October 6, 2011

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....

Mr. Bell’s core beliefs included what he called “the interest convergence dilemma” — the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest....

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

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."
Prof. Bell was 80.

117 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

Comments in this thread must be respectful. You are free to disagree with his approach, but I will delete comments I don't feel are appropriate. Bell was a great man.

KenK said...

Allegorical space invader stories? I am at a loss to figure how you'd use that in a legal argument.

S said...

I shared an apartment with his son about a decade ago. Our views on politics were pretty different, but we were able to discuss them pretty amiably, often drunk. I should look him up.

Maguro said...

Comments in this thread must be respectful. You are free to disagree with his approach, but I will delete comments I don't feel are appropriate. Bell was a great man.

He was a great man, but apparently he still needs you to protect him from mean comments, even though he's dead. Infantilize much?

Maguro said...

Personally, I'll never forgive him for Operation Shutdown.

Fred4Pres said...

I have heard Maya Angelo say essentially the same thing as Derrick Bell that if push comes to shove that Blacks would get the short end of the stick. There is not a lot you can say to such distrust. I think it is wrong, but it is not completely irrational either. And I know people who hold the same views in regard to Antisemitism.

Fred4Pres said...

Comments in this thread must be respectful. You are free to disagree with his approach, but I will delete comments I don't feel are appropriate. Bell was a great man.


Any comment here is neither going to add or take away from Derrick Bell. His work speaks for itself. Ann just fears that her reputation will suffer if there are impolite comments. Fair enough.

Personally I wish she showed the same propensity to delete a certain one letter troll who attacks her regular commentator with racist and personal attacks on a regular basis.

Curious George said...

He thinks you are a racist Professor. Not being aware of who he was, I read the link. Not anything there that I would consider amounting to "great". He's a mix of Jesse Jackson and Rev Wright with a law degree.

Ann Althouse said...

"Allegorical space invader stories? I am at a loss to figure how you'd use that in a legal argument."

Well, it won't be much use in an argument to a court, but legal scholars frequently write at more of a philosophical level and there was also a movement, in which he was a key innovator, to investigate legal issues through "narrative" or "storytelling."

If you really want to know how this technique was used, you can take a look at the book, "Faces at the Bottom of the Well."

Note that Critical Race Theory was more of an attack on liberals than conservatives, not that it was conservative. But like conservative, the race crits did not buy the solutions that liberals loved. The contention was that these solutions benefit white people. This is an extremely useful perspective to take on various issues (eg, affirmative action). I use it all the time when I think about racial questions in law.

pst314 said...

A great man? Because he replaced scholarship with dishonest, paranoid story-telling? If there was something great about him, that New York Times obit does not point it out.

Gahrie said...

the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest....

How did he account for the failure of Blacks to support efforts to improve the position of Blacks?

It wasn't White people who invented the idea and term "acting White" to describe Blacks who were succeeding.

It wasn't Whites who destroyed the Black family.

It isn't Whites running the failing inner city schools.

Original Mike said...

"Mr. Bell’s core beliefs included what he called “the interest convergence dilemma” — the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest...."

The man rejected the idea that people might do something because it was right? I feel sorry for him.

garage mahal said...

Wonder if Instapundit will call Bell "just another race baiting black law professor". Because you know, they're all the same.

Shouting Thomas said...

In what way was he a great man.

He's ideas were detestable and dead wrong.

SGT Ted said...

I consider critical race theory to be a fraudulent "heads I win, tails you lose" type of nonsense that allows black people,as well as other designated minorities, to blame the consequences of their personal failures onto unprovable, hidden "racism". It is racism in itself, accusing all whites of being unrepentent bigots.

It is the worst sort of scholarship.

bagoh20 said...

I think much of the history of this country including the civil war and the last 50 years proves that Whites are willing to sacrifice quite a bit of their self-interest to improve the lives of Blacks.

They died in great numbers, spent great sums, allowed their children to be kicked out of their own schools, accepted high crime levels and constant guilt inducing attacks of racism based on nothing but the color of their skin. I think his hypothesis is disproved by an allegory called history.

The real question is whether Blacks are willing to support things that are in their own self interest if these things don't require sacrifices from Whites. The real solutions are in that group.

Nobody Knows That I Am A Dog!!! said...

"Mr. Bell’s core beliefs included what he called “the interest convergence dilemma” — the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest...."

Ya, like the Abolitionists /Christians who helped to end slavery in this country in the 19th century. I guess according to "Great" Dr. Bell it was Al Sharpton who did that.

Shouting Thomas said...

Your utter contempt for the bus driver with two lovers was very revealing, Althouse.

You live in a very narrow, conformist world.

Quayle said...

the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest....

A sad and wrong conclusion about the capacity for altruism in the human soul, not to mention a lack of appreciation of the real effects of the theology of a final judgment on devoted Christians.

(How was it in the interests of hundreds of thousands of white Yankees to die in the civil war, yet they did, many of them motivated by no more immediate interest than their patriotic or Christian duty.)

