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

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  441 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
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 Americ ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published February 1st 2009 by City Lights Publishers
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May 10, 2010 Sharon rated it it was amazing
This brief book (two essays) is something I would recommend to any reader who wishes to understand issues of racism in today's world. One need only look at the badly spelled signs at "Tea Party" rallies and Arizona's SB 1070 to know that racism is, unfortunately, alive and well in the USA even as some pundits argue that President Obama's election proved its demise.

Tim Wise examines racism (an institutionalized matter) and bigotry (an individualized matter) not only from historical attitudes but
City Lights Booksellers & Publishers
"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

"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 i
Jan 01, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I was quite happy when this book popped up on my paperbackswap wish list. I started reading it fairly soon after receiving it in the mail, stealing a few minutes here and there to read, often on the walk to work. Then, the train trip to Kalamazoo (for our fall OMA meeting) afforded me the chance to plunge through the rest of the book, fighting back tears in the Kalamazoo train station as I waited for Debbie to pick me up, as I read about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and finished the book.

Jul 01, 2009 Tracy rated it it was amazing
I've been so frustrated with all the talk about how we're now in a "post-racial" era. This little volume puts to words what I've been feeling about that, and in a much better way than I ever could. It packs so much into such a little book, that I can only skim the surface here.

Wise provides excellent analysis of where we've been and where we are with regard to racism in the U.S. He focuses on a concept of "enlightened exceptionalism," in which white people will accept people of color if they ar
Dave B.
Feb 22, 2012 Dave B. rated it liked it
I give this book 3 stars it was pretty good. Mr. Wise sparked several questions and thoughts about Barack Obama’s presidential victory compared to the state of race relations in America. The author wrote a short book, I was able to read in one sitting. I enjoyed both essays contained in its 150 pages. The first “Barack Obama, white denial and the reality of racism” asked the question: If we have an elected African American president then can we consider racism and outdated idea? Did America move ...more
Theophilus (Theo)
May 28, 2010 Theophilus (Theo) rated it really liked it
Tim Wise "gets it". He not only recognizes there are more than one point of view of the United States, but that those points of view create several different realities of life in the United States of America. These different realities are parallel universes and all is not well in all of them. Barack Obama's election to the highest office in the nation does not signify the end of racism and its associated ills in the United States, but rather may be used by some to postpone facing and slaying the ...more
Sep 22, 2009 Beth rated it really liked it
Wise strikes a good balance between arguing for the progress that was made by the Obama campaign and by his election and arguing that one of the main reasons he was elected was not because we live in so-called postracial America but because the majority of Americans have moved beyond racism 1.0 to racism 2.0. He clearly describes the classic "But I don't think of you as black" phenomenon that so many well-intentioned but cluess white people think if not say. Smart analysis and a powerful call to ...more
Mar 24, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it
Another great piece from Tim Wise. For anyone who thought we were entering "a post-racial era" with Obama's presidential victory, or celebrated the idea that the man had "transcended race," this book is essential reading to explore the troubling thought process behind those inaccurate assertions. Systemic racism is not eradicated by the election of one black man to the US presidency - it is merely one of many signs of progress that we should celebrate with caution, lest Obama become a yardstick ...more
Keri B.
May 07, 2016 Keri B. rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wise is a wonderful thinker and a decent writer. He truly challenges me to address how to be an ally and to confront modern America as it is for folks of color and how it is for white people like me. How DIFFERENT it is.

This is a quick two essays. I think he makes a critical error a couple of times in terms of feminism and women's experiences. He supposes that Clinton in victory would not have been used to signal the end of sexism the way Obama has been (mis)used to signal the end if racism. I
Jacqueline Masumian
Apr 20, 2016 Jacqueline Masumian rated it it was amazing
White denial about racism in America - serious white denial - is the theme of this book. Outlining white people's lack of true understanding of the obstacles that black Americans still face on a daily basis, these two essays put to rest any thoughts we may have that since Obama's election in 2008 we are living in a post-racial world. Clearly, as Wise demonstrates, we are far from true equality in America in spite of Obama's stunning victory. The narrative leads whites out of their comfort zone a ...more
Michael Mena
Nov 20, 2014 Michael Mena rated it liked it
This is the second book by Tim Wise that I have read. I liked his "white like me" book much better, however, the format of this book is very accessible - it's short and smart. It is presented in two chapters/essays on the effects of electing Obama. The reason I find Tim Wise valuable is that he is white and has a unique access to the minds of white people, as he accurately states, whites don't like to listen or believe angry minority voices. Interestingly, this book can also be valuable to minor ...more
Apr 20, 2009 Raphael rated it it was amazing
fresh off the heals of the 10th annual white privilege conference in memphis a couple weeks ago, i just picked up tim wise's latest, an assessment of what obama's election does, and more pressingly, does not tell us about race and racism in america. still in the early pages, this text'll be familiar to anyone who's heard tim speak in the last six months (certainly if you peeped his keynote at the aforementioned conference), where he warns of a sleeker, more polished, 'enlightened exceptionalism' ...more
May 08, 2012 Carly rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
After reading Wise's White Like Me, I was unsure that I wanted to read another of his books, but I am glad that I did. This book is the combination of two essays on race in America, particularly related to the 2008 election of our first person of color to the office of the President.

