After catching a little bit of a brief TV interview with Tim Wise, author, speaker and educator on racism in America, I decided to read his book, “Between Barack and A Hard Place: Racism and White Denial In The Age of Obama.”  It’s not a big book (approximately 159 pages with the endnotes), but the pages are filled with revelations about racism in America – past, present and probably future.  Racism rears its ugly head in every arena: the judicial system, politics, employment, housing, stores, restaurants, health-care, education, etc.  Mr. Wise points out in the preface that he does not use the word race or black or white or persons of color as scientific concepts but uses them in a social sense, having “been given meaning in the laws and customs of a society.” 

He dispels the notion that racism was eradicated with the election of a black president, a notion expounded by many Americans.  He states: “For while the individual success of persons of color, as with Obama, is meaningful … the larger systemic and institutional realities of life in America suggest the ongoing salience of a deep-seated cultural malady – racism – which has been neither eradicated nor even substantially diminished by Obama’s victory.”

 Mr. Wise suggests that racism may, in fact, have gotten worse and just assumed additional forms.  One form of racism that has existed for ages is to consider a member of a group to be acceptable by making that member an “exception to the rule” (that is, “not like the others”).  This allows the racist (and sometimes the exception-to-the-rule member) to justify the continued discrimination against the member’s group.  There is no doubt that President Obama is an exceptional person, but please note that I said he is an exceptional person, not an exceptional black person.  His intelligence surpasses that of most people regardless of race. But, as it has been pointed out many times, Mr. Obama would not have become President Obama had he not been seen as an exceptional or exception-to-the-rule person.

Rev. George Woodards in a letter to the RoundTable (Aug. 18 issue) wrote: “…man’s inhumanity to man…from a historical viewpoint, points to people’s inability to value others as equal to themselves.” 

And therein lies the rub.  Racism.  Still hard.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...