Bell and his disciples have enshrined in the intellectual landscape the one giant boulder that we still haven't rooted out and can't seem to plow around:

the false and unrebuttable presumption of inescapable enmity of whites towards blacks.

While I honor him for putting his own job on the line for others (did he ever do it for a white male denied tenure?), I feel sad that he apparently never recognized the truth that the sins and character flaws in fellow citizens that hurt the rest of us the most have absolutely no correlation to skin color or race.

MnMark said...

I don't know anything about Bell, but if his major concept was that telling stories is better than using facts and reason, then it's not clear from the post why he was a great man. There has to be something more than that to qualify as a great man.

Original Mike said...

"Mr. Bell’s core beliefs included what he called “the interest convergence dilemma” — the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest...."

The Presidency of Barack Obama flys in the face of Mr. Bell's theory.

Shouting Thomas said...

Academia is so far behind business. I work with many blacks who are simply competent and have no axe to grind.

The job for blacks in academia is completely stereotyped. Blacks must "race men," aggrieved representatives of their race.

When is this going to change in that backward world you inhabit, Althouse?

MnMark said...

No disrespect to someone who has passed on - may he rest in peace - but I guess a lot of us white folks are pretty tired of hearing theories from black academics about how whites are selfish and only do things in their own interest, blah, blah, blah.

When one hears these things, one can't be blamed for wondering where all the black altruists are out there doing things for white people, rather than attacking them in flash mobs.

One also wonders how someone can voluntarily live as a racial minority among a majority white population, complaining about how rotten the white population treats them, but never avail themself of the option of simply moving to a majority-black country.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

The space alien story is one of my least favorite forms of political argument, often featured in the comments here:

Make up a story about your opponents, then attempt to encourage anger towards them based on what you assume they would do in your fictional circumstances.

Absurd and pointless.

I'm sorry that he's gone, and I wish the best for his family in these tough times. But I'm definitely not convinced that his life work was useful or good.

- Lyssa

Fred4Pres said...

As for racism or antisemitism, if you think they are wrong, would you sacrifice all (your family, your life) to save a Black or Jewish person if you were in same some state like Nazi occupied Europe? While I do not think it automatically racist to act in one's self interest at the expense of another, I am inspired greatly by those who risked all to do the right thing for another. I would like to think I would do that too. But until you are faced with it, you just will not know.

And we do not have to go back that far to see similar life and death events. Cambodia, the Balkans, Rwanda. And the tribal lines need not be based solely on race.

It is a profound question we can all ponder.

Sixty Grit said...

Where was he on the Bell Curve?

WV: tride - tride and true race baiting, now with a slick Academy Cover!

Peter said...

Ann Althouse wrote, “The contention was that these solutions benefit white people. This is an extremely useful perspective to take on various issues (eg, affirmative action). I use it all the time when I think about racial questions in law.”

Surely you’re not saying that “cui bono?” is a new concept? Is the newness here in applying it to racism (and racist “solutions” to racism)? What is new here?

Paco Wové said...

"Make up a story about your opponents, then attempt to encourage anger towards them based on what you assume they would do in your fictional circumstances."

It's neat how GM provides an example of this, right here in this very thread.

Original Mike said...

Wow, Paco, that's exactly GM's M.O. Good observation.

garage mahal said...

It's neat how GM provides an example of this, right here in this very thread.

How so? This is what Reynolds said:

"His big appeal is that he’s not just another black race-card-playing politician" Link.

Andrew X said...

The need to maintain respect on this blog is noted and followed, but I can even see why some would not want to from this very posting.

I know nothing of this man, but I would say the very allegory of the aliens from space is an unmitigated disgrace. Why? One simple reason....

Is he saying that if the races would were reversed, this would not be true? That if aliens offered.... "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 white population, which would be sent to outer space. The black population accepts the offer by an overwhelming margin"....

That whites would accept this offer, but that blacks (or another race/group) would not? If he is saying that, from where exactly does he derive this conclusion, other than his own sense of things and nothing else? And if the reversed statement IS true in the end..... then what the hell value is this allegory at all, other than noting that every human has a racial consciousness that can manifest itself in unpleasant ways sometimes.

I think what is most infuriating to so many is this idea that whites, even American whites, are uniquely racist in some way. This is so patently insulting that anyone who espouses it deserves little or none of the respect that Professor Althouse calls for here, nor should they expect it.

Between the rantings of the Malik Shabazz's of this world and the current willingness of Africans to slaughter each other for the exact same reasons Europeans once did, I as one white American am not about to be lectured to by such people. It is a foul and self-aggrandizing idea, and for those who espouse it, it is entirely about setting themselves apart from and above "those (racist) people", and not about solving one damn thing.

Fred4Pres said...

Andrew X, you could make the same case on Survivor. If the Red Team won $1,000,000 each but they had to sacrifice the Blue Team for some unstated fate, would they do it?

