Between Barack and a Hard Place

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

Press Reviews


"Wise outlines . . . how racism and white privilege have morphed to fit the modern social landscape. In prose that reads like his lightening rod speeches, he draws from a long list of high-profile campaign examples to define what he calls 'Racism 2.0,' a more insidious form of racism that actually allows for and celebrates the achievements of individual people of color because they're seen as the exceptions, not the rules."
— Jamilah King

Multicultural Review

"This book makes an intriguing argument and is packed with insight. Wise clearly explains the complexity of institutional racism in contemporary society. He continuously reminds the reader that Obama's victory may signal the entrenchment of a more complicated, subtle, and insidious form of racism. The jury is still out." —Jeff Torlina

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."

"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

The Washington Post

"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

Media Mouse

"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