In This Review

Not in Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics
Not in Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics
By Michael C. Dawson
University Of Chicago Press, 2011, 232 pp

Many observers hailed President Barack Obama’s election as the inauguration of a postracial age in American politics. Formidably well grounded in American political and intellectual history, and brandishing great sheaves of public opinion studies, Dawson disagrees with this hopeful consensus. In particular, he shows that African American and white communities often evaluate the same events in different ways. Ideas considered respectable and interesting, if not uncontroversial, among blacks often seem extreme and eccentric to whites. Although most black clergy, for example, disagree with the Afrocentric theology of Obama’s former minister, the now-infamous Jeremiah Wright, they see his views as part of a range of discourse that makes significant contributions to black intellectual and spiritual life. Blacks and whites viewed Hurricane Katrina differently, Dawson shows, with many blacks believing that racism explained the failed government response to the catastrophe and whites less willing to interpret it that way. Although Obama’s election made both blacks and whites more optimistic about the future of race relations, Dawson argues convincingly that the road to a truly postracial society remains arduous and long.