A Guided Tour Through Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies, Part 1
As a 28-year-old student at Harvard Law Barack Obama supported the activism of Professor Derrick Bell and urged his peers to open their hearts and minds to the words of Critical Race Theory‘s founder.
But what did Bell believe and how could his ideas have any relation to the president’s policies today?
The answers to these questions reside in Bell’s 1998 book Afrolantica Legacies, published by Third World Press. I read it over the weekend and will share a series of excerpts this week with analysis.
The myth of the rise and fall of Afrolantica — a kind of Atlantis where only African Americans can live — opens the book and provides Bell with a way to tie together his essays, fictional dialogues, and political parables written through the ’80s and ’90s. From seven of these essays, Bell extracts these principles to serve as “rules of racial preservation”:
“and salvation achievable” (Soph: See Obama on collective salvation here)
“one that stretches toward the divine”
“For some a prophetic power”
In Afrolantica Legacies Bell relies on a number of religious, mystical, and occult literary devices. (And I’ll identify them in the upcoming posts.)
This New Age presentation of Critical Race Theory as a secular, political theology mirrors the black liberation theology Obama imbibed at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United. Politics, religion, and “blackness” merge together to produce the equivalent of a cult.
And cults do real damage to people’s lives. Bell’s ideas have circulated into the culture and left scars. Here’s a question to ask the biracial members of Generations X and Y: growing up, did you experience more race-based harassment from whites for being half-black or from blacks for being half-white?
Critical race theorists like to claim that only white racism has any significance because only whites have power in America. Try telling that to someone who lives without power: a biracial child. How should they react to the story of Afrolantica? Will they get to go? And what might they think about their own parents upon reaching page 148 where Bell states, “white men do not find black women attractive or regard them as ‘women’ as they would white females”?
There are many more pleasant subjects I could spend the week blogging about other than Afrolantica. But this is personal. I’m not writing with any hope that beating the drum about Obama’s radical history will turn the outcome of the election. My objective is to begin a self-fulfilling prophecy of my own: 15 years from now, when I have children, they will not live in a political culture that protects and trains their tormentors. The anti-white and antisemitic racists will receive the same condemnation as the anti-black racists. (As opposed to their own MSNBC shows.)
Touring Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 2: A ‘Euphoria of Freedom’
“Only African Americans were able to breathe and survive there.”
“The first black visitors reported a sense of well-being, a ‘euphoria of freedom’ one called it, that they had never known in America.”
“Millions of blacks were determined to move to this new land, to begin an ideal society.”
Observe the end goal here. Bell’s utopia is not that Americans of all skin colors embrace one another. Instead, he sought to inspire a “euphoria of freedom” through the fantasy of an “ideal society” without Jews.
Touring Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 3: What Could it Mean to Be White?
In the prologue to Afrolantica Legacies Professor Derrick Bell claims whites base their self-worth on skin color:
For without black people in America, what would it mean to be white? Of what value whiteness, the privilege of preference, the presumption of normality, the reassurance of majority status? Were the advantages of color to disappear, how would whites replace their carefully constructed but ever-fragile self-esteem based on whiteness? Blacks doubted that many whites would ever ask themselves these questions, but the questions were not less real because unacknowledged.
Touring Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 4: The Wages of Antisemitism
I planned to blog about the late Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies from beginning to end. However, recent events in France necessitate a brief detour to the book’s sixth — and longest — chapter. “Shadowboxing: Blacks, Jews and Games Scapegoats Play” features two dialogues devoted to Bell’s defense of Louis Farrakhan, the antisemitic leader of the Nation of Islam.
Bell describes a radical student named Nat T (a reference to the slave revolt led by Nat Turner) who comes to visit him in his law school office. When Bell rejects Nat T’s violent, kill-all-the-white-people rhetoric the student storms out, promising to murder him and the other “black tokens” when the revolution arrives.
As Nat T leaves the building he upsets Ben Hirsch, a Jewish faculty member whom Bell describes as “a staunch supporter of Israel where he travels frequently and consults with the government.” Hirsch comes to Bell to complain, leading to a Socratic dialogue where Bell blows over a series of Straw Man arguments. Despite Bell’s reliance on cliches throughout his narratives, this invention of a pro-Israel professor shows a genuine gift for the surreal.
“… when one black leader makes comments they deem anti-Semitic…”
Bell denied Farrakhan’s antisemitism. And his sentiment mirrors paleo-conservative former MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan’s description of Father Charles Coughlin (who published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his newspaper Social Justice in the 1930s) as “an alleged antisemite.”