The answer is yeah, many would. Some would vote no and do nothing. A select view would fight against it.

Henry said...

I'm not sure I get the point of the parable.

If a third party offers salvation to the powerful in exchange for the sacrifice of the weak, does it matter what race or ethnicity (or virginity in the case of volcano gods) the weak are?

People are swine and rationalize selfishness. That isn't racial unless you want it to be.

Our current president has convinced a large swathe of the country, including some really brilliant people, that he "retire the national debt, ... cleanse America's polluted skies and waters, and [produce] a limitless source of safe energy" if we just sacrifice enough rich people.

See? When it comes to parables, the motivating fantasy is greed, not race.

Original Mike said...

Garage: "Wonder if Instapundit will call Bell "just another race baiting black law professor"."

Reynolds: "His big appeal is that he’s not just another black race-card-playing politician."

Yeah, those are the same.

William said...

Under the same circumstances that Bell posits, the blacks would also be willing to send the whites to outerspace. In fact, the outer space invaders would be able to strike a much better bargain with the blacks.

bgates said...

Hey, I wonder what black people would do if they had the opportunity to fix many of the nation's problems and send white people to Mars at the same time.

Does it make me a great man just to have asked the question, or do I have to provide an answer that disparages white people?

the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest

What about Russians v Mexicans? Cubans v Dominicans? Koreans v Filipinos? Blacks v Vietnamese? (Muhammad Ali had a pretty popular answer there, right?)

TosaGuy said...

The best way to invite disrespect is to demand that respect is to be given. Respect cannot be ordered, it is earned.

With that said, most people are polite toward those who have passed. Those who aren't say more about themselves than the person who has passed.

rhhardin said...

That would just drive down the value of gold, gold not being actual wealth but rather money.

Economics illiterate.

traditionalguy said...

The convergence of interest theory is Adam Smith's invisible hand.

Using that insight to analyse race relations is brilliant. By nature the theory admits that people have different interests and need to reach a truce, if not an alliance.

The groups whose interests never converged with Scots-Irish white immigrants were the savages that tried ethnic cleansing on the white men and stole the white women and children for tribal member/slaves.

The African Americans were smart enough to converge interests with the whites (E.g., Sally Hemmings and Tommy Jefferson.)

Our law that sets equal treatment as its ideal has to deal with the failure of groups to perfectly converge interests.

The younger generation has done better than we did on that score, because we did a better job parenting and educating them.

Rest in peace, Mr Bell. Your written body of work continues your legacy now.

Triangle Man said...

I missed that quip from Instapundit about Cain. Disgraceful. Has he seen Cain's resume? Cain's appeal is that he may be the most accomplished candidate from any party in...decades.

EDH said...

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

It appears the "Volvo jockies" at Harvard did not endow Derrick Bell with a Chair at the Law School.

Too bad, they could have placed it next to Archie Bunker's chair in the Smithsonian.

Triangle Man said...

The best way to invite disrespect is to demand that respect is to be given. Respect cannot be ordered, it is earned.

Only among adolescents.

Rialby said...

"His big appeal is that he’s not just another black race-card-playing politician."

That was also the big appeal for you-know-who but that turned out to be farcical now didn't it?

pst314 said...

"This is so patently insulting that anyone who espouses it deserves little or none of the respect that Professor Althouse calls for here, nor should they expect it."

But he's a professor, and therefore more deserving that you or me.

Rialby said...

"the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest..."

Do blacks walk around every day supporting efforts to improve the position of white people when it's not in their interest? If so, please point to an example.

timmaguire42 said...

It's difficult to see how a man who's life work was to substitute careful thinking for fanciful stories and wanted to affect public policy based on what he could make up could be a great man.

If he was being peddled as a great storyteller, maybe. But that's apparently not what he or you bill him as.

Rialby said...

Black people are as inherently selfish and racist as any other race/ethnicity/creed on the planet. To paint them as anything else is to revert to the "magical negro" stereotype that brought Obama to power.

T J Sawyer said...

Prof. Bell appears to have supported "the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest.."

I recall that a lot of whites were supporting efforts to improve the position of blacks back in the '60s. At that time there was a black fellow imagining that people might one day be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

I gather that Prof. Bell never arrived at that point.

Ann Althouse said...

"The man rejected the idea that people might do something because it was right? I feel sorry for him."

You made a logic error there. He pointed out something in the race context that is completely normal to observe generally, that people tend to do what is in their own interest. When people offer to do something out of altruism, it's a good idea to test it by asking: What's in it for them? Are you doing something out of benevolence for other people or are you posing as benevolent when what you want to do serves your interests.

You're a politically vulnerable naif if you don't know how to practice that kind of skepticism.

Ann Althouse said...

"Your utter contempt for the bus driver with two lovers was very revealing, Althouse."

Ralph was 2-timing Alice with Trixie.

Ann Althouse said...

"No disrespect to someone who has passed on - may he rest in peace - but I guess a lot of us white folks are pretty tired of hearing theories from black academics about how whites are selfish and only do things in their own interest, blah, blah, blah."

