Understanding Derrick Bell And Why We Shouldn’t Mock Him

March 8, 2012

It's important to understand what Derrick Bell represents and also avoid a trap when discussing him. No matter what one may think of him, or "The Space Traders," there are important reasons to understand him and react to him with some, dare I say, nuance. There are crucial issues at stake here. Bell represents a thinking that is embraced by most black Americans, a large number of white Americans and also the man in the White House.

Yes, there are reasons why some characterize it as racist, anti-white and antisemitic. But it's not enough to simply say that, we must understand and convey why that is so. Much of the attention is focusing on Bell's tactics. That's precisely what he and the left would want. That is not the problem with Derrick Bell. The problem is his underlying assumptions that have taken broad hold in America. It's why we see the court and governent actions we so often do today in America.

For starters, I'd refer you to an item from Ann Althouse in October, 2011, when Bell died. To simply call a man she acknowledges as "eminent" a loon, or anti-semite, is to hand the left a mallet to bash us as stupid, and or racist. Bell is the racist here. Don't fall into that trap. I'll address that below in more detail.

Goodbye to Derrick Bell.

The eminent law professor has died.

He was a pioneer of critical race theory — a body of legal scholarship that explored how racism is embedded in laws and legal institutions, even those intended to lessen the effects of past injustice. Mr. Bell “set the agenda in many ways for scholarship on race in the academy, not just the legal academy,” said Lani Guinier, the first black woman hired to join the Harvard Law School’s tenured faculty, in an interview on Wednesday….

Much of Mr. Bell’s scholarship rejected dry legal analysis in favor of allegorical stories….

The fact is, Bell and the left have been extremely successful in injecting their strain of thinking into the American mainstream; so much so, it is perhaps even now dominant. We see it as liberal, or progressive thinking. But it's what's beneath it that is so dangerous and wrong-headed. Emphasis mine.

One his best-known parables is “The Space Traders,” which appeared in his 1992 book, “Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism.” In the story, as Mr. Bell later described it, creatures from another planet offer the United States “enough gold to retire the national debt, a magic chemical that will cleanse America’s polluted skies and waters, and a limitless source of safe energy to replace our dwindling reserves” in exchange for one thing: its black population, which would be sent to outer space. The white population accepts the offer by an overwhelming margin…. 

Not everyone welcomed the move to narrative and allegory in legal scholarship. In 1997, Richard Posner, the conservative law professor and appeals court judge, wrote in The New Republic that “by repudiating reasoned argumentation,” storytellers like Mr. Bell “reinforce stereotypes about the intellectual capacities of nonwhites."

That Bell and the left used parable, or allegory to inject a dangerous mindset into American law and culture was a stroke of genius. One can't argue otherwise, as it's been so effective. But that's not what's dangerous about Bell and Obama. What is dangerous is the underlying assumption upon which their thinking is based. That is, all peoples are driven by self-interest, including as groups, or races. Consequently, American whites – and American Jews – are by definition racist and no amount of reason, or logic can ever change that. Because blacks are a minority, Bell holds that they are at critical disadvantage and an Obama in the White House is the only way to combat that by compelling Americans to act in a certain manner through law and regulation.

In Bells' eyes – and, I'd argue, Obama's, all white Americans, including Jews, are inherently racist and will only care, help or do anything about blacks when it is in their own self-interest as whites to do so, or when compelled by government. So, when people call Bell racist (anti-white) or antisemitic, they are doing it because of the way Bell addresses and judges them as a group. That's also what makes Bell precisely what those critics call him; it is he and his progressive compatriots, including Obama, who only see people in groups forever divided by socio-economic, racial, or other lines.

That is what "The Space Traders" is selling. When you think about it, the fact that his underlying and ugly vision is buried in a form of entertainment to penetrate the culture in ways a Harvard professsor never could, only makes it all the more dangerous and deserving of being taken seriously and exposed. But we can't expose it if we don't understand it.

