A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Obama and Why He Can't Win

A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Obama and Why He Can't Win

2.7 10
by Shelby Steele, Richard Allen
     
 

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From the New York Times bestselling and controversial author Shelby Steele comes an illuminating examination of the complex racial issues that confront presidential candidate Barack Obama in his race for the White House, a quest that will be one of those galvanizing occasions that forces a national dialogue on the current state of race relations in

Overview

From the New York Times bestselling and controversial author Shelby Steele comes an illuminating examination of the complex racial issues that confront presidential candidate Barack Obama in his race for the White House, a quest that will be one of those galvanizing occasions that forces a national dialogue on the current state of race relations in America.

Steele argues that Senator Obama is caught between two classic postures that blacks have always used to make their way in the white American mainstream: bargaining and challenging. Bargainers strike a "bargain" with white America in which they say, "I will not rub America's ugly history of racism in your face if you will not hold my race against me." Bill Cosby's sitcom in the 1980s was the classic example of bargaining. Obama also sends "bargaining" signals to white America, and whites respond with considerable gratitude—which explains the special aura of excitement that surrounds him.

But in order to garner the black vote—which is absolutely necessary for victory in the primaries and the general election—Obama must also posture as a challenger. Challengers are the opposite of bargainers. They charge whites with inherent racism and then demand that they prove themselves innocent by supporting black-friendly policies, such as affirmative action. If whites go along with this—thereby proving their innocence—they are granted absolution by the black challenger.

The current black American identity is grounded in challenging. Obama must therefore posture as a challenger to win the black vote. However, challenging threatens Obama's white support. But bargaining threatens his black support. Thus, he is bound. He walks in an impossible political territory where any expression of what he truly feels puts him in jeopardy with one much-needed constituency or another. Only a kind of two-sided political mask, or an "above politics" posture, keeps the wolves at bay.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Full of fresh insights into the cultural politics of race" —Publishers Weekly
Library Journal

This book attempts to examine the role of race in the current political presidential run but fails miserably. Steele (White Guilt) is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University, so the book carries a clear bias. The child of a mixed-race marriage, like U.S. Senator Barack Obama himself, he mentions early on the damage he believes has been caused by affirmative action. The author's assumption that black and white Americans both like Obama because of an inherent "agreement" that he will not bring up America's tortured, racist past if we will not hold his race against him is ludicrous and ignores the 15-year gap in their ages; times have indeed changed. He does make one interesting point a few times when he talks about Bill Cosby and how The Cosby Show's popularity perpetuated this "agreement." Had Steele left Obama out of his argument and focused extensively on the history of being black in America, this audiobook would have been an interesting listen. Reader Richard Allen does a marvelous job with the limited material; his voice is the only redeeming feature about this mess of a book. Not recommended. [Steele won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in 1990 for The Content of Our Character; Bound Man is also available as downloadable audio.-Ed.]
—Jesse M. Light

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400106035
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
02/01/2008
Edition description:
Unabridged, 3 CDs, 3 hrs. 30 min.
Product dimensions:
6.45(w) x 5.51(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Full of fresh insights into the cultural politics of race” —-Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author

Richard Allen is a five-time Audie-nominated narrator whose work has been acknowledged on the Best Audiobooks Lists for Audiofile and Library Journal.

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Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win 2.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The challenges Obama faced as outlined by the author, while indeed are true (we've all heard "oh he's not really black" or "he's not like the other ones" or worse yet "he's not black enough") are clearly able to be overcome as evidenced by Obama's landslide victory. Not to mention the success of balck people everywhere. Those very challenges need to be acknowledged, but can never be used by black people as a reason NOT to strive and achieve the previoulsy "un-achievable" in mainstream society.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
well obviously he won the election so......................your book is about what again?...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes we can ! Yes he did! We can't change what happened...it was terrible. Stop looking back...look and move forward with a know ledge of the past. Seems to me that you are BOUND by the past.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having just seen/heard the author describe his thinking in this book on NPR, and answer a variety of questions from Cody's Book Store in Berkley, I was somewhat amused by a reviewer who does not understand what the author is saying and somehow confuses psychoanalysis with sociological analysis. Clearly, the title's use of the word 'bound' reflects the authors concept of the two 'masks' heretofore required (either one or the other) for African Americans to succeed in this society. This is a sociological construct reminiscent of Goffman's book 'Asylums.' The reader who cavalierly dismisses this book or reads it through his or her own perceptual mask, misses the point of the book and an opportunity to engage in an intellectual diaglogue on the politics of substantive change.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very convoluted, more on the guilt put upon the white race rather on the whys and wherefores of Obama getting elected as the title indicates. Nothing new, not worth the price.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hey
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book reminds me of my favorite Chinese proverb: 'The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.' The mere fact that so many people are trying to stop him, lends credence to the notion that he can and will win. He is on his way as we speak!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I won't even buy the book based on the title alone. This author is the exact type of person the world needs less of. Dream Killers I call them. He tries to justify it with some weak psychoanalysis. If he truly believes his own words then he should just keep it to himself. Speaking words of defeat doesn't help anyone. Black, white, red or brown. What good does it do? So he can say 'I told you so' after the elections. Like I said all words aren't helpful to society and this is a perfect example.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Steele is a school trained English teacher attempting to apply the bad psychoanalysis he concocted in his first two books. Steele does not break new ground.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Obama CAN win this election. I've had enough of people saying he can't win because he's black. Call me an optimist, but I believe we have come a long way in this country and people will rise up behind Obama and push him to the top. There are still problems, of course, with the divison of the races and the imbalance between rich and poor. But his success is already happening! To say he 'can't win' is ridiculous and I don't believe it for a second. OBAMA '08! YES WE CAN!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shelby Steele's interesting book about Obama being 'bound' seems to overlook the fact that people of goodwill typically see several sides 'or both sides' to an issue. I have no problem if Obama can see the innocence 'as Steele calls it' of whites without racial prejudice at the same time he can see the burden of history of white supremacy. Both are at work in American society. I will have no problem if Obama addresses the issue of race in America in both ways. I think many of all races see both sides to this issue.