Oh, don't be so sensitive. Everybody does things out of self-interest. Even the saints are trying to get to heaven.

It's such an utterly conventional observation if you move to a higher level of generality about human behavior.

Ironically, you're the one whining about race.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm not sure I get the point of the parable."

Isn't that a cool thing about parables? It opens up the conversation and give us a new jumping off point.

Think of the parables in the Bible. Why did Jesus use parables? Why didn't he just give us straight answers? I'd suggest that he did it because he valued conversation and the development of the human mind as he invited us into a religion of choice and not just accepting orders.

Jerome said...

Good question, what was his point? Did he think that any social group, similarly situated, would behave the same? Or that we Ice People have uniquely malign tendencies? That is, was he a Great Racist, or just a Great Race Hustler? Whatever, it paid well.

Ann Althouse said...

"Do blacks walk around every day supporting efforts to improve the position of white people when it's not in their interest? If so, please point to an example."

No, but I'm not seeing too many black people narcissistically posturing about how altruistic they are to care so selflessly as they advance the interests of white people. I'm not sure I've ever seen that.

Quayle said...

He pointed out something in the race context that is completely normal to observe generally, that people tend to do what is in their own interest.

But this pure theory axiom is never how it is presented. Rather, it is always presented that self interest can only be harmful to others.

Otherwise nobody would blame whites for anything because they are merely acting in their self interests.

A person may think it in their own self interest to die for someone else, but you'd never guess that was true if you listened to race discussions in the context of Bell's self interest theory.

Sixty Grit said...

Oh, I missed that - Bell is yet another black Jesus, speaking in parables. Too bad he lacked wisdom.

bgates said...

He pointed out something in the race context that is completely normal to observe generally, that people tend to do what is in their own interest.

No, he pointed out that he thinks white people tend to do what is in what he thinks white people perceive as their own interest.

It's such an utterly conventional observation if you move to a higher level of generality

Observe how the move from general to specific can also move from conventional to incendiary:

The world would be a better place if there were fewer men who raped women.
vs
The world would be a better place if there were fewer black men who raped white women.

bgates said...

I'm not seeing too many black people narcissistically posturing about how altruistic they are to care so selflessly as they advance the interests of white people. I'm not sure I've ever seen that.

Seen it? You voted for it.

Paddy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rabel said...

Interesting reading about Derrick Bell. In a comment a few days ago I disrespectfully called the leadership at UW "racist bastards" who were pursuing a very limited Affirmative Action policy for their own selfish interests. I should have left off the bastards part.

But it would appear thar Mr. Bell would have fully agreed. Am I wrong? About his agreement that is.

Curious George said...

"Ann Althouse said...

You made a logic error there. He pointed out something in the race context that is completely normal to observe generally, that people tend to do what is in their own interest."

Actually, you are making the logical error. Bell making the case that "whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest" is not the same as "that people tend to do what is in their own interest" at all.

EDH said...

No, but I'm not seeing too many black people narcissistically posturing about how altruistic they are to care so selflessly as they advance the interests of white people. I'm not sure I've ever seen that.

But wasn't that the justification propounded by all supporters of racial preferences in Grutter v. Bollinger?

Cui bono, indeed.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I'm not interested in damning Bell for his rediscovery of the old truism that every man has his price. But that he should have been celebrated for rediscovering it probably says more about the intellectual heft of law-professors-moonlighting-as-philosophers than it does about Bell.

Palladian said...

"Comments in this thread must be respectful. You are free to disagree with his approach, but I will delete comments I don't feel are appropriate. Bell was a great man."

But it's ok to have commenters who consistently call other commenters "jews", "mormon satanists" and who threaten physical violence against other commenters. Got it! This conditional free-speech policy is great!

EDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoungHegelian said...

That Derrick Bell was at Harvard I can live with, if not support, BUT Lani Guinier is at Harvard???!!

What did Lani Guinier ever do except be a martyr for critical law/race theory before the Senate in her failed confirmation? As an appointee, she was so lefty that even Ted Kennedy's staff couldn't recommend her appointment.

I thought Harvard reserved its faculty posts for the top scholars in their fields, not martyrs for the cause.

Silly me.

Quayle said...

Fine, it is self evident: we all act in our self interest.

So the game then becomes how to illuminate self interest for another person.

And how to alter it.

Fine. Then let's admit that is the game and ask ourselves: are there moral and immoral ways to illuminate or alter one's perception of self interest?

Which of the following would you rank in morality?

Jesus talks of mansions in heaven and tells a story about a hated Samaritan helping a stranger beaten and dying at the side of the road.

MLK called upon the Christian sensibilities of whites by showing them that surely God wouldn't dismiss their poor treatment of blacks.

Jesse Jackson threatens to smear and portray a corporation as racist and attempt to harm their profits if they don't pay him protection money.

A thug puts a gun to your head and demands your wallet.

