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The introduction to Hope Draped in Black suggests that the postracial rhetoric around Barack Obama’s ascendancy exemplifies well-entrenched attachments to progress and redemption. By providing a reading of McCain’s 2008 concession speech and Obama’s response to the George Zimmerman verdict, this chapter show how a certain logic of progress operates on both sides of the political and ideological spectrum. While the image of racial progress is seductive, the introduction argues that it too often undermines our capacity to remember and contemplate the violence that is both justified and denied by forward-marching histories and projects. Not only does the rhetoric of progress produce and justify racial hierarchies (between the more and less advanced); it also enables us to forget or downplay the violence that progress requires and enacts. In opposition to progress, the introduction draws from the recent literature on melancholy and mourning, literature that examines the political implications of vulnerability and the recognition of historical losses. Critically engaging the discourses on melancholy, the introduction highlights black literature, music, and film as practices that put forth conceptions of hope and futurity, tethered to melancholy, vulnerability, and tension-filled memories. This introduction also puts forward the strange-bedfellow approach, specifically the book’s endeavor to juxtapose black intellectual thought (Du Bois, Ellison, Morrison) and Frankfurt-school-style critical theory (Adorno, Benjamin).

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References

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