At the core of the progressive mindset, there is no hope for man, so only a controlling state can manifest policies "fair" to blacks, because for now America remains a majority white country.

It's a very ugly way of thinking that only sees the worst in man and offers no room for genuine consciousness, or altruism – unless it is imposed by some allegedly impartial state. This is also why books like my friend Mark Levin's "Amertitopia" are so important. While not dwelling specifically on race, it is the progressive mindset and history this all works into that it exposes, while also addressing the contrasting conservative view.

Yes, all men are flawed and capable of doing bad, or good. What the conservative believes is that that doesn't suddenly disappear when man designs a statist system to control behavior. In fact, all the faults and shortcomings of man only become incorporated into it, making them all the more dangerous due to their scope, reach and power. Instead of individuals being free to do well, or fail, do good, or do bad, on their own, a just as flawed statist system will compel them to do the same. The only thing that changes is who wins and who loses and because progressives want to win, it's why they are intent on controlling government and utlimately the individual, which they only see or appreciate in groups, or races, etc.

While perhaps easy and fun to dismiss Bell and "The Space Traders," (sound like race traders to you? That's what Bell is actually saying, whites and Jews will "trade," or sell out blacks for self-interest every chance they get and nothing can change that except government) as camp, or craziness, the reality is, the thinking beneath it now dominates much of American jurisprudence and culture and unless conservatives expose and defeat it, we will only become it's victims, regardless of our race, because we hold the individual and indivdual liberty so dear.

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  1. dinglewoodnorwoodbill says:

    Going viral this country song for Santorum was sung by two teen girl sisters…

  2. dinglewoodnorwoodbill says:

    The Bell idea may have some influence as additional reason to toss O, but usually it matters heading into a first election, not when an incumbent.
    The public already thinks it roughly knows Obama, true or not…

  3. StrangernFiction says:

    The liberal mind in a nutshell:
    I am depraved, thus you must be depraved.

  4. Ragspierre says:

    Dingleberry, bear in mind that Bell died just last year.
    Who says he was not an Obama mentor up until very, very recently?
    Moreover, if a GOP EVER guy sat at the feet of a KKK big, there would no question as to its relevance.

  5. Pasadena Phil says:

    Dan, what’s with the “nuance”? Michelle Malkin just launched a full Breitbart offensive calling for the troops to follow and you want to call a time out so we can study the slo-mo replay? That is exactly what is wrong with conservatives. We spend too much time studying film when we should be out there storming the beaches. When are you going to get back to the “storming the beaches” part of being a movement conservative? You should be one of the people leading the charge! Maybe that will get you another appearance on Hannity.

  6. dinglewoodnorwoodbill says:

    I am not arguing the video is worthless and should not be pursued, heck, if for distraction purposes alone given the Fluke fiasco, it’s worth it. Also, it could lead to something, so by all means…
    P. Phil y’alls point is also well taken. The main issue with conservatives I have though is they back down too easily and are not in enough lockstep during key moments and cannot see past 1 election cycle the worth of consistent messaging…

  7. Ragspierre says:

    Yeah…no, dingleberry…
    include me out of your whole “lock-step” world vision.
    I’ll take the thinking route. But I do see your attraction to Fillie.

  8. Dan Riehl says:

    Phil – I’m not calling for a time out. I’m talking about how to frame the attack, not suggesting standing down.

  9. Sean T says:

    no worries wingnuts, just polish off teh old turd of a southern strategy and spread the hate like mamalade on warm toast. just throw out the “evidence” of Obama consorting with a controversial, fiery, radical black man and let whitey be very very afraid. Helms would be proud.

  10. Godzilla says:

    Dan, your argument is an intellectual one with heavy racial overtones. In a perfect world it would get fair treatment, but in this one all you’ll accomplish is getting hit with the race card. I think Malkin’s current energies is directed upon the Fluke hypocrisy, and not about obama’s past associations. But if your goal was to distance Independents even more from the GOP (and I can’t believe it is), then don’t worry about how to frame your attack, because you’ll obtain that goal no matter how you go about the argument.