If self interest is presumed, then the issue is what is the proper illumination and management of self interest.

And one sees immediately how much the coercive shaming of whites is used as a means to alter self interest and how much we tolerate it.

Henry said...

I wrote I'm not sure I get the point of the parable.

Althouse wrote Isn't that a cool thing about parables? It opens up the conversation and give us a new jumping off point.

Perhaps. But I should have been clearer. I'm not sure I get the point of why this parable is of any interest.

Is there more to it than the paraphrase? I suppose I could look it up.

But really it seems that the parable is an utterly commonplace observation dressed in science fiction motley.

Jesus didn't bother with a parable about a bad samaritan.

craig said...

Bell's space alien hypothetical is just an inferior version of Ivan Karamazov's. But Dostoyevsky's point was that such temptations lurk in every human heart, because we are fallen creatures.

Bell puts his scenario forward merely to accuse whites of being uniquely tempted to something no other race would be. This is as racist and offensive as, e.g., the old slurs that Jews are uniquely tempted to greed or blacks to lust. One must take shelter in a university environment to fail to notice this fact.

Triangle Man said...

God, I love it when Althouse posts follow-up comments. Love. It.

EDH said...

I thought Harvard reserved its faculty posts for the top scholars in their fields, not martyrs for the cause.

You've identified the engine of the critical race theory perpetual motion machine.

Elevating "black scholars" rather than the best scholars in traditional fields of study of every race, some of who will happen to be black, proves whites will not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it is in their self interest.

Bender said...

There seems to be an awful lot of "white male effect" here, what with all of the skepticism over critical race theory in general, critical legal studies in general, and the asserted greatness, unsupported by evidence, of this Derrick Bell guy, whoever he was.

I don't know who he was, but any and all of the "critical" theories are anything but "great," unless it is in doing a great disservice to the world. Their intrinsic antagonism and appeal to division, resentment, and eternal rancor, have done everyone, especially the wards of these theories, has made things worse, not better.

William said...

The Spanish invaders of the New World acted with barbarity, greed, and cruelty. Their behavior is indefensible.....However, this much can be said in their behalf. There was a priest with the Spanish who was appalled by their behavior and reported back to the throne on their rapacity. In all the many civilizations that rose and fell in mesoamerica, there were none that believed in treating a vanquished enemy with decency. It might even be said that by treating the natives as a cheap source of labor, the Spanish were an improvement over the Aztecs who considered their captive peoples a cheap source of protein.....My point is not that the Spaniards were moral but that they were violative of morality. In this, they were ahead of the Aztecs whose only point of morality was the advancement of their own self interest. Professor Bell has much to teach us of hypocrisy.

Sara Goldrick-Rab said...

Great post Ann. Glad to see this-- was expecting commentary on UW's "Diversity Day."

Trooper York said...

Ann Althouse said...
Comments in this thread must be respectful. You are free to disagree with his approach, but I will delete comments I don't feel are appropriate. Bell was a great man

Wow. Affirmative action comments.

That's a new one.

Saint Croix said...

Comments in this thread must be respectful. You are free to disagree with his approach, but I will delete comments I don't feel are appropriate. Bell was a great man.

I read the space alien hypothetical when in law school. It seemed to me utterly racist and paranoid. I could not believe we invited this guy to our law school.

When I met him, he was such a nice, friendly, warm-hearted person. His smile would light up his face. He liked everybody. He just kind of lit up a room. Very dignified, too, but mostly you notice how happy and friendly he is.

He is such a stark contrast to his writings!

On another thread Ann talks about how she doesn't want to meet certain people for fear of liking them.

Derek Bell is exactly like that, except in reverse. I like him. So I don't want to read any of his stuff.

SGT Ted said...

It is in my own self interest to support equal rights for blacks , or any other minority for that matter, as civil rights are strengthened for all.

It is not in my self interest nor is it in any minorities self interest to play "blame whitey" or give them set-asides, because of the presumption that minorities cannot succeed without white people giving them a handout. I find that presumption to be racist and I am not a racist, so I will oppose such efforts.

Bender said...

OK, I had only skimmed the post and comments earlier, but having now read the paragraph about the parable, one can only conclude that Bell was a racialist, if not a racist, given his apparently total inability to see beyond racial divisions, seeing people not as human persons, but basically as objects, as "whites," "blacks," etc.

The clear lesson of that parable is that white people are inherently evil. Whites are moral monsters.

That is not greatness. That is irrational hatred.

Ann Althouse said...

"Actually, you are making the logical error. Bell making the case that "whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest" is not the same as "that people tend to do what is in their own interest" at all."

It's a subset of a larger category. The larger category is conventional common sense. You're having trouble processing the application of the standard observation in the particular subcategory for some reason. Why?

ricpic said...

What about the scandal of institutionalized anti-white racism, hmmm? One of the many topics bien pensants won't even think about nevermind discuss. Because to do so would mean automatic loss of the bien pensant membership card.

dbp said...

