9 Things You Need To Know About The Radical Law Professor Obama Once Hugged

Barack Obama hug crop

Everybody is talking about Derrick Bell. 

Ever since Breitbart.com and Buzzfeed simultaneously “scooped” a 1991 video of Obama speaking at a rally supporting Bell, the controversial law professor, who was little-known to most Americans, has become the centre of debate.

Questions of Obama’s “radical” past are once again surfacing, for the first time since Obama denounced Jeremiah Wright, his preacher and friend, during his 2008 presidential campaign. 

The comparisons between the two thinkers are quickly drawn. Investor’s Business Daily, for one, is already calling Bell “The Jeremiah Wright of Harvard.” John McWhorter of the Daily News, on the other hand, writes that those who believe Obama’s support of Bell makes him a “leftist race-baiter” are ” misunderstanding something key about America’s social history.”

So who was Derrick Bell, and what did he believe? 

In 1991, Bell announced he was going on unpaid leave from Harvard until the school hired a tenured female faculty member of colour.

At the time, there were none.

Professor Bell's protest began after Regina Austin, who had been serving as a visiting professor at Harvard Law, was denied tenure.

Bell was the first tenured black professor at Harvard Law School.

Source: The Atlantic

Bell embraced critical race theory.

Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline that says questions of race and power should be central to the law.

Source: The Atlantic

While he was writing it, his publisher referred to the book as 'unremittingly despairing.' Mr. Bell responded, 'No, you don't understand. For a black person in this society, the truth is never despairing.'

Source: The New York Times

In 1992, he told The New York Times that black Americans were more subjugated than at any time since slavery.

The only difference now, he said, is that there is 'a more effective, more sophisticated means of domination.'

Source: The New York Times

He was famous for leaving prestigious jobs.

In 1980 he left Harvard to become dean of the University of Oregon School of Law, but he resigned in 1985 when the school did not offer a position to an Asian-American woman.

Source: The New York Times

When Harvard failed to grant tenure to two professors whose work involved critical race theory in 1986, Bell staged a five-day sit-in in his office.

'What you can say without reservation is that to stand up when everybody else is sitting down, to leave a job when you think it's intolerable, you feel better,' he told The New York Times. 'It may not be long before you can't pay the bills, but there's a sense that you did the right thing.'

Source: The New York Times, Professorderrickbell.com

He wrote parables and allegories about race relations.

He then debated the meaning of the stories with a fictional alter ego, a professor named Geneva Crenshaw, who forced him to confront the truth about racism in America.

Source: The New York Times

In the story, as Professor Bell later described it, creatures from another planet offer the United States fantastic wealth, unlimited energy, and an end to pollutants in exchange for America's black population. Whites accept the offer.

Source: The Atlantic

He was an early critic of Clarence Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court.

Bell accused President George Bush of 'gross tokenism in the appointment of a black who is a conservative and shares the views of upper-class whites.'

Source: The Baltimore Sun

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