  11. Ragspierre says:

    “Obama consorting with a controversial, fiery, radical black man and let whitey be very very afraid.”
    Funny, innit, that the first, middle, and last thing a Collectivist sees is race….
    Huh… Wonder who the racists are…???

  12. Davos Soros says:

    Bell seems to have been lobbying for a race war. See the second image box here:

  13. FedSec says:

    Seems to me the right wants to claimn that any minority who speaks out against the “natural order” of race relations in America is declared a radical, a communist, an Alinskyite, a marxist; after all, White America must be kept comfortable at all times. Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse tells you all that Professor Bell and his critical race theory are highly respected among American legal minds, yet you all still feel that he must be posthumously tarred as a racist and his name dragged through the mud (just as Professor Henry Gates was) when he is no longer here to defend himself.
    It really threw you guys for a loop when a black family took up residence in the White House, didn’t it?

  14. Ragspierre says:

    “Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse tells you all that Professor Bell and his critical race theory are highly respected among American legal minds…”
    No. They are not.
    And you don’t even need to try the resort to authority fallacy, you moron.
    You can read the man’s work. Which is affirmatively racist, and DOES reject all notions on which this nation was founded, including rational thought.
    And, no. Many of us would happily vote for Allen West, Thomas Sowell, Walter William, etc. as President.

  15. Earl says:

    >>Don’t fall into that trap.<<
    You’ve already fallen for it, hook, line and sinker. Guys like you are so afraid you’ll be called a racist that you’ve allowed the left to make the rules for our side that they don’t have to live by themselves. That’s one reason why Obama is president today….because guys like you are so afraid you’ll be called a racist. Looks like Obama will be elected for the same reason. Good job.

  16. KLSmith says:

    OK, I confess. I really wanted a government take over of healthcare. I wanted a massive increase in our national debt that my children will spend their lives paying off. I wanted taxpayer money spent on cars that run on algae.
    But damn-it, not if it’s given to me by a black president.

  17. KLSmith says:

    Re: Althouse
    For a smart person, she can be kind of stupid sometimes. She’ll probably vote for Obama again.

  18. JamesMc says:

    “Seems to me the right wants to claimn that any minority who speaks out against the “natural order” of race relations in America is declared a radical, a communist, an Alinskyite, a marxist; after all, White America must be kept comfortable at all times. ”
    (Posted by: FedSec | Thursday, March 08, 2012 at 05:35 PM)
    Irony: when a person who insists on categorizing people by the color of their skin and defends a person who believed that the government should treat people differently based on their skin color calls those who disagree with such notions a racist.

  19. FedSec says:

    The U.S. government had treated people differently based on skin color for centuries. Remember? That you defend those government policies and fight against equality for all Americans is practically the very definition of racism. Ironic, ain’t it?

  20. Ragspierre says:

    “The U.S. government had treated people differently based on skin color for centuries. Remember?”
    It still does. Holder wants to keep institutionalized racial discrimination forever, as does his boss.
    That you defend those government policies and fight against equality for all Americans is practically the very definition of racism. Ironic, ain’t it?
    Actually, let me correct that; it isn’t PRACTICALLY the definition of racism. It is racism, straight up.
    But the day when you racists of the Collective use skin color as a sorter is about over.

  21. FedSec says:

    “But the day when you racists of the Collective use skin color as a sorter is about over.”
    Then you unaffiliated racists will be pleased to see America return to those glory days when the darkies knew their place, is that right?

  22. Ragspierre says:

    Racial hatred and racist practice are alive and flourishing in America. They are approved of by the right people.

  23. FedSec says:

    “Racial hatred and racist practice are alive and flourishing in America. They are approved of by the right people.”
    Both of us could probably post links all day, but I’m pretty sure you will run out of those that support your point long before I will.

