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discussing his new book Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama


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 whites, Obama's rise signifies the end of racism as a pervasive social force; they point to Obama as a validation of the American ideology that anyone can make it if they work hard, and 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 than most blacks," who are still viewed too often as the dangerous and inferior "other?"

All of these possibilities are explored in Between Barack and a Hard Place, by Tim Wise, one of the nation's most prominent antiracist activists and educators and author of the critically-acclaimed memoir, White Like Me.

Praise for Between Barack and a Hard Place:

"From the Civil Rights struggle, to Dr. King's dream, to Barack Obama's election, Tim Wise provides us with an extremely important and timely analysis of the increasing complexity of race on the American political and social landscape. Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama provides an insightful and much needed lens through which we can begin to navigate this current stage in our ongoing quest for a more inclusive definition of who we are as a nation. It's definitely a book for these times!"
—Danny Glover, Actor, Human Rights Activist

"Tim Wise has looked behind the curtain. In Between Barack and a Hard Place he explores the real issues of race in the Obama campaign and incoming presidency, issues that the mainstream media has chosen to ignore. His book debunks any notion that the United States has entered a post-racial period; instead he identifies the problems that emerge in the context of the victory of a black presidential candidate who chose to run an essentially non-racial campaign. With this book, Wise hits the bull's eye."
—Bill Fletcher, Jr., Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com and co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal

Praise for Tim Wise:

"His writing and thinking constitute a bulwark of common sense, and uncommon wisdom, on the subject of race, politics and culture. He is a national treasure." —Michael Eric Dyson

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S., and has been called, "One of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation," by best-selling author and professor Michael Eric Dyson, of Georgetown University. Wise has spoken in 48 states, and on over 400 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, and the Law Schools at Yale and Columbia, and has spoken to community groups around the nation.

Wise is the 2008 Oliver L. Brown Distinguished Visiting Scholar for Diversity Issues at Washburn University, in Topeka, Kansas: an honor named for the lead plaintiff in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. He is the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White. A collection of his essays, Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male, was published in the Fall of 2008.

Tim's Latest Blogs

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Dec.17.2013 - 8:51 am
To be perfectly honest, I find it quite shocking that anyone would be, well, shocked, by Megyn Kelly’s recent insistence on her FOX show that Santa Claus and Jesus are...
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Dec.05.2013 - 11:28 am
I’ve always been wary of those who insisted they were doing something — especially something harsh and perhaps hurtful — for the good of the person who has to bear the potential...
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May.14.2013 - 8:11 am
But what about us? It’s a question of which white folks seem never to tire when discussing subjects like affirmative action, or other diversity initiatives intended to expand...
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Comments from Tim

Jul.26.2010 - 7:02 pm
In response to: Black Power's Gonna Get You Sucka: Right-Wing Paranoia and the Rhetoric of Modern Racism
...these are EX felons...they have served their time and most of the crimes are drug crimes (which blacks do NOT commit...
Jul.06.2010 - 3:39 am
In response to: Of Collateral Damage and Roosting Chickens: Reflections on Racism, the Economy and the High Cost of White Ambivalence
My class based proposals are not really any different from what you might expect. Mostly, I think there can be no class...
May.20.2010 - 11:07 am
In response to: Of Faulty Comparisons and Racial Animosity: Nashville, New Orleans and the Politics of Disaster
...it's important to remember that almost all of the looting that took place in NOLA was of items that were absolute...
May.09.2010 - 7:02 pm
In response to: Racism and the Myth of a "Victim Mentality"
seriously... First to claim that the concept of white privilege is nonsensical, given our nation's history, is...
May.06.2010 - 7:45 am
In response to: Pardon You: Racism, Reparations and the Politics of Blame (as Explained by Henry Louis Gates Jr.)
thanks for being there last night at the speech...hope you like the book. And I hope you don't catch my cold!