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Subject: Review: Derrick Bell

Subject: Review of AND WE ARE NOT SAVED

Subject: Review: AND WE ARE NOT SAVED (Field)

Subject: Review: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well (Lewis)

Subject: Review: AND WE ARE NOT SAVED(Besse)

Subject: review: And We Are Not Saved (Rosiak)

Subject: Derrick Bell's AND WE ARE NOT SAVED

Subject: Derrick Bell

Subject: Review: Derrick Bell (Jackson)

Subject: Review: Derrick Bell (Sauber)

Subject: Review: Derrick Bell (Jackson)

Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well

Subject: Erik's review of Derrick Bell

Subject: Doug Kershaw's reply about Bell's 'Faces' and Erik's review

Subject: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well (Ortiz)

Subject: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well (Martin)

Subject: Faces at the Bottom (Vinson)


Subject: Gospel Choirs (Beeman)

Subject: Re: Response to Paul Beaman's book review.

Subject: Review: Gospel Choirs (Navarrete)

Subject: Review: Bell, (Japuntich)

Subject: Review:Gospel Choirs

Subject: Review of Derrick Bell's Gospel Choirs

Subject: Re: Derrick Bell (Nuckols)

Subject: Re: Response(almli):Gospel Choirs

Subject: Re: Response(almli):Gospel Choirs

Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Amanda Moore)

Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Jessica Pearch)
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Justin Vaughn)

Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Melissa Lynott)

Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Michelle Mattia)

Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Steve Treonis)

Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Tom Linas)

From: "Laura Long" 
To: gmklass
Subject: Review: Derrick Bell

Review of Derrick Bell, AND WE ARE NOT SAVED (Basic Books, 1987)
                      Reviewed by:
                      Laura Long
               Illinois State University

