Right Wing Rings The Wrong Bell

They should just rename Fox News the “Black Presidents Scare The Shit Out Of Us” network. If nothing else, Sean Hannity is consistent—he inundates the airwaves every day with “Obama is a Communist/Marxist/Socialist/SecretMuslim" practically every time he is on the air. The video Hannity “premiered” on his show had actually been shown on PBS years ago, albeit without the “solidarity man hug” Comrade Obama gave Comrade Bell. The occasion seems to have been a public protest at Harvard University to improve its faculty diversity.


Obama: “And I remember that the black law students had organized an orientation for the first-year students. And one of the — persons who spoke at that orientation was Professor Bell. And I remember him sauntering up to the front and not giving us a lecture, but engaging us in a conversation and speaking the truth and telling us that he [inaudible] to learn at this place that I’ve carried with me ever since. Now how did this one man do all this? How has he accomplished all this? He hasn’t done it simply by his good looks and easy charm — although he has both in ample measure. He hasn’t done it simply because of the excellence of his scholarship, although his scholarship has opened up new vistas and new horizons and changed the standards of what legal writing is about. Open up your hearts and your minds to the words of Professor Derrick Bell.”

Barack Obama, Harvard Law Review President, introducing Derrick Bell

Watch Obama Speaks at Harvard Law in '90 on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

The thing that was the most interesting about the program was Hannity’s assertion that Derrick Bell was a “radical” of some sort for insisting that America had been founded on racially inequitable terms. I must be a radical of some sort myself for using quotes from one of Mr. Bell’s books last month to better illuminate an article I’d written on religion. Unless the history books modern day conservatives like Hannity consult have rewritten history, Derrick Bell’s assessment of how entrenched racial bias is in our American institutions is correct in many, many ways, beginning with the original Constitution itself, where only white males were considered to be full citizens of the country, even though the toil of blacks, Indians, and women contributed greatly to the success of what where then nascent American ideals.

In some ways, it is instructive to watch the way the entire Fox News ecosystem operates as a microcosm of the way millions of Americans think. The hosts on the Fox News channel choose to focus on race and perceived racial bias much more than any other news channel, yet insist that it is President Obama’s fault that they have to even deal with these kinds of issues. President Obama is routinely derided as “in over his head”, “incompetent”, “ineffective”, “lacking leadership ability” and then touted as a man to be feared because he’s “coming after whitey”, often in the same breath, as if he is a nonsensical combination of Stepin Fetchit and Nation of Islam’s Rev. Louis Farrakahn all rolled into one.

The thing about the Fox News is crowd is that they want to have it both ways. They want to complain if we black people don’t appear to be pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, or claim that we are helpless victims. But if we attempt to organize ourselves, if we attempt to question and challenge the very practices and institutions that block full access to opportunity, we are somehow “radicals”, instead of American citizens who question and challenge the status quo  in the interest of becoming more self reliant.

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