All Articles Tagged "derrick bell"
If you couldn’t tell by now, I am infatuated by race and identity in this country, particularly how we as black folks relate to both race and identity.
My general belief is that our inability to reconcile with or even denounce one or the other is the main causation for why our community struggles to progress in this country. In short, we are serving two masters: We are trying to buy/work our way into the American dream while also trying to fix and build the community. I have found that those two concepts are often in opposition to each other, which is often demonstrated by our reluctance at times to unify and work together. And sometimes I wonder if Abraham Lincoln had followed through on his plans to resettle recently freed blacks back in Africa, where would be now? However, the way in which some of us refuse to act in our own self-interest, especially politically, I wonder if emancipation and self-determination is what we really want?
Those questions are very important to answer if we are ever going to properly educate children, build economic infrastructures and generally move the community ahead. However, those questions are as old as our history in this country itself. And many great leaders, from the likes of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and both Malcolm and Martin, have all been debating for hundreds of years and yet have failed to reach a consensus. So in an effort to once and for all settle this debate, let’s put our thinking caps on and consider this hypothetical situation. Keyword: hypothetical.
Before I get to the actual theoretical situation, let me tell you first about the inspiration. Last week, I was re-watching “Cosmic Slop,” an early 90s television special, which originally aired on HBO. The series is like Twilight Zone but with an anthology of stories about race relations. One such story is called Space Traders, a 30-minute short about a U.S. President faced with the dilemma of having a clean environment, and living in world peace and prosperity in exchange for giving all the black people on the planet away to bartering aliens, who offer no assurance of their intention with them. The story first appeared in Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, a book written by scholar and Critical Race Theorist Professor Derrick Bell. And while I won’t give away the story, I’ll just say that people shouldn’t be surprised how that story ended.
But in that situation, the black community didn’t have a choice. SO in the spirit of the late great scholar Professor Derrick Bell, mixed with a little John Quinones of the “20/20″’ show “What Would You Do?” fame, I’ll give us one.
Let’s pretend that it is the year 2013. President Obama has won his second term as President of the United States. He is standing at the podium, in front of a live audience, giving the first State of the Union Address of his second term. He spells out his goal for fixing the economy, he talks about immigration, he gives his plan for gay, lesbian and transgendered equality and now, for the first time in his presidency, he speaks about a black agenda.
Tags:affirmative action, Africa, america, Booker T Washington, charing ball, Choice, Cosmic Slop, debt, derrick bell, emigrate, fairness programs, Frederick Douglass, hypothetical situation, incentive, leave, Madame Noire, options, politics, President of the United States, state of the union, stay, W.E.B. Du Bois, wealth
By Brande Victorian
There was barely a moment to mourn the death of civil rights pioneer Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth before news of the passing of another pillar of the community, Derrick Bell, hit. The Legal scholar was 80 years old when he died Wednesday of carcinoid cancer.
Bell was the first tenured black professor at Harvard Law School and later the first black dean of a law school that is not historically black. A man of unquestionable integrity, Bell’s bio on the NYU School of Law website, states that “he has provoked his critics and challenged his readers with his uncompromising candor and progressive views.”
The quote refers to Bell’s refusal to return to Harvard in 1992 after taking a two-year, unpaid leave of absence to protest the lack of women of color on the faculty. He also left the school once before in 1980 to serve as dean at the Oregon law school for five years—a position he also left when he was told not to hire an Asian American female faculty candidate. Bell’s 1973 text, Race, Racism and American Law, now in its sixth edition, is a standard textbook in law schools around the country, according to The HistoryMakers. Several other books followed, including Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education, Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform, Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protester, and Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth.
Bell’s story “Space Traders” from his book Faces at the Bottom of the Well was produced as an HBO movie featuring Robert Guillaume in 1994, but the production was not without controversy. According to The New York Times, Appellate Court Judge Richard Posner wrote in The New Republic that “by repudiating reasoned argumentation,” individuals like Mr. Bell “reinforce stereotypes about the intellectual capacities of non-whites.” Nevertheless, the narrative technique became an accepted mode of legal scholarship that, according to Linda Greenhouse, “challenge old assumptions and then linger in the mind in a way that a more conventionally scholarly treatment of the same themes would be unlikely to do.”
Professor Bell is survived by his wife, Janet Dewart Bell.
Derrick Bell, a legal scholar who continuously worked to expose the racism that exists within society has passed away. Mr. Bell, 80 died early this morning at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital with his wife, Janet Dewart by his side. Mr. Bell was born on November 6, 1930 in Pittsburgh, where he eventually ended up attending the University of Pittsburgh Law School. At that time, he was the only black student. He also served in the Air Force for two years, with one taking place in Korea.
Afterward, he briefly joined the Justice Department, soon after he went to work for the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund. In 1968, he moved out west to teach at the University of Southern California, where he was courted by Harvard Law but turned them down. During the early 80′s he worked as the dean at the University of Oregon but left when an Asian woman was denied tenure there. He eventually returned to Harvard in 1986, where he stayed until the law school refused to tenure a black female. Bell, then decided to take a position at New York University Law School, where he remained until his death.
Not afraid of being seen as a controversial figure, even though he described himself as not “confrontational by nature”, he always led by example and on his own terms. While in his 20′s, when working at the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, he was told to relinquish his ties with the N.A.A.C.P., instead of holding on to his Justice Department position, he opted to quit.
A pioneer of “critical race theory,” in which the law is examined to see how race benefits or hinders those that come into contact with the law or legal institutions. Mr. Bell also believed that whites were not quick to assist with the issues surrounding blacks, unless they had something to gain from the interaction.
Mr. Bell was the first tenured black professor at Harvard Law School and the first black dean of a law school that was not historically black. Yet, even with obtaining such prestigious jobs throughout his career, which never stopped him from stepping away from any position – if he felt that what they were doing was unjust. I cannot continue to urge students to take risks for what they believe if I do not practice my own precepts, he often stated.
That line of thinking led him to leave his tenured position at Harvard Law School, 30 years after accepting their offer, due to the school not being willing to tenure any of other black professors.
Ms. Dewart and three sons survive him from his first marriage, Derrick Albert Bell III and Douglas Dubois Bell, both of Pittsburgh, and Carter Robeson Bell of New York; two sisters, Janet Bell of Pittsburgh and Constance Bell of Akron, Ohio; and a brother, Charles Bell of New York.
Cynthia Wright is an avid lover of all things geeky. When she isn’t freelancing, she can be found on her blog BGA Life and on Twitter at @cynisright.