Monday, July 26, 2021

Why Is There A Generalized Coverup Of Derrick Bell's Critical Race Theory?

BAR  |  Through the lens of racial fortuity, Bell rejects the liberal view of history as one of racial progress, favoring instead a cyclical view of history in which Black people experience progress through interest convergence and setbacks under racial sacrifice. For example, Bell argues that the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are instances of interest convergence. In the first case, ending slavery was a means to the end of “saving the union”; in the second case, the amendments helped the Republicans maintain control of Congress. However, these instances of interest convergence were followed by two instances of racial sacrifice: the Tilden-Hayes compromise, which ended Reconstruction, and the disenfranchisement of Black voters in the South, which prevented Black voters from influencing elections in those states. 

For Bell, the most important example of interest convergence is the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that racial segregation is unconstitutional. Bell originally argued this in his 1980 paper “Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma ,” where he posited that the Court’s decision resulted not from a moral concern about Black well-being under Jim Crow regimes but from three international and domestic interests. Internationally, the U.S. needed to end segregation because it embarrassed the country on the world stage and undermined Cold War imperatives. Bell’s thesis was later corroborated by historian Mary Dudziak, who demonstrated  that the Supreme Court wanted to end segregation because the Soviet Union and Third World anticolonial movements were using Jim Crow to criticize Amerika. Domestically, the U.S. needed to end segregation because it needed to gain Black support for Cold War foreign policy and because segregation was viewed as a barrier to industrialization in the South. 

Thus, Bell’s materialism inspires his theory of racial fortuity, which interprets even the most celebrated events of Amerikan racial history as cynical decisions designed to advance capitalists and imperialist ends. 

“The U.S. needed to end segregation because it embarrassed the country on the world stage and undermined Cold War imperatives.”

The second theme in Bell’s CRT is realism, which provides the basis for his theory of racial realism. Bell’s realism begins with an emphasis on the empirical realities of Black people in Amerika. On this view, CRT politics beings with historical and sociological descriptions about what is rather than with idealistic hopes about what might be. But for Bell, when we examine the patterns of racial fortuity in Amerikan history, we should reach the obvious conclusion: there is no empirical reason to believe that racism and white supremacy will ever come to an end in Amerika. In other words, U.S. history suggests that racism is permanent and racial equality is impossible. To be sure, Bell does not mean that racism is an ahistorical or eternal phenomenon; rather, he says that nothing in Amerikan history would make any reasonable person believe that racism will end in the U.S. 

Bell has gotten a lot of heat from critics who claim that racial realism leads to inaction, pessimism, and fatalism. But Bell argues that the problem is not the struggle but the aim of the struggle. Too much energy and too many resources, Bell writes, have been wasted chasing the unrealistic goal of racial equality. But that just means that the struggle should aim for something else. As Bell writes in his famous 1992 essay “Racial Realism ,” “Racial Realism…requires us to acknowledge the permanence of our subordinate status. That acknowledgement enables us to avoid despair, and frees us to imagine and implement racial strategies that can bring fulfillment and even triumph.” In his follow-up book Afrolantica Legacies, Bell lays out seven “rules of racial preservation,” guidelines designed to help Black people survive and even thrive in a perpetually white supremacist empire. 

Thus, Bell’s realism inspires his theory of racial realism, which views Amerikan society as permanently racist and which advocates survival strategies as a more effective and realistic alternative to traditional civil rights calls for racial equality. 

The third theme in Bell’s CRT is anticolonialism, which provides the basis for his critique of the Black middle class. In Afrolantica Legacies, Bell draws upon Robert L. Allen’s Black Awakening in Capitalist America, which argues that the elite of the 1960s were implementing a program of “domestic neocolonialism .” According to Allen, the white Amerikan elite were happy to integrate politically convective middle class Blacks into the power structure because it would protect the status quo from accusations of racism while giving those same middle class Blacks a stake in the system. By becoming beneficiaries of the Amerikan capitalist empire, Black middle class citizens were increasingly likely to identify with and defend it.  

“Belll views Amerikan society as permanently racist and which advocates survival strategies as a more effective and realistic alternative to traditional civil rights calls for racial equality.“

Following Allen, Bell explains neocolonialism and the class role the Black bourgeoisie plays in a neocolonial regime: “The colonizing countries maintained their control by establishing class divisions within the ranks of the indigenous peoples. A few able (and safe) individuals were permitted to move up in the ranks where they served as symbols of what was possible for the subordinated masses. In this, and less enviable ways, these individuals provide a legitimacy to the colonial rule that it clearly did not deserve.” 

Bell levels a class critique against the Black bourgeoisie, whom he sees as having led Black political protest down the wrong path time and time again. He criticizes  NAACP lawyers for advancing the organization’s demand for integrated schools at the expense of their constituents' demands for better Black schools. He condemns  high-profile conservative Black politicians and judges, such as Clarence Thomas, referring to them as “overseers.”

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