Lessie B. Branch confronts the tension between black Americans' economic realities and the hope many felt for the future, looking at survey data alongside the rhetoric of leading black figures, including President Obama. This disparity has caused a dangerous resistance to social activism, as discourses of optimism privilege individual success over the need for collective action. Branch sees the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement as a constructive change in this dynamic. As Americans continue to grapple with complicated questions of race and progress in classrooms, in the media, and in legislatures, this short, provocative book will inform and enrich these important discussions.
"We simply need this book, given the current events that continue to show the rage and despair that shape the lives of descendants of enslaved Africans. Branch's call for counter-storytelling (that pushes against the public narrative of 'the survival of the fittest black individual') is as exciting as the call, in her final pages, for a social movement that makes room for the audacity of black hope and the realism of the current structural, socioeconomic condition of black Americans."—Margo Natalie Crawford, author of Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First-Century Aesthetics
"This interesting, even provocative, book weaves together work from anthropology, philosophy, political science, sociology, and economics in a very impressive way, providing a valuable contribution."—Vincent L. Hutchings, author of Public Opinion and Democratic Accountability
"No other scholarship better explains the paradox of Obama era black optimism in spite of continued black subaltern economic status. Professor Branch clarifies an evolution from a 'linked-fate' political discourse to a 'post-racial/bootstrap' frame that focuses on individualism to achieve racial parity. The implications of her work are essential to anyone interested in the intersections of rhetoric, social movements and political advocacy, especially as it relates to racial equity."—Darrick Hamilton, professor of economics and urban policy at The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy and the Department of Economics at The New School for Social Research