New Book Announcement – Input Desired

Hello all, just wanted to announce my newest book project, for which I would love to have any input that racismreview readers would like to share. City Lights has agreed to publish a long-form essay (probably about 125 pages or so), in Spring 2009, entitled “Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and Whiteness in the Age of Obama.” As you can see from the title, it will address the impact of the Obama candidacy on our national understanding (or misunderstanding) of racism and whiteness as related phenomena. It will likely be the first treatment of the subject post-election to be released, and so I am trying to hard to make sure I cover all the bases. As such, please feel free to send me things you think are important to consider, angles to explore, points that you feel MUST be made in such a book. Of course, much of the material on racismreview will be referenced, but other input is greatly appreciated. I am well into the writing of it by now, and have a very quick deadline (September 1), but any input you all might have is appreciated. You can reach me at Thanks.

Tim Wise


  1. brazilian

    I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be interesting to compare the Obama-era with racial politics in Brazil. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about Brazil, but I think that there is some common themes there that can be explored, though I can’t articulate it quite yet. Some themes I obseved: race blindness; race mixture (and what it means to be “black” or “white”); whether to talk about race or to “move beyond” it; of race-class intersections; fears associated with “dangerous blacks” etc. I don’t know if you want to go comparative, but if you did that would be something interesting to explore.

  2. Awesome idea for a book, Tim, and congratulations on stimulating the interests of City Lights in it.

    I write a blog on whiteness (Stuff White People Do), and I’ve written on Obama (and Clinton) in that regard–those posts might be of interest:

    overlook barack obama’s whiteness

    overlook hillary clinton’s whiteness

    Is Hillary Clinton a White Supremacist?

    prefer hillary clinton because she’s white?

    And a post I rather regret, written in the glow of Obama’s electoral victory, but for what it may be worth:

    get used to blackness

    Finally, you’ve probably seen Paul Street’s article at Znet, but if not, it’s good:

    Because He’s Black: Race, the Ruling Class, the Left, and Obama

    Best of luck with your project, which I’m really looking forward to. And thanks more generally for the fantastic and inspiring work you do.

  3. Seattle in Texas

    Something important to address might simply be the racial and racist rhetoric used to discuss and most often criticize Obama from different standpoints. Is he not “biracial”? (maybe I am getting at what macon above is addressing in a way too, I’m not quite sure) But Obama is what ever the owners of the conversations make him out to be—which is usually framed in racial and/or racist binary terms and language. It’s a serious dilemma. Only recently has “biracial” and “multiracial” scholarship begun and the implications associated with having parents of different lineage, etc. Obama’s situation reminds me of what a friend said several years back who had a white mother and black father: “I’m not white enough to be white or black enough to be black.” That is, he was rejected by black communities because of his white mother and rejected by white communities because of his skin color and hair texture, etc. (This is in a liberal/colorblind world of course) He was raised by his white mother and relatives and even had more exposure to white folks and white communities, yet somehow that was always irrelevant because “he was black.” If assumed to be identifying with the white community (because of the music he was listening to for example) he was charged of “trying to act white”, if he was listening to rap then he was “trying to act black”—the concept of identity for him was his core conundrum. In all reality he just liked what he liked and his tastes ranged across the board—but “who” he was, was always decided by those he was immediately surrounded by and/or how those governing his immediate surroundings and situations socially constructed him. I see such similarities with Obama.

    The other thing that might be discussed is the reaction of African American communities who do not wish for Obama to do black/white politics and because he has not done so, they are heavy supporters (this has been largely the position of the active African American folks involved with the Obama campaign down here). From what I can tell, if he does go into black/white politics, he will lose significant support from both the black and white communities. This does not mean that those supporters will then automatically vote for McCain. What it does mean I think, is that they will be less likely to vote in November (which would serve to benefit McCain). That fact and reality is, regardless of how we look at it—if he goes into hitting hard on African American issues he will lose because this nation is far too racist all the way around.

    So I think it might be worthwhile to address biracial and multicultural issues related to Obama and” biracism” (? the denial of the other half/portion(s) of what makes a person whole? Whether it be psychologically, socially, ancestrally, etc. through pigeonholing him into the linguistic and inherently racist biological framework that reinforces race as biological rather than social constructs that result in real disparities between people because of nominally based physical features), and addressing the strong support he is getting from folks in all communities because he is not doing black/white politics. However, growing up in the so-called “colorblind” world, I am well aware of the consequences of the flip side of the coin of which Obama is operating through–yet understand why he is doing so….

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