Synopses & Reviews
Timely—as the 2012 presidential election nears—and controversial, here is the first book by a major African-American public intellectual on racial politics and the Obama presidency.
Renowned for his cool reason vis-à-vis the pitfalls and clichés of racial discourse, Randall Kennedy—Harvard professor of law and author of the New York Times best seller Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word—gives us a keen and shrewd analysis of the complex relationship between the first black president and his African-American constituency.
Kennedy tackles such hot-button issues as the nature of racial opposition to Obama, whether Obama has a singular responsibility to African Americans, electoral politics and cultural chauvinism, black patriotism, the differences in Obama’s presentation of himself to blacks and to whites, the challenges posed by the dream of a postracial society, and the far-from-simple symbolism of Obama as a leader of the Joshua generation in a country that has elected only three black senators and two black governors in its entire history.
Eschewing the critical excesses of both the left and the right, Kennedy offers a gimlet-eyed view of Obama’s triumphs and travails, his strengths and weaknesses, as they pertain to the troubled history of race in America.
"Harvard law professor Kennedy (Sellout) turns his kaleidoscopic perspective on race in American life upon an engrossing and nuanced analysis of 'the racial issues that have surrounded Obama's election and presidency.' Kennedy balances his admiration for Obama's achievement with an awareness that the president is 'a professional politician first and last.' He looks at Obama's courtship of black voters and white voters as a 'tightrope' requiring that he be 'black enough to arouse the communal pride and support of African Americans but not Ã¢Â€Â˜too black' to be accepted by whites and others.' Challenging knee-jerk responses from the left, right, center, and fringe to media tempests (e.g., Henry Louis Gates's arrest, the Shirley Sherrod 'debacle,' the 'attacks' on Sonia Sotomayor), he manages to look beyond race without overlooking race, placing events in a historical political context. Distinguishing 'racial from nonracial criticism,' he finds, surprisingly, 'considerably less racial misconduct in 2008 than much of the election commentary has contended.' Kennedy's own tightrope to walk is his view that Obama avoids confronting race and his recognition of 'the symbolic power of example.' That he does so successfully makes his account both provocative and informative, arguable and absorbing. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is the author of Race, Crime, and the Law, a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption; Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word; and Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal. He lives in Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
1. The Obama Inaugural
2. Obama Courts Black America
3. Obama and White America: “Why Can’t They All Be Like Him?”
4. The Race Card in the Campaign of 2008
5. Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism
6. The Racial Politics of the Sotomayor Confi rmation
7. Addressing Race “the Obama Way”
8. Obama and the Future of American Race Relations