     Racism is about barriers, about shutting others out.  In AND
WE ARE NOT SAVED Derrick Bell uses a series of myths,
or chronicles, to examine these barriers, particularly the mental
barriers American whites have erected against racial equality.  In
so doing, Bell, perhaps unwittingly, also presents some of the
mental barriers blacks themselves have constructed.  With the
help of his mystical guide Geneva Crenshaw, Bell explores the
various strategies used by civil rights activists, including
litigation and black self-strengthening, and comes to an unsettling
conclusion:  white racism is so deeply embedded in our culture that
it will obstruct any movement towards equality.
     In each of these chronicles, a divine act occurs, solving a
social ill suffered by blacks.  A private gift of economic
assistance to blacks restores economic equality (Chronicle 5), a
medical cure is discovered to end the "ghetto diseases" of apathy
and low self-esteem (Chronicle 7), and a magic pill transforms
black criminals into crime fighters (Chronicle 10).  White
unfailingly resist each of these measures, even when beneficial
results for blacks are clear and when the measures, such as the
private economic assistance, do not cost whites a cent.  Whites
view society as a zero sum game, in which any gain made by blacks
automatically threatens whites.  There is nothing blacks can do to
overcome such virulent racism.
     But if there is nothing blacks can do, neither is there
anything whites can do.  Bell asserts that racism has been deeply
rooted in white American institutions since at least the
convention, when the wealthy delegates legitimated slavery in order
to bolster the economy and to unite whites of all classes.  And in
every chronicle, a supernatural act occurs which changes black
behavior, not white.  The white reaction is always a knee-jerk
denial of any benefit for blacks.  There is no conceivable (or even
inconceivable) instance in which whites can stop being racists. 
Apparently, whites cannot even hope for a miracle to change them.
     Bell insists that a desire to dominate is an insurmountable
in whites' minds, but Bell's own refusal to believe that that
barrier is surmountable also creates a barrier to racial equality. 
In denying that whites possess any hint of compassion or genuine
interest in equality, he does to whites what he complains of
being done to blacks:  "Why, I wondered, do whites so readily visit
on blacks the worst possible motives for actions that may have been
well intended?"  Bell attributes an unalterable mindset to a broad
group of people, a mindset based on skin color, putting Bell in the
somewhat surprising position of a racist.
     Bell's almost bottomless skepticism of whites has
understandable origins.  Even today, blacks and whites are living
in the shadow of over two hundred years of racism.  Bell movingly
describes the uncertainty blacks face in almost every situation,
the feeling "that my life and well-being lay totally at the whim of
any white person I encountered."  Whites can go for days without
consciously thinking about racism, whereas for minorities, the
question of racist motives is ever at the back of their
minds.  A black person can never know if poor treatment at a
restaurant is due to racism.  The point, however, is that sometimes
the cause IS just a rude waiter and nothing more.  Not all whites
seek to keep their boots on the throats of minorities.  True, some
whites will always be consumed by selfishness, but such
an enlightened self-interest may serve the cause of racial equality
as more and more whites realize the interconnection between
problems in black communities with problems in the country as a
whole, a proposition which Bell unfortunately brushes away too
     While Bell is right that the United States is far from being
a picture of racial justice, he ignores the progress blacks have
made.  Such progress has been slow and uneven, but
surely more has been made than Bell would admit when he speaks of
"citizens of color whose lives are little less circumscribed than
were those of their slave forbears."  But in Bell's view, the
primary concern of whites is retention of their dominant position
in society, and the only gains blacks have made have been
grudgingly conceded by whites in order to keep blacks from openly
     Even these concessions end up benefitting whites.  In
Chronicle 4, Bell points to BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION as an
example of his theory.  The Brown decision satisfied civil rights
activists by desegregating schools but resulted in the hiring of
more white teachers and refurbished white schools to handle the new
influx of black children. Thus, whites benefitted while the
educational opportunities for blacks were not substantially
     However, Bell's belief that whites only allow blacks victories
which also benefit whites requires some contorted logic.  It is
hard to believe that all or even any of the whites who supported
desegregation were really concerned with how many white teachers
and busing companies would make more money from the deal.  The
Supreme Court itself expressed an interest in seeing blacks gain
equal opportunity, not in insuring that whites would benefit.  If
whites only acted out of self-interest, desegregation would not
have occurred in the first place, for surely the refurbishment of
white schools and other such benefits were too small of a return
for the societal turmoil desegregation caused.  Further, whites
could have no more foreseen the harmful effects to blacks of busing
and destruction of neighborhood schools than could the blacks who
were themselves pressing for desegregation.  While some whites may
have consciously tried to profit from the situation, ascribing such
a purely selfish motive to all whites is too simplistic. 
     If whites are always racist no matter what tactics minorities
use, what then, should the future of the civil rights movement be? 
By denying the efficacy of all strategies for achievement of racial
equality, Bell has painted himself into a corner.  In his
concluding chapter, we are presented with a celestial choir and
impressive visual effects but little in the way of inspiration.  A
magical curia advises blacks to continue fighting for equality
through litigation, despite the fact that Bell has spent the
greater part of the book explaining how ineffective and even
such litigation has been for the black cause.
     While Bell's exhortation to "find solace and strength in
the recognition that black people are neither the first nor the
only group whose age-old struggle for freedom still continues and
is worth engaging in even if it never results in total liberty and
opportunity" reminds us that there is much that is admirable in
man's willingness to struggle against impossible odds, it must
remain cold comfort to those Americans, white and black, committed
to ending racism.
     Ironically, Bell's book may work to solve the very problem he
concludes is insoluble:  racism.  Bell claims whites cannot
understand racism because they have not been oppressed by it, but
in reading a book centered on assumptions of whites, assumptions
based on race, whites may catch a quick glimpse of how racism
feels.  Greater understanding can translate into greater
sensitivity and perhaps a renewed sense of interracial cooperation.
The great barrier in both race's minds is lack of trust, and that
barrier can be overcome when we start to view people as unique
individuals rather than as part of groups whose beliefs and actions
are predictable and immutable.  As long as racism survives in
America, none of us are "saved," white or black.!

To: gmklass
Subject: Review of AND WE ARE NOT SAVED

        Review of Derrick Bell,  AND WE ARE NOT SAVED (Basic Books, 1987)
			       Reviewed By:
			       Robert Huck
			Illinois State University
			     February 4, 1994

	Few people like to be manipulated.  However, when done well it is
tempting to stand back and admire the manipulator's artistry.  Derrick 
Bell's AND WE ARE NOT SAVED almost qualifies for admiration.
	My first impressions while reading this book gave me unpleasant 
flashbacks.  I was continually reminded of the difficulties I 
encountered in analyzing Thomas More's UTOPIA.  After reading dozens of 
interpretations, (which rarely if ever agreed with each other) I finally 
gave up on finding an authoritative consensus and just tried to come to 
my own conclusions.  Bell's use of fictional chronicles (and here 
fictional is an understatement) to illustrate the problems of racism in 
America leads itself to misinterpretation. The chronicles run the gamut 
from a meeting of a retired civil rights lawyer with the authors of the 
Constitution to a mysterious plague that darkens the skin of wealthy 
white children.  After each chronicle, Bell (himself a civil rights 
attorney) and the retired attorney, Geneva Crenshaw, discuss the finer 
legal points and possible legal remedies of the issue presented in the 

