Was Derrick Bell a radical when Barack Obama told us all to open our hearts and minds? Thomas Sowell was asked about Bell at the time. Here’s what he said:
SOWELL: Oh, political purposes. I just a couple of days ago was told by someone from Wellesley that there’s a divestment campaign at Wellesley, demonstrations, the whole thing, and that those black girls who did not want to participate in that were threatened with violence — and that’s not unique. At Stanford the Hispanic students, some Hispanic students, have complained that the Hispanic establishment has threatened them if they don’t want to go along with what’s being said and done, and they claim that only 15% of the Hispanic students at Stanford have ever attended a single event sponsored by the Hispanic establishment, which speaks boldly in their name. Ah, and so you have this kind of thing going on at these schools across the country. Again, notice, that once, once you let in the students who cannot make, meet the academic standards, you’re going to end up having to let in professors who can’t meet the academic standards. You’re going to have to create courses that don’t meet the academic standards.
LAMB: Correct me on the, on the names and everything. Derrick Bell?
LAMB: Harvard Law School, black man.
LAMB: Threatened the law school if they didn’t hire a black woman, he’s going, he’s leaving?
SOWELL: Well, if I understand it correctly, he’s taking unpaid leave until such time as they hire a woman of color, as he says. Well, he’s also said that by black, he does not mean skin color, he means those who are really black, not those who think white and look black. And so what he is really saying is he wants ideological conformity in the people that are hired to fill this position. That’s not uncommon either. I know a black woman, for example, who had a Ph.D. — she’s had a book published, she has another contract on another book, she’s taught at a couple of very nice places, she has a devil of a time getting a job — not a job in a prestigious institution, a job teaching at a college. And the reason is that she gets shot down, blackballed, whatever, by people who don’t like her ideology. That’s happening not only racially, it’s also happening where race is not an issue. In a law school, I learned recently, there’s a woman who was being considered for a tenured position, and all the men voted for her and all the woman voted against her, because she does not follow radical feminism, and so you’re getting these ideological tests, so that at the very time that there’s all this mouthing of the word diversity, there is this extremely narrow ideological conformity that is being enforced wherever people have the power to enforce it.
LAMB: What did you think of Derrick Bell’s whole plan?
SOWELL: Well, his chances of success will depend on whether or not he has overestimated his importance to the Harvard Law School. I think it would be a tragedy if they caved in, and I was very pleased to see that they seemed to show some backbone, which is quite rare among academics.
LAMB: Now, what do you think of the press treatment of him?
SOWELL: It’s been quite gentle.
LAMB: You mean, is he a hero?
SOWELL: To me?
LAMB: No. Basically, I mean, from the press coverage, you’ve seen, is he a hero to the …?
SOWELL: Well, he’s looked at as an idealist who is self-sacrificing and so on. I suppose one could, if one wanted to look at it that way, have seen Hitler that way in his early days. It’s just a question of where that kind of idealism leads. He has launched a despicable attack on a young black professor at the law school who doesn’t go along with this. A young man named Randall Kennedy, who has written a very thoughtful, intelligent article last June in the Harvard Law Review, questioning some of the assumptions that people are making, people like Derrick Bell and doing it in a very gentlemanly as well as very logical way, empirical way, and that’s not what they want. They want the conclusion to be that — they want him to march in lock step and he won’t do it, and they’re doing their best to make life impossible for him.
LAMB: What do you think Harvard will do?
SOWELL: I’ve heard that Kennedy — and I don’t know this — I’ve heard that he has tenure, so I think that he may be all right.
LAMB: But, I mean, what do you think they’ll do with …
SOWELL: Derrick Bell?
SOWELL: I hope that they will resist it, and since it’s gotten so much publicity, I’m not sure they could stand to cave in to it. I was very pleased to see that Alan Dershowitz of Harvard had criticized this and that he picked up the fact that what Bell is really asking for is not only that people be hired by race, but that they be hired to fit Derek Bell’s ideology.
LAMB: What would happen if this was going on at Stanford Law School?
SOWELL: They’d have caved in long ago.
LAMB: Stanford Law School would have?
SOWELL: Yes. I think so. It’s a judgment call, but that’s my judgment.
LAMB: Why would they do it so quickly?
SOWELL: Just looking at their track record. They have perfected the technique of preemptive surrender.