On page 97 Bell reprints a blurb he provided for Farrakhan’s book A Torchlight for America:
“his basic sermon… is a quite conservative message of self-help.”
“Unlike those conservatives, black and white, who only preach self-help to the poor as a crowd-pleasing abstraction, Farrakhan’s formulas emphasize the Nation of Islam’s experience in educating black children, rehabilitating black prisoners, ridding black communities of drug dealers, and rebuilding respect for self — the essential prerequisite for individuals determined to maintain the struggle against the racism that burdens our lives and, unless curbed, will destroy this country.”
Antisemitic political cults regularly implement extensive social services to dupe citizens into supporting them. Hamas spends 80-85 percent of its annual $70-90 million budget on schools, clinics, and other welfare-related programs. The IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation (which sponsored the flotillas to break Israel’s defensive blockade of Gaza) acts as the charitable wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1970s the Black Panthers set up lunch programs and schools while they stockpiled guns. During the height of the Ku Klux Klan’s power in the 1920s, they too invested in community programs and social services to sway people to their side.
On page 98 we get to the crux of the matter:
“… I am moved to his side [Farrakhan's] by the ‘take no prisoners’ attitude of his attackers; for example, when Benjamin F. Chavis, the former NAACP executive director, warned his Anti-Defamation League (A.D.L.) counterpart, Abraham Foxman, that continued A.D.L. attacks on Farrakhan could create precisely what Jewish leaders say they fear: black anti-Semitism.”
Bell believed that the Jews were the guilty party in inspiring others to hate them. How is this doctrine different from Peter Beinart’s claim that settlement construction motivates the Palestinians to refuse peace with Israel? And why would the Obama administration object to new apartments in Jerusalem?
On page 99, further confirmation of Bell’s antisemitism through his reliance on the Protocols conspiracy theory:
“In addition, there is the use of economic clout to threaten business enterprises of those deemed dangerous to Jewish interests.”
And on page 101:
“Jewish groups utilize their formidable economic power to intimidate blacks into halting actions that Jews find offensive.”
Here Bell employs a sanitized variation of the “Jews control the economy” delusion, the second example provided in the European Union definition of antisemitism.
What ideas about Jews do you suppose Mohamed Merah filled his head with all his life?
Updated: The wages of antisemitism now paid in full, as the Washington Post reports:
An Islamic extremist who boasted of killing seven people to strike back at France died Thursday after jumping from his window, gun in hand, in a fierce shootout with police, a French minister said.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the suspect, who claimed links to al-Qaida, jumped out after police entered the apartment Thursday and found him holed up in the bathroom.
The death of Mohamed Merah, 23, ended a more than 32-hour standoff with an elite police squad trying to capture him alive. Merah was wanted in the deaths of seven people, three paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi, all killed over 10 days. Another student and another paratrooper were wounded in his attacks.
Touring Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 5: Thomas Jefferson, A Symbol of American Racism
Before beginning our journey to Afrolantica, this dialogue opens the book:
Geneva Crenshaw is a fictional character created by Professor Derrick Bell. She appears in his previous writings as an idealized version of himself, expressing his opinions with greater vigor.
For Critical Race Theorists to make the case for American racism’s “permanence” they must annihilate the Founding Fathers’ reputations. If Thomas Jefferson and the other founders were so stupid that they could not see the common humanity of non-whites then why should anyone respect their political values and the legitimacy of our nation?
With this political theology embedded in one’s heart and mind, the emotional desire to “fundamentally transform” America arises:
RELATED: J. Christian Adams published a picture worth a thousand words on this subject:
"America has learned a great deal about Harvard Law professor Derrick Bell over the last three weeks. His nutty and venomous philosophy, Critical Race Theory, is now familiar to many Americans. My book Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department shows what happens when Critical Race Theory gets a foothold in government policy. My book also has a photograph that perhaps explains Critical Race Theory better than any article or crazed writing by Bell over could.
I describe where I found this photo in Injustice:
The nation’s premiere voting rights museum—the National Voting Rights Museum—now sits at the foot of the bridge [in Selma, Alabama]. The museum is an inadvertent monument to the civil rights movement’s degeneration. Its outlook is neatly captured in ten words that begin its timeline display of the civil rights movement. There, we find a replica of John Trumball’s iconic depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with the caption, “1776. The Declaration of Independence signed by wealthy white men.”
The original civil rights giants would never have tolerated this historically false assertion. They were patriots, driven by love for their fellow countrymen and a burning desire to make America a better place for all its citizens. They repeatedly and vehemently rejected hatred. But the nasty caption captures the bitter spirit of much of the civil rights movement today and of numerous race-based activist groups around the country.
