be informative, but did not like how this book portrayed whites as flawless humans. I did not like this authors writing style. Too wordy !

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2009

    Can We Deny Racism Any Longer?

    This book is definitely relevant at this time in our country's history. The postulation of Racism 2.0 is marvelous. The majority of my White, well-educated friends have denied the existence of this racism for years. If we deny that racism is a current problem, than we do not have to deal with this volatile issue. To make a point, Chris Rock, Black comedian, in his latest HBO special, stated: "No matter how successful I am, extremely few White people would want to change places with me." I am amazed how racist stereotyping has creeped into my consciousness and perceptions of people of color. It is through reading and listening to people like Tim Wise, that I can gain self-awareness of how I perceive persons of color. This book is a must read for all of us who call ourselves Christians to make sure we are truly treating others as they really are. awareatlast

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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