In this interview, City Lights Publicity Director Stacey Lewis talks with Tim Wise about his reasons for writing Between Barack and a Hard Place and how he hopes the nation will respond to the presidency of Barack 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