The Corner

Why the Obama-Bell Video Is a Little Bit Important

I do not count myself among those greatly disturbed by the “vetting” video that distributed yesterday, but that it is not the “bombshell” that we were promised does not render it entirely irrelevant or unworthy of further discussion.

The video features a young Barack Obama praising former Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell and, in a now-familiar cadence, inviting his audience to “open up our hearts and minds” to Bell’s ideas. In the specific case Obama was discussing, Bell’s doctrine was being employed to advocate “diversification” at HLS, which meant the faculty being entreated to hire a female black law professor immediately. My colleague Dan Foster noted on Twitter this morning that the video ultimately just shows a “liberal law student praising a liberal law professor,” and there is much in this.

But I would go one step further leftward: Critical race theory, of which Bell was essentially the founder and the greatest proponent, is explicitly incompatible with “liberalism” as classically defined; in truth, it is more of a radical Leftist idea. As a result of the claims it makes, CRT is utterly incompatible with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and with American — and Western — ideals of equality, justice, and colorblindness, not to mention that its philosophical underpinnings stand in diametric opposition to that most cherished of conservative principles — belief in external reality. Ultimately, CRT relegates objective reality and our responses to it to a collection of human “constructs.” It is post-modern and it is radical. It is quite literally un-American.

Such suggestions would not, in fact, be rejected by advocates of CRT and other constructivist theories. If racism is ingrained into the fabric of American society, then our society inherently excludes those outside of the racial majority and the system needs smashing. But as a result, most of those who do reject wholesale the American “construct” do not seek its presidency. This is where is becomes relevant. It is fine for Americans to consider themselves outside of the system, but we should know about it if they are running the show. On CNN this morning, Amy Holmes — playing the sole voice of reason in a disastrous segment — correctly pointed out that Obama may well have changed his mind on various things since his college days, but that if he hasn’t it is important for Americans to consider the wisdom of his being president. Most of us have matured as we’ve got older, and the president may well have as well — we’ll probably never know, given the media’s double-standard on questions about Obama’s past — but, if he has not, then he is indeed a subversive, for it is one thing to look at the entire structure of government, law, and society, and claim it to be an intractably racist tool of white hegemony, and quite another to seek the highest office within it.

It is possible that Obama actually had to be begged to attend the rally in question, and that he was not a key organizer or acolyte of Bell’s. Moreover, by the time that Obama reached Harvard Law School, he was known as a a pragmatic consensus builder who was well-liked by some legal conservatives. But such facts will speak for themselves, or die, if they are allowed airtime, and that so many continue to be so suspicious of our president is in part the product of a media that seems intent on protecting him whether he needs such protection or not.


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