	Bell's most serious shortcomings are in the chronicles' tone.  
Most chronicles involve an almost 'deus ex machina' approach to racism.
For example, black gangbangers find stones which, when swallowed, take
away a person's capacity for violence.  Eventually, all blacks
swallow these stones and black-on-black violence comes to a halt.
Despite the end of black violence, Bell describes a virulently negative
white reaction.  On the surface, this reaction is not just ludicrous
(people would give anything to live free from the fear of crime), it
points to Bell's intractable hopelessness.  This hopelessness, ultimately,
is the undoing of Bell's premises, arguments, and conclusions.
	I was afraid I would encounter my UTOPIA problems in reading 
Bell's fictional chronicles.  The above-mention UTOPIA flashback 
became particularly vivid in Chronicle #3, "The Chronicle of the Ultimate 
Voting Rights Act."
	Throughout Chronicle #3 I found myself saying over and over 
again, "What does he think?  Is he really advocating proportional
representation for black voters in state legislatures?  Or is he just 
sending up trial balloons?"  I first believed in the trial balloons theory.
	Bell's protagonist, Geneva Crenshaw relates the chronicle of a  
racist senator who (after a near-fatal auto accident) has his own 
epiphany on racism.  To atone for the sins of his racism the senator 
proposes "The Ultimate Voting Rights Act".  This act would "amend the 
voting laws so that the minority race is guaranteed to elect 
representatives of their choice in numbers equal to their portion of the 
population eligible to vote" (87).
	As justification for this Act, Crenshaw (or is it Bell?  I'm not 
really sure at this point) reaches back into pre-Revolutionary history to 
demonstrate how blacks have been denied the franchise.  So what?  This is 
1994, not 1794.  We do not live in the 18th or even 19th century.  Today 
Blacks can and do vote by the millions.   As a history major I certainly 
appreciate how history can influence the present, however, 
pre-Revolutionary laws proscribing black voting have as much effect on 
politics today as 19th-century laws which denied women the franchise.  
These laws were reversed and today women constitute a majority of the 

	This chronicle further illustrates Bell's unfounded hopelessness
vis-a-vis the white race.  If someone from another planet were to read
this story, he would get the impression that in the last 200 years there
has been no progress in white attitudes towards black voting.  This is 
patently untrue and Bell knows it.

	It is pointless to engage in a debate on the constitutionality of "The
Ultimate Voting Rights Act".  Even if one concedes constitutionality, one can
still be opposed to the Act.  Essentially Bell calls for a Balkanization 
of America's electorate.  If anyone wants to gauge the effectiveness of
racially-determined representation, one only need to travel to Bosnia or
Abkhazia or Nagorno-Karabakh.  One final criticism of the Ultimate Voting
Rights Act:  Will Hispanics, Asians or Native Americans be eligible for the
same treatment?  Some states may have more Hispanics or Asians or Native 
Americans than blacks.  Will they be allowed legally-guaranteed 
proportional race-based representation?  If not, why not?

