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Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama Paperback – January, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
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Review

"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."—Publishers Weekly

"Wise fully delivers (by merging scholarship with politically engaged criticism in a short and accessibly written manner)…this book is forceful, relentless, and convincing."—Journal of Higher Education

"From income and jobs, housing, education, criminal justice, and healthcare, Wise masterfully demonstrates the continuing disparities between black and white America. He notes the absence of these issues in the Obama-Biden campaign or the attempt to read structural inequalities through a race-free lens called CLASS. At every step, Wise absolves the Obama campaign of responsibility for their less than candid approach to racial issues, saying that campaign strategists confronted the reality of white racism by side-stepping the issue…Wise's book provides welcome relief to the obnoxious self-congratulation that followed Obama's election to the presidency."—Jillian McLaughlin, Kosmopolitan

"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…A post-racial United States is an imagined country."—Adam Bradley, The Washington Post

"Tim Wise, a long-time anti-racist activist, has just finished a very timely book that warns against becoming comfortable with racism while we are distracted by Obama's election. Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama continues the excellent work around the issue of [w]hite [p]rivilege that Wise has pounded home in his books, articles, and public talks across the country."—Jeff Smith, Media Mouse


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 159 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers; 58679th edition (January 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872865002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872865006
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Wise's several internet essays after the great triumph of hope (Obama's election) last November left me a little worried about him. He seemed a little too caught up in the irrational exuberance of the period as he denounced left wing gadflies who were, in his opinion, spoiling the joy of the moment by continuing to denounce Obama as a pro-corporate militarist front. But in spite of the understandable celebration of having the first black president, there is the inescapable fact that Obama's policies, stripped of the veneer of pretty rhetoric, are hardly different than his Democratic presidential predecessors. In his short time in office, while doing a few small good things, he has already shown his commitment to the fundamentals of the military industrial complex and the re-empowerment of Wall Street speculators. I'm glad that Mr. Wise, as this book demonstrates, has managed to retain a level head regarding Obama, in spite of those post-election essays.

Quoting sources like academic studies and Department of Justice reports, Wise shows that racism is still a serious problem in this society. Black and brown people are 25 percent of the drug users in this country but make up 90 percent of those in prison for drug possession. White people are 70 percent of the drug users yet are only ten percent of the persons in prison for such a crime. A 2001 report from the Department of Justice found that black women were 9 times more likely than white women to be stopped at airports and searched for contraband but white women were 2 times more likely than black women to actually have drugs on them. More blacks than whites are pulled over by police on suspicion of having contraband but white people are actually more likely to have contraband in these incidents.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an important book for everyone to read. Clearly, racism continues to be a significant problem despite the steps taken forward and the fact that we have a black President for the first time. If anything, the ugly head of racism has come to the surface with the election of Barack Obama, the evidence and ugliness of that can be found in many comment sections across the net. I am not talking about valid disagreement with his policies and such but name calling and attacks on he and his family in a way I have never seen before with any other President. Tim Wise has posed some serious considerations for all people and I think it's an important read. It is not always an easy read but it does make you consider many truths, I highly recommend it.
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The author is someone who will say what is real and is willing to not hold anything back!! If you want to understand racism and why it is important when we have an african american president, then read this book!!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Tim Wise makes an excellent case for the "white privilege" argument/position. My only real issue is that often in the text, Mr. Wise will use the device of 'discussed later in the book" rather than work more carefully on the constructed organization and design of his argument and narrative. This mention-delay device gets a bit tiresome and is quite over-used. That said, the arguments are sound and very helpful to challenge the reader's thinking about the issues of racism and privilege. It is a bit outdated as it was completed at the beginning of President Obama's presidency and doesn't have the huge amount of the post-Obama drama and detail which would definitely add compelling data for the ideas and arguments explored in the text. No matter: I highly recommend this book and I'm inclined, now, to read his later works which will address some of the missed elements in this work.
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I thought that the election of President Obama as president was a great step. But I never saw it as proof that the race problem was cured.. I totally agree with this author and his insight on the election. Another must read.
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I am thoroughly convinced that we have reached a point in American history where racism can only be addressed and, eventually, abolished though the conscious action of White America. Just as women who speak against sexism are labeled weak and accused of whining; blacks who speak against racism are destined to be accused of 'playing the race card'.

Tim Wise constructs two pithy arguments pertaining the "Call for White Responsibility". First, Wise discusses the denial of racism in the current age. Second, Wise discusses the need for white Americans to confront, attack and reverse the impact of white privilege.

People of all races must be wary of the concept of "transcending Blackness". This is the tendency to accept a select segment of the Black population because the defy the current stigmatism of negative stereotypes. Wise examines this phenomenon in detail.

Second, people of all races must admit that the vast majority of white Americans currently living are not to blame for current systems of racism which are in place. However, Wise is calling for Caucasians to acknowledge any benefits that they may receive from the inherited system and work towards truly equalizing the American experience through the abolition of racism.

If I could suggest that every American read a selection of Tim Wise before they attend an American University, I would. Perhaps the world would be a different place.
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