Derrick Bell is often credited as one of the main founders of what is now known as “Critical Race Theory”. He was not alone, of course, being joined by other academicians such as Richard Delgado, Mari Matsuda, Patricia Williams, and many others. CRT, as it is commonly known today, is a further development of the Marxist “Critical Theory”. In CRT, however, instead of economics being the main cause of an unjust society (as explained by Karl Marx), or culture itself being the framework that must be attacked in order to destroy capitalism (as explained by Critical Theory), the struggle between races is the core problem that prevents justice in the world.
Derrick Bell slowly formed this belief as he worked hard to end rightly end segregation in the southern United States in the 1950s and 60s, then promoted his ideas about racial justice throughout the latter part of the 20th century until his death in 2011.
Mr. Bell earned his B.A. from Duquesne University in 1952, then served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, having gone through ROTC in college. In 1957 he earned his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh Law School. He worked in the U.S. Justice Department after receiving a recommendation from Attorney General William P. Rogers, but later resigned when he was told that his membership in the NAACP would be a conflict of interest.
He then worked for the NAACP as an assistant counsel, going into Southern states and working in over 300 lawsuits against segregation.
He said about that time in his life: “I learned a lot about evasiveness, and how racists could use a legal system to forestall equality.”
He went on to serve as a law professor at Harvard, Stanford, and also as dean of the law school at the University of Oregon. Throughout his lengthy career he was known for being an affable and engaging professor with students of various political beliefs. He was also famous for publicly protesting what he thought were racist standards at Harvard and elsewhere when they did not hire what he thought was a sufficient number of minorities to the faculty.
In his foundation book “Race, Racism, and American Law” (1972), he formulated the following theories:
1. Racism is normative in America. It is not an exception. It is the basis of all founding law and culture.
2. Racism is exclusively “white over color ascendancy.” That is, racism is only one way. Only whites can be racists since they hold the political-economic power.
3. It is possible to be a racist and not know it. Therefore, the dominant white culture must be taught that they are racists.
Here are a few quotes from Mr. Bell over the years:
“Progress in American race relations is largely a mirage, obscuring the fact that whites continue, consciously or unconsciously to do all in their power to ensure their dominion and maintain control.”
“Whites will promote racial advances for blacks only when they promote self interest.”
With such entrenched oppression against minorities in America, and so little political/economic hope, it is a wonder that Mr. Bell and all of his CRT cohorts ever became successful tenured professors at Harvard, Stanford, and a host of other prestigious universities across the land.