Picture this: you are the president of a major law school. A visiting professor, assigned to teach an introductory law class, ignores the curriculum and instead usurps the class time to espouse a radical race theory he has recently developed.
First-year law students, mandatorily assigned to the class, stop attending the class, moonlighting instead at other sections of the same course being taught by other professors.
As an administrator, what do you do? To reasonable people, the course of action is obvious--you simply tell the visiting professor to stop it, and to stick to the curriculum.
But you don’t do that. Why not?
The answer is obvious, but complex: because you know you will be called a “racist” by activists, and you will do anything to avoid that. So you try to tiptoe around the problem, and you make it worse.
That's one legacy of racialist Derrick Bell, when he was invited to teach at the home of political correctness, Stanford Law School, in the 1980's.
The success of radical leftists in taking over administrative control of various institutions--the media, higher education and public worker unions--was partly based upon their tactic of accusing their opponents of being racist.
The truth is, it worked very well for a long time, and often still does. Human nature is to give in to avoid being called racist; it’s just not worth it for ordinary people doing everyday jobs--they didn’t sign up for that kind of harassment. The left knows it, and exploits it.
That partly explains how the left has used an intimidating culture of fear to turn institutions into bowls of milquetoast. It's a decades-old legacy of ordinary people backing down again and again, giving in to the radical Left.
In the universities, the Marxist/collectivists didn't call themselves "communists" or "socialists;" they used the brand name of "Critical Studies."
Buried in Derrick Bell’s resume is an instructive episode showing how the racial intimidation of the “Critical Studies” race baiters helped move the Leftist’s agenda.
Bell--who died last year--objected to neutrality and color-blindness in the Constitution. Bell wanted race to become a permanent weapon of the left--in short, he was a race warrior and wanted constant racial strife.
To justify his race war, he argued that the existence of slavery at the time of the U.S. Constitution rendered that agreement unenforceable against blacks. He reasoned that the Constitution was fatally illegitimate, and could never be fixed--not by the Civil War or the resulting anti-slavery amendments, nor by the Civil Rights amendments. To Bell, the Constitution was merely a tool to keep the black race down--permanently. It was government of the racists, by the racists and for the racists.
And because it's illegitimate, it does not have to be obeyed. That’s the intellectual justification. Got it?
Bell did a semester stint as a visiting professor at Stanford Law School in the mid-1980's. He was assigned to teach Introduction to Constitutional Law classes for first-year law students. Typically, these classes had 30 to 50 students per section. Students were mandatorily assigned their specific section and professor for these overview courses--they could not pick their professors.
(After the introductory courses, students were able to choose their “elective” classes, including smaller seminars, typically with 4 - 10 students, which often delved into fairly esoteric or radical areas. Small sections were notorious for grade inflation; if there were less than 10 students, the professor didn’t have to follow the grading curve. Everyone could get an “A.”)
Leftists love captive audiences, and Bell decided that the students mandatorily assigned to his Constitutional Law section were not going to be taught the “overview” material that every other Stanford Law School student was taught, i.e. the textbook law from famed Professors Gunther or Tribe.
Instead, Bell subjected his intro students to his racialist “Critical Race Theory.” First-year students expecting to learn about basic constitutional law instead were instructed by Bell that the document was illegitimate and racist. The KKK was lurking behind every door in Bell’s world.
Stanford Law Students--generally, a group of liberal Democrats--weren’t dumb. In response to Bell’s racialist agenda, after just a few weeks, many of Bell’s students--a precise tally was never made public--quietly stopped attending his race-angst lectures, and instead began to attend other constitutional law sections taught by other professors. The students fleeing Bell’s class apparently thought they would just blend into those other sections. They would learn actual constitutional law, and would be able to pass the bar exam in a few years.
But something went wrong. There were apparently too many of them defecting. We'll never know what tipped off the law school administration. Maybe one asked for a tuition rebate. Maybe Bell tried to institute a roll-call in his class to stop the defections. Maybe another Con Law professor noticed his extra moonlighting students and started asking questions. Maybe the scuttlebutt voiced by the moonlighting students trickled up to an administrator. The catalyst will never be known.
However it was tipped off, the Stanford Law administration--generally, a group of liberal Democrats--leaped into action. Out of the blue, it quickly announced a series of extra “Constitutional Law Lectures” with all of the school’s Con Law professors participating. These half-dozen lectures covered all the basic areas of Constitutional Law--i.e., those not being taught by Bell.
The administration apparently hoped this set of remedial classes would mollify the defecting students, so they wouldn't feel the need to moonlight in other sections. In that way, the administration could appease the defecting students, and never have to confront Derek Bell about his racist curriculum. It was the perfect, boneheaded plan--the Administration could avoid the dreaded denunciations that it was “racist” if it were to confront Bell.
Instead, posters went up around the law school, announcing the lecture series: “Here come the grand Con Law Profs, in a new lecture series! A Splendid Time is Guaranteed for All!”
It was a bit puzzling--guest lectures were typically limited to guests dropping by campus for a day from far-off places--the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, a Harvard or Yale professor, a Supreme Court justice, a famous trial lawyer, etc. Why was a series of guest lectures needed, by Stanford Law Professors who had supposedly just taught that same material earlier that morning?
Indeed, shortly after the lecture series was launched, word quickly spread about the Bell defections being the real reason for the hastily-staged, strange lecture series. Within a day or two, a written apology from the Administration was issued. It was a debacle.
How could smart people--smart liberal Democrats--act so stupidly, especially when the obvious course of action was to tell Bell to knock it off? In hindsight, it is obvious that the Stanford Law School administrators fumbled, badly. Was it because they were racists?
Bell and the racialists were quick to accuse the Stanford administration and students of racism! They spun the story that the whole episode had occurred because the Administration had assumed that Bell was incompetent, because he was black.
What rubbish. "Competency" had nothing to do with it. Bell had brains; everyone knew that. Rather, pretty much everyone knew the truth: it was Bell’s race baiting, fringe leftist Critical Race nonesuch that was the root of the defections.
Bell was using a bully pulpit to preach racialist propaganda, and they were fleeing, like East Berlin residents defecting to West Berlin. And even more obvious, the Stanford Law School administrators knew that they would be called racist if they were to instruct a visiting black professor to teach a standard introductory curriculum to an introductory class of students taking a mandatory course. Desperately wanting to avoid being called racist, they cooked up a moronic plan to avoid being called racists.
In hindsight, appeasement is always appallingly boneheaded and ineffective.
Multiply that over many such battles, over many years. That's how we've arrived here. That’s how the race baiters roll.
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