It’s been a good week for right wing media when you consider any publicity is good publicity. Of course there is the Rush flap, but another “blockbuster” was supposedly going to make Obama’s re-election dead in the water. Andrew Breitbart, before his unexpected demise, promised a video clip that would ruin Obama. Posthumously his website has released the so-called damaging footage to an underwhelmed audience. Different news sources have pointed out that the footage was not “hidden”, it had been aired as late as 2008, and the “blow” it delivers to Obama’s campaign will probably be weathered just fine.
The truth is that the information called attention to in the ‘Derrick Bell” video is info that may further piss off his current crop of haters, but it does very little to shock or offend his current supporters. The big deal about this video is that Obama introduced Derrick Bell – a controversial figure in the arena of race and politics – and seems to know this person!
I think the line that the Breitbart site is pushing is, “white liberals are oppressors”. Perhaps they think that a statement like that coming from a right wing news site will turn the tide of opinion against Obama. There is something that Breitbart and his colleagues really don’t get about liberals – they love to learn.
When you try on clothes, you can’t just let a jacket sit on a hanger and decide that it looks good on you, you have to try it on, and check it out from a few angles. That is how liberals treat new information. They acquire it, check it out from a few different angles, then decide whether or not it will get adopted into the current belief system. If the information isn’t useful to them, they just chalk it up to learning more. Liberals might read books they object to – like Atlas Shrugged – just to get a better understanding of someone else’s perspective. Liberals don’t limit their learning, that’s why the college program is called “Liberal Arts” – it’s a generous sprinkling of knowledge across many fields of study.
The current field of conservatives leading this country are not coming across as huge fans of such a broad education. They are ready to restrict, exclude, and demonize anyone who is offering a philosophy different than what they want. The theory that is so controversial that Derrick Bell writes about is called the Critical Race Theory. On a cursory Googling, what you’ll find out that what Bell and others have done is make statements about the fact that inequity between races exists – and documents such, then also critically analyzes the strides we’ve made in civil rights and how race intersects with property rights and power in this country. The most controversial part are views considered radical to some about just reparations based on race and class.
Derrick Bell (R.I.P) can get your hackles up, for sure; he confronts the issue of race in this country head on. Reviews of his books often mentioned a “fresh perspective” or similar sentiment. If the man is speaking from a place of experience and truth for himself, how can he be faulted for speaking his mind? He isn’t obscene, he advocates for the underrepresented. Agree with him or not, he is not to be made into a pariah. The fact that Obama knew him, acknowledged him, and may even have been intellectually stimulated by him does not alarm progressives because we would hope that the president of the Harvard Law Review, especially a black one, would have heard a wide variety of theories about a wide variety of issues – including race.
Education is one of the tried and true way we can level the playing field and increase opportunity across the board. Regardless of your race or class, a college campus can be instrumental in supplying someone with the bootstraps they need to pull themselves out of poverty. It doesn’t always work that way, especially in the current economy, but their chances increase significantly with a degree in hand. Education is often mocked and scorned by conservative leaders – especially if you weren’t born into a situation where you can pay for the privilege of an education. Learning all kinds of points of views should strengthen – not weaken – our own resolve to carry on with our values in the most effective manner. Progressives have empathy and a passion for social justice – we want to hear what folks like Derrick Bell have to say, even if we disagree with him. Top conservative values are authority and tradition. Social conservatives are uncomfortable with black men questioning authority or having a position of power. If that statement offends you, perhaps you aren’t as socially conservative as you thought you were.