The verdict is in: The mainstream media believes that Derrick Bell is not a story. They believe it so deeply that they've had members of the Breitbart.com team on national television repeatedly; they've spent thousands of words covering it; and they've mentioned it on radio and the Internet incessantly. All to say that there's nothing to see here.
Unfortunately, for President Obama, there's something to see here.
Back when President Obama was a 28-year-old student at Harvard Law, he gave a speech in support of controversial racialist Professor Derrick Bell. The raw tape of that video was parceled out in bits and pieces over the subsequent years -- much of it is still apparently missing -- but last week, the most relevant section was released. It showed Obama telling a crowd, "Open your hearts and your minds to the words of Professor Derrick Bell." He then gives Bell a bear hug.
The full video was only found after Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree, an Obama campaign advisor, showed it in one of his classes. He proceeded to inform the audience that "we hid this throughout the 2008 campaign," but that he didn't care if people found out about it now.
So what's the relevance? The relevance is that Derrick Bell was a massive racial radical. He was the father of a fringe legal theory called the critical race theory, which states first that racial discrimination can never be eliminated; and second, that the constitutional and legal system is based on racism -- loaded with it -- and is therefore uncorrectable.
Bell was therefore significantly more militant than the traditional civil rights movement. That's why he felt that the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the laws, benefitted whites more than blacks. That's why he thought that Brown v. Board of Education was an attempt by whites to fight back against the Soviet Union during the Cold War by undercutting the narrative that the United States was racist.
Bell thought that Louis Farrakhan was a "hero for the people," since he stood up to the white establishment -- a position so extreme that even fellow Harvard professors such as Randall Kennedy thought it was over the edge. Bell excused a certain amount of anti-Semitism by blaming it on "Jewish neoconservative racists who are undermining blacks in every way they can."
So what was the tie between Bell and Obama, aside from that one incident? When Obama lectured at University of Chicago, he assigned Bell's material, including lines like this: "Slavery is, as an example of what white American has done, a constant reminder of what white American might do." And this: "In similar fashion, African Americans must confront and conquer the otherwise deadening reality of our permanent subordinate status."
This philosophy pervades President Obama's tenure. Obama's Department of Justice ignores obvious cases of voter intimidation so long as they come from the New Black Panthers; Obama himself thinks the police act "stupidly" when they arrest black professors who violate the law; Obama appoints Supreme Court justices who agree with his stances on race.
But most of all, Obama believes that the Constitution requires fundamental change, for both redistributive and racial reasons. That's what he campaigned on, even though we didn't know it. And that philosophy has deep roots, some of which find their source in Derrick Bell.