Obama Assigned Bell at University of Chicago Law School

Barack Obama made his own students at the University of Chicago Law School read some of Derrick Bell's most radical and racially inflammatory writings.

In 1994, Barack Obama taught a course at the University of Chicago Law School entitled, "Current Issues in Racism and the Law." The reading list and syllabus for that class were made available by the New York Times in 2008, though there seems to have been little analysis of its content by Jodi Kantor, the Times’s Obama correspondent. 

Obama routinely assigned works by Bell as required reading, including Bell's racialist interpretations of seminal civil rights laws and cases. No other scholar’s work appears as often in the syllabus as Bell’s does.

Obama relied particularly heavily upon Bell’s major work, Race, Racism, and American Law (1973). Now in its sixth edition, the book lays out Bell’s Critical Race Theory, which is based on the Alinskyite presumption that all of law is a construct--not of justice, but of power exercised by whites against blacks. 

(Obama appears to be diagramming just such a presumption in a famous photo from his campaign that ran in The Times and accompanied a piece written by Kantor on Obama’s stint as a law lecturer. The title of the diagram, “relationships built on self-interest,” links corporations, banks, and utilities, as part of a "power analysis.")

Perhaps most interesting was Obama's decision to include and to require the introduction to Bell’s controversial 1992 book, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, which relied on manufactured stories (or, as Bell called them, “allegories” or “fables”) meant to portray the allegedly structural racism of American society.

In a September 24, 1992 interview with C-Span’s Brian Lamb, Lamb quoted this paragraph from Bell’s book and asked Bell for comment.

Black people will never gain full equality in this country. Even those Herculean efforts we hail as successful will produce no more than temporary peaks of progress, short-lived victories that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways that maintain white dominance. This is a hard-to-accept fact that all history verifies. We must acknowledge it, not as a sign of submission, but as an act of ultimate defiance. (p. 12, italics in original) 

“That, if I had to put down my whole thirty five years working in this [field] is [my view] reflected… If you read nothing else, I think that reflects my experience,” Bell told Lamb.

That is what Obama wanted his fellow students at Harvard, and the students he taught at Chicago, to understand--and believe.

Contrary to media spin, Obama did not encounter radical racialist professor Derrick Bell in a youthful flirtation with radicalism. 

Obama befriended Bell as an adult, and he used Bell's work to indoctrinate his own students about race and the law.


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