Bell may be right that many of the policies which supposedly help African Americans actually help the Whites who push for these policies. For instance, the Democratic policies like racial set asides, welfare and so forth do have the effect of keeping African Americans a loyal Democratic voting block. But, I would be willing to bet that an overwhelming percentage of Democratic politicians and voters are in favor of these policies because they think it helps Blacks, not because of any political benefit to their party.

Republicans often oppose the above policies and point out that they help Democrats, keep African Americans down and etc. It is not usually thought of by conservatives, but some of the Republican constituency is hurt by these things: They loose the jobs that are set-aside and they pay (via high taxes) for the welfare.

So Bell's critical race theory could cut in either direction. But the main thing is that it is wrong most of the time. People on both sides are actually trying to help improve the situation for African Americans, without much concern for the benefits to their own side. Sure, liberals and conservatives disagree on what should be done and do often (way too often) resort to calling the other side "racist". I just don't see how it is productive to push a theory, which even if it was right, would be counter productive.

What better way to poison the well of actual good will on the part of the majority, than to assume that whatever they do, it is because they think it will somehow benefit their side?

Henry said...

You're having trouble processing the application of the standard observation in the particular subcategory for some reason. Why?

Because it's boring.

Paul Zrimsek said...

You're having trouble processing the application of the standard observation in the particular subcategory for some reason. Why?

Probably because the standard observation is being presented as momentous. For some reason.

Mary said...

"The larger category is conventional common sense. You're having trouble processing the application of the standard observation in the particular subcategory for some reason. Why?"


Maybe, he never attended -- nor got invited to attend -- that particular convention?

Meaning... it's common sense to YOU, but not to all non-elite whites.

Mary said...

(In Madison, practicing Christians are a minority, correct?)

Trooper York said...

Palladian said....
But it's ok to have commenters who consistently call other commenters "jews", "mormon satanists" and who threaten physical violence against other commenters. Got it! This conditional free-speech policy is great!

That's it in a nutshell right there.

The perfect demonstration of the academic mind at work. It is more important to police the attitudes of the law abiding majority toward a protected class than it is to address ongoing criminal behavior.

It's comical really.

Peano said...

Bell was a great man.

Eye of the beholder.

Mary said...

(Remember folks: Ann comes from Mayflower stock. Been here, benefitting, a long time, and without a solid Christian foundation, she no doubt believes all others carry the guilt factor she and hers perhaps do... Hence, that Obama vote.)

Peano said...

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....

You could just as well switch the places of whites and blacks in that story. Either way, the story is fundamentally racist.

David said...

There have been some whites who have been willing to sacrifice some things for the advancement of blacks. A few have given their lives. I do not include Civil War deaths in that group, since most white soldiers in the Civil War were not fighting for blacks.

But Bell's main insight, that overall whites support "programs for blacks" that are in their own interest, is both crucial and correct. The entire liberal edifice can and should be attacked on this basis, and many conservative black thinkers echo this idea.

The early great black leaders like Washington and DuBois shared this insight, though it lead them to different conclusions regarding actions.

Read James Baldwin--in my opinion the most interesting black writer of the 20th century. His work is full of similar insights.

I don't get the reflexive criticism of Bell because he made up some stories to emphasize his point.

Mary said...

"There have been some whites who have been willing to sacrifice some things for the advancement of blacks."

Some includes,
Voluntary sacrifice: Inner-city nuns who taught black children -- many now national leaders -- in Catholic schools for years.

Non-voluntary sacrifice:
Working-class white parents who saw their own children rejected under affirmative action and scholarship programs designed to give minority students a "lift" in admissions.

Ditto: job preferences for civil servants on race-weighted scales.

A firefighter named Ricci, and 20 of his brother firefighters, were asked to unvoluntarily sacrifice their promotions to help black firefighters advance. Thankfully, they declined. Perhaps out of their own, perhaps out of the public's best interest...

David said...

If you look at these comments overall, many of them prove Bell's point. White people saying "yeah, but what about us?"

David said...

Mary, I agree until you get to the employees on race weighted scales. That's obligatory not voluntary.

But you are highlighting the exceptions, not the rule.

Again the entire liberal edifice is based on white people getting and maintaining power by using "black" issues to advance. This is why the attacks on blacks who leave the reservation are so vicious.

David said...

I am conservatively skeptical about these comments.

Suggest commenters learn more about Professor Bell before speaking. Many comments have a sort of global warming vibe.

David said...

"Bell puts his scenario forward merely to accuse whites of being uniquely tempted to something no other race would be."

He did? Evidence?

Trooper York said...

David said......
Suggest commenters learn more about Professor Bell before speaking. Many comments have a sort of global warming vibe.

There seem to be many suggestions and rules and guidelines about commenting about Professor Bell. How is it that we didn't have that when talking about anyone else that I can remember? Many more controversial figures have passed and there was no such preemptive protective scolding.

What's so special about this dude?

gregq said...

I'd hate that deal by the space traders. Because I'd much rather be one of the people who got to go to space.