  24. Ragspierre says:

    “Then you unaffiliated racists will be pleased to see America return to those glory days when the darkies knew their place, is that right?”
    As a capitalist, I don’t care about any kind of extraneous, superficial trait of a person. I only care about their quality, and how much more they will help me earn or save.
    So, no. You stupid, lying racist phuc.

  25. FedSec says:

    Now, what do they say about ad hominem attacks being the last refuge of those who’ve lost the argument?

  26. Ragspierre says:

    I’ll leave it to people who can read to judge who has lost the argument.
    I noticed a common thread in each of the rather vacant links you posted; bet you missed it.
    You stupid, lying, racist phuc.

  27. FedSec says:

    Point it out, otherwise I couldn’t really give a phuc.

  28. Ragspierre says:

    Ah, thought so…
    In each of the links you threw up, the conduct is…
    1. reported prominently,
    2. disapproved, and
    3. criminalized
    Note also the OBJECTIVE facts about the SPLC’s lies presented here…
    You know…data instead of Collectivist lies.
    See…??? Let me know what else you have to be spoon-fed, ‘K?

  29. FedSec says:

    THAT is your argument?
    Gee, you must find it tough living life as a martyr.
    As to your latest link, you guys sure have a different definition of what constitutes data. Web traffic =/= membership.

  30. Ragspierre says:

    Golly. That big WHOOOOOSING sound…???
    That was the entire import of the story of the mother from Texas, passing unmolested over your stupid, lying, racist head.
    As noted, racism is fine…if you are of the correct race.
    And a racist, like yourself.

  31. FedSec says:

    So we can pretty much put your resounding rebuff down to something along the lines of “I’m rubber, you’re glue.” Got it!

  32. Ragspierre says:

    I have to wonder, too…
    Do you ever tire of being made a bitch by Mark Potok’s SPLC fund-raising propaganda?
    Seriously, we’d all be interested to know.

  33. FedSec says:

    Not at all. I have the utmost respect for the Southern Poverty Law Center. After all, for the past 41 years, it was worked to promote tolerance, equality for all Americans and the betterment of the lives of the downtrodden, so the rest of us fully understand why you guys don’t particularly care for what it does.

  34. Ragspierre says:

    Another rube self-identifies.
    All too predictable, really.

  35. FedSec says:

    Let’s see what the tally is so far:
    racist of the Collective (whatever the heck that means)
    stupid, lying, racist phuc (twice, no less!)
    stupid, lying racist (though that was specifically for my head)
    racist (specifically for the totality of me!)
    and now, rube
    What else you got?

  36. Ragspierre says:

    Somebody named Derrick A. Bell visited the White House twice in 2010.
    Nothing to see here, people…move on…

  37. FedSec says:

    Wow. Professor Bell’s former student (the first black editor of the esteemed Harvard Law Review), a student who stood with him against Harvard’s practice of denying tenure to black females, a student who 17 years later is elected as the first black POTUS in American History and it is somehow controversial that Professor Bell is invited to visit said former student and now friend in the White House. OH LAWD ‘AMERCY, HOW WILL WE ENDURE?!!

  38. Ragspierre says:

    That’s very interesting, you adopting stereotypical “black” dialect.
    But it would hardly be worth asking if you felt differently about a visit to the White House by a scholarly promoter of race hatred who was white.
    Would it?

  39. FedSec says:

    Just because you want to believe Professor Bell is a promoter of race hatred doesn’t make it so. Go ask those who knew and respected him and/or his work, those like Ann Althouse and the legal minds at Harvard Law School. You know…people smarter and more open-minded than you.

