Hope Draped in Black: Race, Melancholy, and the Agony of Progress
The conclusion to Hope Draped in Black uses Du Bois’s later reflections on the enduring “relevance of the color-line” to think about contemporary events and conditions. In the preface to the fiftieth anniversary of Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois makes a strong connection between race and material inequality. He also suggests that, under prevailing circumstances, race continues to be used to justify war, military invasions, and so forth. Du Bois indicates how race always points beyond itself to other kinds of struggles, conditions, and experiences. To exemplify what I mean, I look at several examples. I examine, for instance, the anxieties around Obama’s citizenship and supposed links to Islam. I show how anti-Arab and anti-Muslim resentment constitute a “displaced” form of anti-black racism. The language of progress obscures how Obama’s ascendancy required him to disassociate his campaign from Muslims I also interrogate different conversations around Trayvon Martin’s death. I argue that both supporters and critics of George Zimmerman’s actions respond to Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal by clinging to familiar tropes and narratives associated with progress (tropes that diminish the tragic, yet normalized, quality of black death). I conclude by demonstrating how the analysis in the book offers three basic contributions to discussions around race, democracy, religion, and progress: the ambivalence of recognition, the ethics of remembering against the grain, and a playful sense of the tragic quality of life and human existence.