In full hazmat suit and knee high waders, I have been picking through the cesspool that is Breitbart conservative Right-wing demagoguing regarding the late Derrick Bell and . For folks who are familiar with Dr. Bell’s work, were lucky to have met him, been mentored by him, or know anything about Critical Race Theory and Critical Legal studies, the idea that he is some type of dangerous, fire eating, anti-white bigot radical is a joke.
But then again, the vicious efforts by conservative white populists to smear Barack Obama by any means necessary have never been about the world of facts or reason. If the coverage on Fox Newsand throughout the Right-wing mediascape is any indication, the hug seen around the world–when Dr. Bell and Obama embraced during a rally at Harvard some twenty or so years ago–was the equivalent of a matter anti-matter explosion for the white racial frame.
Ultimately, as Brother Malcolm pointed out years ago, there is nothing more threatening to the White racial imagination than an educated black man. Two of them hugging (accomplished, brilliant, dignified, and professional) boggles the conceptual framework and cognitive map that Whiteness uses to navigate its social reality. Rapscallion and troublesome negroes such as myself cannot help but love such upset, anger, and confusion. Whiteness is so powerful; yet, it is so very precarious.
There are several right-wing websites that maintain an enemies list of evil, dangerous professors and “intellectual types.” In a manner akin to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of these sites even maps out the nefarious networks of the Political Left who are undermining American society. I kid you not. There is something menacing about such lists, even if open source. Thus I must ask: why keep an “enemies list” if you are not going to do something about the people included in such a compendium?
“Despite undeniable progress for many, no African Americans are insulated from incidents of racial discrimination. Our careers, even our lives, are threatened because of our color.”
“[T]he racism that made slavery feasible is far from dead … and the civil rights gains, so hard won, are being steadily eroded.”
“[F]ew whites are ready to actively promote civil rights for blacks.”
“[D]iscrimination in the workplace is as vicious (if less obvious) than it was when employers posted signs ‘no negras need apply.’”
“We rise and fall less as a result of our efforts than in response to the needs of a white society that condemns all blacks to quasi citizenship as surely as it segregated our parents.”
“Slavery is, as an example of what white America has done, a constant reminder of what white America might do.”
“Black people will never gain full equality in this country. … African Americans must confront and conquer the otherwise deadening reality of our permanent subordinate status.”
“Tolerated in good times, despised when things go wrong, as a people we [blacks] are scapegoated and sacrificed as distraction or catalyst for compromise to facilitate resolution of political differences or relieve economic adversity.”
I agree with every one of these statements. I guess I am a dangerous “radical” too.
Here is where the divides of life experience, training, vocation, and upbringing as influenced by the colorline are most revealing: I do not know many black folks who would not take Dr. Bell’s claims as givens…if not anti-climactic. I also do not know many people of color generally, and few white folks, who would also not take such observations as basic for anyone that has studied American history.
There is a great irony here for those of us who appreciate Dr. Bell’s sense of humor, and share his belief in the ability of speculative fiction and storytelling to highlight deeper truths about power, society, and politics.
Fate is a trickster. Professor Bell is likely laughing at these (very predictable) Right-wing shenanigans and related foolishness from beyond the grave. He couldn’t have written a better story about the permanence of white racism, and how even in the post-civil rights age, Whiteness damages the ethics, morality, and cognition of its owners and signatories.