I own the copyright to the photo. But feel free to copy and distribute. The more people learn about these nutty ideas, and the museum display in Selma, the better.
Touring Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 6: Why Meritocracy Must Die
In the first essay featured in Afrolantica Legacies Derrick Bell puts his words in Bill Clinton’s mouth. This excerpt from page 13 of Afrolantica Legacies imagines a speech in 1998 from the president titled “Racial Liberation Day: The Challenge for White Americans”:
For Bell’s Critical Race Theory political theology the concept of “racism” shifted from the concrete (Jim Crow) to an abstraction:
… racism is a system of continuing and cumulative advantage that benefits all whites whether or not they seek it.
Thus, Bell can now use this abstraction as the ghost in the gears, the necessary, permanent explanation for any individual black American’s personal failures and professional inadequacies:
As Americans, we want to believe that our country is a meritocracy where anyone who has talent and works hard can be successful. Charges of racial discrimination threaten that image and, in all but the most blatant cases, many whites find it difficult to take them seriously. Thus when blacks assert that racism is alive and flourishing, whites find denial is the easier, the more comforting reaction.
Perhaps the reasons for Bell’s attacks on meritocracy are more personal than political, as Thomas Sowell observes:
Derrick Bell was put in an impossible position. He was hired as a full professor at the Harvard Law School when he himself said he did not have the kinds of qualifications that people have when they get appointed as full professors at the Harvard law school. And so what were his options? His options were to be a nobody among world famous intellectuals or to go off on his own shtick and try to be important or significant in that way. And he chose the low road… The fundamental problem was making him a professor at the Harvard Law School when even he himself knew that was not something that he merited.
In upcoming parts of this continuing journey through Afrolantica we’ll see more instances of Bell’s commentary that read in a different light when understood in the context of the professor’s own career.
Touring Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 7: Unemployment Creates Crack Dealers
Just as Professor Derrick Bell blamed Jews for inspiring antisemitism, he also pointed the finger at disappearing industrial jobs to explain away inner city criminal culture:
… it is massive unemployment and not the lack of family values that has devasated so many black communities, placed one-third of young men — denied even menial jobs when they lacked education and skills — in prison or in the jaws of the criminal court system, most of them for nonviolent drug offenses.
After my previous post on Afrolantica Legacies featured a video of Thomas Sowell revealing Bell acknowledged his inexperience, a question came to mind: how does Bell’s affirmative action experience at Harvard mirror Barack Obama’s?
Here’s Obama quoted in The New York Times in 1990 in an article titled “First Black Elected to Head Harvard’s Law Review” by Fox Butterfield:
”The fact that I’ve been elected shows a lot of progress,” Mr. Obama said today in an interview. ”It’s encouraging.
”But it’s important that stories like mine aren’t used to say that everything is O.K. for blacks. You have to remember that for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don’t get a chance,” he said, alluding to poverty or growing up in a drug environment.
After becoming the president of what should be the most prestigious law journal in the country, Obama claimed that “there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent” to him.
Michael Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe as “when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say” comes to mind.
If an individual cannot take responsibility for his failures then how can he feel any real satisfaction in his successes? What a dark world one would live in where everything comes down to chance, save for the instances where bold progressives can implement social justice.
Is that what Barack Obama thinks deep down? That he just got lucky and that now it’s his job to spread the “luck” around?
On page 22, Geneva Crenshaw (Bell’s idealized proponent of his Critical Race Theory theology) responds to the fictional speech given by President Clinton:
Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica, Part 8: We Have a Right to Your Property
“…whites have chosen to protect their sense of belonging based on skin color over alliances with blacks that would have improved all of our lives.”
Thus, the capitalist system bears responsibility for a minority of minorities living in poverty. And since capitalism produces these disparities in racial achievements, capitalism itself is racist. (Bell rejects race-neutral and cultural explanations for inner city pathology.) Because free market economies lead to racist conclusions, this means that anyone who isn’t a socialist is a racist whether they realize it or not.
“We have not been passive in seeking our rights but even our best efforts seem to translate into more property for whites and more promises for blacks.”
When Bell refers to “seeking our rights” here he uses the term in the same way as Barack Obama and today’s mainstream Democrats, in the context of what government “must do on your behalf.” Rights = other people’s property that they acquired by luck and that progressives must redistribute to counteract the innate, permanent racism in American society. You have a Right for someone else to pay for your health care. You have a Right to have someone else supply your birth control pills.
Of course this political tradition has deeper roots in the Democratic Party than the Alinskyite infiltration of Obama’s cohort…