 	I earlier mentioned that AND WE ARE NOT SAVED is manipulative.  I did 
not realize this until I had read chronicle #5, "The Chronicle of the 
Black Reparations Foundation".  In this story, a wealthy white 
businessman establishes a private foundation to compensate all black 
Americans for slavery.  Even though all money contributed to this 
foundation was private, white reaction to the reparations was negative.  
Whites even successfully sued to prevent the foundation from distributing its
	When I first read of the reparations plan, I admit I didn't favor 
it but I could not immediately think of arguments against it.  The money was 
privately-donated and this businessman is free to distribute his money as 
he sees fit.  If he wants to compensate 20th-Century black Americans for 
something that happened to their great-great-great grandfathers, so be 
it.  Bell's manipulation almost saved me the trouble of trying to punch 
holes in the reparations plan.  In describing white reaction, Bell notes that 
"white workers saw their black counterparts doing the same work but in 
effect earning more money through reparations grants."  He added "One 
challenge would assert that the Black Reparations Foundation was 
practicing racial discrimination and thus was not entitled to its 
charitable status under the tax laws" (129)
	Many whites may feel that way about black reparations, but that
is not the real problem with it.  Bell truly believes that late-20th-
century black Americans should be compensated for the inhumanities
suffered by their ancestors.  No they should not.  If they are compensated,
we must also compensate the descendants of a host of other groups who have 
suffered oppression and indignaties.  First, the Native Americans, then 
the Irish, Catholics, Jews, and of course, women.  In other words, we
would have to compensate everyone.  Admittedly, we did compensate Japanese-
Americans who were interned during WWII, however, this compensation was
limited to people who suffered actual injury.  No one alive today can claim
to have suffered from slavery in the American south.  Many alive today can
claim actual injury from the Japanese internment.  This is a completely
different situation.  I'm sure Bell is smart enough to realize this, but
his "all whites are out to keep blacks down" premise gets in the way. 
	Bell obviously wants his chronicles to antagonize whites, not just
make them think.  This explains everything.  It explains why Bell treats white
racism as a given, not just for a few whites, but for virtually all.  It
explains white reaction to the disappearance of thousands of black school
children in chronicle #4.  Reaction that was at first concern was eventually
replaced by "all for the best" and "good riddance".  It explains the refusal
of whites to share medicine that would have proved effective in combating 
self-loathing and lethargy among black youths (chronicle #7).  And 
finally, it explains why whites were so upset when black Americans 
renounced violence, illegitimacy and welfare (chronicle #9).
	AND WE ARE NOT SAVED raises many important questions about the 
influence of historical racism in America.  However, its hopelessness, 
exaggerations and outright falsehoods such as "only blacks have
suffered the injustice of racial discrimination" (tell that to a Native
American) detract from some of the valid points Bell attempts.  

Robert Huck			|rohuck@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
314 Walker Hall			|
Normal, IL  61761-2993		|"I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer."
(309) 436-9887			|               Leonard "Bones" McCoy

Reply-To: llfield@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
From: "laura field" 
Subject: Review: AND WE ARE NOT SAVED (Field)
             Review of Derek Bell, AND WE ARE NOT SAVED
             Reviewed by: Laura Field,llfield@ilstu.edu
                   Illinois State University