As for Prof. Bell, it is said that one should not speak ill of the dead. Therefore I find I have nothing to say about him.

Either you operate on reason and logic, or you operate on the basis of pure raw power. The first is the goal of the decent human being. The second is the MO of the thug.

Henry said...

David wrote If you look at these comments overall, many of them prove Bell's point. White people saying "yeah, but what about us?"

David, that's disingenuous. The bulk of the commenters here aren't saying that at all.

They are saying "yeah, and your point is?"

* * *

I'm still struck by the parallel cases of the aliens and President Obama. Like the aliens, candidate Obama promised economic relief, environmental salvation, and safe energy.

But being an earthbound politician, Obama didn't ask for anyone to be sacrificed (not in 2008). He promised everything for free. In an election between Obama and the aliens, Obama would have won.

Everyone is self-interested, but people do prefer the pretense of being self-interested and virtuous at the same time. Maybe this is what Bell is about, but his alien parable says that not at all.

Now forward to the present. All the things that Obama has promised, for free, have failed to materialize. Now he must ask for a sacrifice or he won't be taken seriously.

But still, he doesn't talk like the aliens. He doesn't offer a bald trade. He explains that the sacrifice isn't really a sacrifice. He talks about how the people being asked to sacrifice (Warren Buffet) really want to sacrifice.

He would still out-vote the aliens.

ricpic said...

The entire history of throwing trillions of dollars (other peoples' dollars, primarily middle class whites' dollars) at "poverty" (primarily underclass blacks) by white elites, boils down to one word: appeasement. Terrified by the always lurking black propensity for violence, white elites have been attempting to buy blacks off for a half-century. That's what's been going on under all the highfalutin' talk about caring and compassion. And Jesse, Charlie and Al have been only too glad to stoke that fear.

Peano said...

Althouse said, Mr. Bell’s core beliefs included what he called “the interest convergence dilemma” — the idea that whites would not support efforts to improve the position of blacks unless it was in their interest....

When challenged, Althouse replied: You made a logic error there. He pointed out something in the race context that is completely normal to observe generally, that people tend to do what is in their own interest.

And later elaborated: It's a subset of a larger category. The larger category is conventional common sense. You're having trouble processing the application of the standard observation in the particular subcategory for some reason. Why?

-------

No, the error is yours, Althouse, and also Bell’s. Grant the assumption, “People generally tend to do what is in their own interest.” It doesn’t follow from this that white people generally tend to do what is in white people’s interest. It doesn’t follow unless you add the tacit assumption that white people will identify their interests by reference to their race -- an assumption that both you and Bell seem willing to supply.

Bell’s story rests on the unstated (and gratuitous) premise that white people are racists and that their calculations of self-interest will reflect their racism. Absent that premise, there is no story to tell.

craig said...

Judge for yourself:

http://www4.ncsu.edu/~mseth2/com417/readings/BellSpaceTraders.pdf

By my reading, Bell's story is as much a caricature of whites as Der Sturmer was a caricature of Jews.

Original Mike said...

"You made a logic error there. He pointed out something in the race context that is completely normal to observe generally, that people tend to do what is in their own interest."

Well, I assume you toned down Bell's claim by slipping in the word "tend". Let's call that the "weak interest convergence dilemma", and I would agree with it. I assume Bell was a proponent of the "strong interest convergence dilemma". If not, then I think the whole idea loses 98% of it's value.

"When people offer to do something out of altruism, it's a good idea to test it by asking: What's in it for them? Are you doing something out of benevolence for other people or are you posing as benevolent when what you want to do serves your interests."

Of course, but if it actually serves their interest then they are NOT doing it out of altruism. Apparently, Prof. Bell rejects the existence of real altruism when it comes to race. I do not. I don't know what "logic error" you think you've detected.

pduggie said...

Ann: Jesus himself said he used parables not to invite discussion and consideration of all the ambiguous meanings, but to separate the elect who "got it" from the vast majority who were closed to the new message.

That's all well and good, but it raises questions about Bell's parables too: Are they just for those who "get it"? The way he sees the situation as an insoluble paradox or dilemma would seem to indicate yet

traditionalguy said...

Bell is a transition thinker pulling back the older idea of racism being whites hating blacks and replacing it with an analysis explaining that rational causes hinder race relations.

The philosophy does not attempt to bring in altruism anymore than Adam Smith does.

Altruism is a always wild card. In a Christian areas it came up more often than you might suspect. But it still leaves in a hurry when violence is threatened.

It took a brilliant young Atlantan named King to tap into white southerner's fear of using altruism by contrasting what peaceful blacks were facing at the KKK level from traditional segregation overseers in the territory of civilized whites.

A knee jerk despising of the philosophy of Bell only shows a continuing level of fear of black rebellion , which was what MLK had once provided an antidote for.

Mary said...

"A knee jerk despising of the philosophy of Bell only shows a continuing level of fear of black rebellion , which was what MLK had once provided an antidote for."

