The paradox of racial inequality in Barack Obama's America
Barack Obama, in his acclaimed campaign speech discussing the troubling complexities of race in America today, quoted William Faulkner's famous remark "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." In Not Even Past, award-winning historian Thomas Sugrue examines the paradox of race in Obama's America and how President Obama intends to deal with it.
Obama's journey to the White House undoubtedly marks a watershed in the history of race in America. Yet even in what is being hailed as the post-civil rights era, racial divisions—particularly between blacks and whites—remain deeply entrenched in American life. Sugrue traces Obama's evolving understanding of race and racial inequality throughout his career, from his early days as a community organizer in Chicago, to his time as an attorney and scholar, to his spectacular rise to power as a charismatic and savvy politician, to his dramatic presidential campaign. Sugrue looks at Obama's place in the contested history of the civil rights struggle; his views about the root causes of black poverty in America; and the incredible challenges confronting his historic presidency.
Does Obama's presidency signal the end of race in American life? In Not Even Past, a leading historian of civil rights, race, and urban America offers a revealing and unflinchingly honest assessment of the culture and politics of race in the age of Obama, and of our prospects for a postracial America.
Distinguished civil rights historian and sociologist Sugrue (Sweet Land of Liberty) follows Barack Obama's intellectual journey and political education from his student years in the late 1970s through his first years as president, offering an insightful and fresh glimpse of Obama through three lenses as intellectual, politician, and policy maker and with three essays. While David Remnick's comprehensive The Bridge bears thematic similarities, Sugrue offers a pithy and readable survey of some of the same terrain the path that "rooted the rootless Hawaiian in the history of the Southern freedom struggle" and the formation of his politics that favored "reconciliation over confrontation." Sugrue addresses Obama's Chicago years and the evolution of his thinking on class. And the final essay assesses Obama as candidate and president. Particularly noteworthy is Sugrue's attention to Obama's post Jeremiah Wright controversy speech in 2008 ("the most learned disquisition on race from a major political figure ever") and a splendid illumination of the roles played by books (particularly the work of William Julius Wilson), by mentors (political and clerical), and by family (especially Michelle Obama's) in Obama's ascent.