This was a good read, and quick and easy. I leave you with one quote to ponder:

"Confrontin racism is white folks' responsibility because even though we, in the present, are not to blame for the system we have inheri
Deb Christenson
Sep 20, 2009 Deb Christenson rated it it was ok
Tim Wise is a leading proponent/educator regarding white privilege and understanding that whites have a key role in next steps toward understanding the role race plays in ALL our lives--not just for African Americans or other people of color. This short text came out of speeches that he gave during the last election, leading up to the historic election of the first person of color, Barack Obama, to become President. His texts often read like speeches, pedantic, and this is no exception. But his ...more
May 31, 2010 Anahlise rated it really liked it
It was very informative. Being a white American and growing up in towns where you see about five black people a month I am not at all familiar with racial issues. It helped to understand it from a perspective i hadn't heard of. It was provoking and like Wise said "However unsettling such provocation may prove to be, let us remember that provocation is often what is needed in order to shake the complacency from the minds of the masses, not that anyone appreciates being shaken in such a manner."(1 ...more
Nov 18, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
Tim Wise repeats much of his message of white privilege from previous works but adds some very timely and relevant material to the mix. Wise reiterates the prevalence of institutionalized racism, Racism 2.0 - and calls upon others to recognize their privilege within the system. I've used exerts of this page in teaching Cultural Diversity to undergraduates. Students deconstruct Wise's claims and discuss the implications of white privilege in a so-called 'post-racial' era. Wise does add interestin ...more
Oct 02, 2012 Danielle rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in politics or racism, and all white people.
I read this book for one of my college classes: "Race in the Age of Obama." It is definitely an enlightening read. Wise is a good writer for a good cause. However, towards the end he starts to get a little preachy. Good message, but bad way to say it. He gets a little exaggerated in my opinion. But, nonetheless, good book, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be enlightened and think of things in a new light.
Interesting read. A touch repetitive. Did not always follow how he reached his conclusions. I think some of his conclusions lacked support. There were some weak, straw man assumptions. However, I also think he is absolutely correct in his observations and opinions. This book was written quickly after Obama's election in 2008 and it shows. There is a lot of meat here for a good, meaningful book on the subject, however, this book is a bit light.
Mar 29, 2010 Zachariah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
This is a powerful book. It is small and short. I highly recommend it. Tim Wise lays out racism 2.0. Racism 2.0 is the current oppressor of minorities. It is not often not blatant; it rides on the privilege of the dominant group (i.e. Whites).

I was introduced to this (as well as issues of sexism and classism) in Soc 101, but this was a great follow up.

P.S. I watched a ten minute video of Wise on youtube. He's a great rhetor. Check him out.
Written on the eve of Obama's inauguration, but even more poignant on the eve of his possible reelection. What interests me most is that it is utterly timeless as far as United Statesian ("American") racism goes. The main point is that despite a facade of tolerance, and a strong desire to see ourselves as post-racial, we need to re-examine our thoughts/behavior lest we inadvertently recreate, repeat or accept and reproduce White Supremacism.
Dec 20, 2013 Drick rated it really liked it
Tim Wise offer his analysis thru the lens of white racism, the 2008 election of Barack Obama. In the book he clearly shows how Obama's election as a black man "comfortable" enough for whites to vote for him reveals that even in electing a black president the U.S. political system is still controlled by white power.

He then has a second essay on what whites must if they are to be true allies for racial justice.
May 24, 2009 Sandy rated it really liked it
This was a very thought provoking book about the denial by whites of continuing racism in America, and why Obama downplayed race in the election. Lots of good examples used of current anti-race policies and myths and beliefs that are perpetuated. Made me wonder how Paolo and Sorell feel about life in the US. Not that Canada is probably any more virtuous.
Mar 31, 2010 kat rated it really liked it
a great analysis of racism 2.0 and how obama has but hasn't changed the discourse on race or diminished the power of white hegemony. tim wise is a great and articulate writer and speaker and activist on whiteness and why unity that confronts hegemony is needed in so many ways.

this book is short (149 pp!) and small and an easy read on not easy matters.
Jul 13, 2010 Ariah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
This is a short (140 pages) book packed full of clear arguments and plenty of facts, statistics and research, about the state of race and racism in the United States. Wise juxtaposes much of what he discusses against the backdrop of Obama's election.
It's slightly academic in tone, but very readable and the cold hard facts that fill the pages are stunning. Definitely worth a read.
May 19, 2013 Dharma rated it it was amazing
Critically researched, current, and wide ranging while focused. Wise's coverage of the 2008 election process is fascinating.

It would be interesting to see Wise's take on the Obama's presidency and re-election.

Highly recommended to anyone.
Aug 10, 2010 Shawn rated it it was amazing
Great book for anyone wanting to recognize and understand white privilege in order to become an ally for people of color. TIm Wise takes color blind proponents to task. If you haven't heard him speak look him up on U-Yube or his blog.
Mary Gail O'Dea
Oct 02, 2010 Mary Gail O'Dea rated it really liked it
Written after the election but before the administration began, Wise predicts that the notion of a post-racial America was nonsense. The virulence of renewed white fear and concomitant rage towards non-whites has exceeded even Wise's written expectations. Short, a good read.
May 25, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing
A great non academic, publicly accessible companion to Bonilla-Silva's Racism without Racist. Highlighting that fact that the election of President Obama doesn't end racism but transforms it, and potentially intensifies it.
Aug 15, 2010 Laura rated it did not like it
I gave up on this book about half way through. It didn't seem to tell me anything new, only that white people are okay with individual black people who prove themselves, but not the race as a whole. Not helpful or interesting.
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Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S., and has been called the foremost white anti-racist intellectual in the nation, having spoken in 46 states, and on over 300 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, Cal Tech and the Law Schools at Yale, Columbia, Michigan, and Vanderbilt.

From 1999 to 2003, Wise served as an advisor to the Fisk University Race
More about Tim Wise...

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