Are people who disapprove of the performance of the country's First Black PResident more afraid of black rebellion, or of under-qualified black advancement?

Thinking about those white firefighters who were (temporarily) denied promotion in favor of the black ones, I'm thinking it's more the latter.

Cato Renasci said...

No, I respectfully disagree.

Bell was not a great man. Critical race theory is nonsense, and its effects on legal thought - and hence society, were, and continue to be, pernicious.

craig said...

traditionalguy said...

"It took a brilliant young Atlantan named King to tap into white southerner's fear of using altruism...."

King was a Baptist minister and his campaign for civil rights was specifically and openly Christian. This fact has been excised from the school textbooks along with the rest of the Christian motivations for American political movements (except where they can be used to paint Christians negatively, of course).

King's movement succeeded because it exhorted white Americans and Christians to live up to the principles they profess: that all men are created equal before God, and thus ought to be equal before the state. The Black Power movement derailed all that when it made reverse race-based politics politically acceptable. 'Fear of black rebellion' had nothing to do with it; it's the strategy of 'what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable' that led to white pushback. Now that RACISM! has become the universal leftist arguing point on all issues, the race card has been cancelled completely.

Cedarford said...

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."

OUCH!

"In place of a reasoned argument, let me make up a story for the court...."

*Gavel slams down*

"Mom, I won't argue about the midnight curfew if I get the car keys, but let me tell you a story.."

*Mom! Why won't you listen to me!*

Cedarford said...

David said...
David - There have been some whites who have been willing to sacrifice some things for the advancement of blacks. A few have given their lives. I do not include Civil War deaths in that group, since most white soldiers in the Civil War were not fighting for blacks.

Then you would be wrong. The abolitionist cause was a strong motivator on the Union Side for boys to enlist in a noble, godly cause to free the Negro. It greatly cut down on the need for a Draft - which fell on immigrants that didn't have the same abolitionist passion. A fair chunk of those 380,000 the Union lost were idealistic young whites out to save the noble Negro from Simon Legree.

In the South, the Union soldiers said to all they had come only to fight to free the Negro, the Southerners in turn, only 5% who had slaves - said they fought only because the Yankee was "down here". In the South, many Union soldiers captured were told by rebs that they wished the Union would leave, and take all the freed Negroes back North with them, and see how the blacks worked out for them. Same in Reconstruction.
It wasn't until the 1920s, however, when immigration restrictions and worker shortages started a substantial Negro migration to thriving, wealthy, and growing cities like Newark, Chicago, Hartford, Cleveland, Philadephia, Gary, Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Detroit.
The migration became a flood in the 50s and 60s.
The 100s of thousands of idealistic young whites in the Union Army finally got their wish.
And their ancestors can see the wisdom of that idealism, and the fruits of the emancipated blacks decendents on display in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadephia, Newark, Milwaukee.

Ralph L said...

I preferred his brother, Griffin.

Francisco D said...

"No, but I'm not seeing too many black people narcissistically posturing about how altruistic they are to care so selflessly as they advance the interests of white people"

Ann,

I am impressed at your return to classical liberalism. As jealous as I am of that Meade fellow, I suspect he has been an influence. Of course, as a strong, independent minded woman, you need a man's influence like a fish needs a bicycle.

Maximus said...

"No, but I'm not seeing too many black people narcissistically posturing about how altruistic they are to care so selflessly as they advance the interests of white people. I'm not sure I've ever seen that."

You're right--they tend to be quite open about their hatred for we "ice devils."

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Nice to believe, Cedarford, but not true. With exceptions, you find very little in the diaries and correspondence of Civil War white soldiers to support the idea that they were in service to help blacks. This was a literate army that wrote prolifically, and the evidence just does not confirm your belief.

Peano said...

The abolitionist cause was a strong motivator on the Union Side for boys to enlist in a noble, godly cause to free the Negro. It greatly cut down on the need for a Draft - which fell on immigrants that didn't have the same abolitionist passion. A fair chunk of those 380,000 the Union lost were idealistic young whites out to save the noble Negro from Simon Legree.

You're not supposed to recall such facts. It conflicts with the narrative.

Mary said...

"you find very little in the diaries and correspondence of Civil War white soldiers to support the idea that they were in service to help blacks. This was a literate army that wrote prolifically, and the evidence just does not confirm your belief."

You should look at the front pages, pre-War, of some of the northern newspapers at the time, debating whether the abolition/Christian cause was strong enough to send troops. At first, there was debate between the St. Paul Minn. daily papers. The more Republican paper strongly favoring. Eventually, they both agreed.

Soldiers in the field write different kind of letters, pining for home and with the prime importance of staying alive. Ask yourself: why did the North eventually see that the South could not just cut away, and keep their practices under their own rule. It was religious motivation, universal humanitarian underpinnings that led them to commit their men. Way Up North, they were at no risk remember...

blake said...

Ray Bradbury did it first.

All the black people escaped to Mars.