  40. Ragspierre says:

    Critical race theory, of which Bell was essentially the founder and the greatest proponent, is explicitly incompatible with “liberalism” as classically defined; in truth, it is more of a radical Leftist idea. As a result of the claims it makes, CRT is utterly incompatible with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and with American — and Western — ideals of equality, justice, and colorblindness, not to mention that its philosophical underpinnings stand in diametric opposition to that most cherished of conservative principles — belief in external reality. Ultimately, CRT relegates objective reality and our responses to it to a collection of human “constructs.” It is post-modern and it is radical. It is quite literally un-American.
    Such suggestions would not, in fact, be rejected by advocates of CRT and other constructivist theories. If racism is ingrained into the fabric of American society, then our society inherently excludes those outside of the racial majority and the system needs smashing.
    ***But as a result, most of those who do reject wholesale the American “construct” do not seek its presidency.***
    ***This is where is becomes relevant. It is fine for Americans to consider themselves outside of the system, but we should know about it if they are running the show.***
    On CNN this morning, Amy Holmes — playing the sole voice of reason in a disastrous segment — correctly pointed out that Obama may well have changed his mind on various things since his college days, but that if he hasn’t it is important for Americans to consider the wisdom of his being president. Most of us have matured as we’ve got older, and the president may well have as well — we’ll probably never know, given the media’s double-standard on questions about Obama’s past —
    but, if he has not, then he is indeed a subversive, for it is one thing to look at the entire structure of government, law, and society, and claim it to be an intractably racist tool of white hegemony, and quite another to seek the highest office within it.
    –Charles Cooke
    And there is LOTS of evidence showing that Obama is a radical Collectivist, as his mentors taught him to be.

  41. Ragspierre says:

    Again with the resort to authority fallacy?
    Althouse was WRONG. She waxed stupid in writing a encomium to a man like Bell that overlooked his awful legacy.
    I invite anyone here to go an read the man’s crap…and it IS crap…and judge for yourself.
    And Bell was NOT…is not…universally well-regarded by legal scholars (who tend to be doctrinaire Collectivists anyhow).
    “Bell’s protest at Harvard stirred angry criticism by opposing Harvard Law faculty who called him “a media manipulator who unfairly attacked the school”, noting that other people had accused him of “depriv[ing] students of an education while he makes money on the lecture circuit”.[6]
    In other words, a Harvard race hustler.

  42. FedSec says:

    He is president and he will be for the next 5 years. Deal with it.

  43. Ragspierre says:

    And if he is, you can kiss this nation good-bye. His radicalism will be unchecked.
    Not that you would have any problem with that.

  44. FedSec says:

    “In other words, a Harvard race hustler.”
    Oh, boo hoo. So much butthurt in one sentence.
    “Not that you would have any problem with that.”
    Not one iota. I’m proud of President Barack Hussein Obama. I will be more than happy to vote for him one more time.

  45. Ragspierre says:

    I’ll just leave that hanging in the air.
    I can’t think of a worse imprecation than your own confession.

  46. FedSec says:

    Yeah. So much better to vote for the losers on your side.

  47. Ten Zentura says:

    I think the fundamental reason these people embrace these ideas is that they lack their own moral fibre and project that onto others. They hate church and God because those teachings blow a hole in their ideas. They refuse to give of themselves and expect others to be forced to. Its a disgusting mindset!

  48. jeannebodine says:

    Holder is putting Derrick Bell’s Critical Race Theory into action.
    In Race, Equality and the Rule of Law: Critical Race Theory’s Attack on the Promises of Liberalism:
    Jeffrey J. Pyle explains how the “Race-Crits” called for “equality of results through reparations-based affirmative action”.
    Which is exactly what the Justice Department is doing under Holder. It’s all going according to plan.

  49. outsider says:

    Buy more ammo. Sooner or later the cold civil war is going to turn hot. We’ll see who’s going to be silenced. Given that Rags and the right sound much more physically prepared, my money says the left gets smashed and people like fed get their “enough!” message delivered at 2700 feet per second.
    It will be interesting. I’m laying in lots of popcorn.