     It seems that no issue has endured with such strength
throughout American history than that of racism. In AND WE ARE
NOT SAVED, Derek Bell distinguishes this fact by providing a
historical perspective of racism in America that he rightly
proclaims continues to persist in contemporary society. Bell
creatively combines his legal expertise with fantasy in an
attempt to explore questions that have often been raised
concerning the status of African-Americans. In his book he has
created the character Geneva Crenshaw, a black ghost who has
returned to earth after meeting a group of extraordinary forces
in heaven. These forces expose Geneva to a number of chronicles,
which are short parables filled with questions about racism in
America. Upon her return she attempts to make sense of these
chronicles, and calls upon the expertise of an old friend and
legal colleague for help. The story unfolds as Geneva and the
narrator reminisce about their past experiences in the 1960's as
legal advocates for civil rights, while simultaneously examining
the chronicles and the prevalent questions that surround racism
in America.
     Bell does not simply review the same questions that have
already been discussed concerning racial inequality but creates
hypothetical situations in an attempt to further explore the
phenomena of racism. Some of the chronicles include situations
like: a black woman who returns to the original Constitutional
Convention in order to argue the injustices of slavery; a wealthy
white man who gives billions of dollars to African-Americans in
an attempt to fight economic inequality and;the transformation of
black gang members into crime fighters and super achievers after
they swallow a handful of magic stones. Yet, these chronicles all
end in failure for Bell asserts that white dominance in
American society will not allow those that are black to succeed.
   Bell is correct and thorough in his analysis of the fact that
inequalities continue to exist in America. Filled with statistics
and facts his book makes it difficult for even the worst critic
to refute the argument that racism remains a predominant problem
in American society. He further provides evidence that since the
passage of civil rights, African-Americans have progressed very
little economically. He asserts that millions of black Americans
are no better off today than they were before the civil rights
movemen. Bell supports this argument by revealing that nearly 36%
of all African-Americans continue to live below the poverty level
(p47). However, his thesis begins to weaken when he argues that
African-American poverty is primarily caused by white Americans.
     Bell argues that those who work to "deliberately" prevent black
Americans from experiencing any upward mobility. Bell states that the
reason white Americans intentionally try to prevent black Americans from
economically succeeding is because "black subordination helps to ensure the
situation of even the poorest whites"(p232). He further asserts that
"equality will not come through social programs which serve to provide
minimum relief for the needy while providing the upper classes with
stability, regularity, and the poor's acceptance of the status quo"(p55).
But do racial inequalities truly exist because white society is
"deliberately" perpetuating black subordination? Evidence suggests no.
     Research and opinion polls have shown that white Americans appear to be
less prejudices than ever before. Although it is true that opinion polls
can be misleading, it is extremely difficult to refute the fact that overt
discrimination is no longer largely acceptable or legally permitted in
American culture. Bell is correct in asserting that certain aspects of our
culture continues to perpetuate racial inequality. But where his argument
weakens is when he suggests that the inequalities which exist are
"deliberate" attempts by those that are white to ensure that those who are
black will not succeed.
     Many of the racial inequalities that exist in contemporary society are
not deliberate nor are they blatant attempts from those that makeup the
majority of the white population. Often racial discrimination can occur
unconsciously for like for instance:when factories relocate or small
businesses move from the cities to the suburbs displace jobs and place
minorities at a disadvantage or; intelligence tests that contain questions
more geared towards white middle-class children than children of other
racial or ethnic backgrounds.
     Although theses examples carry the same consequences as blatant
discrimination, they are not "deliberate" attempts by white society to
benefit at the expense of black society. However, as James Kluegel revealed
with a study conducted in 1990, "One of the biggest problems with
unintentional discrimination is that the majority of white Americans
continue to believe that African- Americans enjoy the same opportunities
that white Americans do".  This predominant belief system has led many
white Americans to oppose any additional government spending to assist
minorities.  Thus, although our society has been able to overcome overt
prejudice, our belief systems continue to perpetuate racial inequalities.
Bell further argues that racial discrimination hinders opportunities for
minorities in America. Yet, he fails to include in his analysis that
denying opportunities for any large proportion of our society has the
capability of negatively effecting all Americans. Denying opportunities to
any large proportion of our society has historically had negative effects.
Currently the United States is faced with the problem of poor educational
performance of many children who are forced to attend inner-city schools
that are housed in lower-income districts.  This situation has the
capability of negatively effecting not only those that live in poor districts, but potentially all Americans if economic growth and
productivity are affected by this problem.
     Undoubtedly such issues will become more prevalent as America expands further into the global market and
as more minorities enter into the work force. Derek Bell's AND WE ARE NOT
SAVED offers the reader a unique look at both the past and future
consequences of racism. Unfortunately, the author fails to explore any
sound solutions for the prevalent problem of racism in America.

From: "David G. Lewis" 
Subject: Review: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well (Lewis)
(Basic Books, 1992)

                        Reviewed By:
                       David G. Lewis
                  Illinois State University
                     February 4, 1994

     Derrick Bell demonstrates an interesting writing style
which incorporates fact with fiction, which often
leaves the reader wondering if the events that he describes
actually took place in history or are another one of his
clever aberrations.

     Upon reading the book I was both surprised and at times
disappointed with the way in which Bell ended some of the
chronicles.  He asserts that racism is a permanent reality
in America and that nothing that civil rights groups or
white liberals do will change that fact.  Bell does
acknowledge that blacks have made some strides in this
country over the past two hundred years, however he states
that whites only allow those minute advances to pacify the
masses, and even then there are alternative motives for
doing so.  Bell states his thesis in the introduction of his
book and uses several fictional chronicles to support his
statement that racism is a permanent state in America.  The
flaw in this statement, that blacks will never be able to
overcome racism regardless of their achievement, is twofold
in that:  1) it doesn't explain the success of Bell himself,
and 2) it basically says that any attempt by blacks to
improve their lot in life is an attempt in futility.

     Bell begins his introduction by addressing the first
shortcoming that I pointed out.  He mentions that his thesis
stating that racism is a permanent state in America was
challenged by a well-dressed, articulate woman following a
reading from his book in a downtown Washington, D.C.,
bookstore.  He points out that he simply chronicled what
society had done and was likely to do.  This answer is both
true and untrue.  It is true in the fact that Bell does use
historically accurate information in his chronicles.  These
facts are both true and have been duly recorded in the
history of our country.  However when Bell uses these
historical facts to predict the future he begins to walk the
line in that he takes the role of a prophet, a role that he
clearly states that he is in no position to take.  Bell's alter ego
in these chronicles goes by the name of Geneva
Crenshaw (he reincarnates her from his first book AND WE ARE
NOT SAVED 1987).  She too is a civil rights attorney.  She
appears out of nowhere from time to time and reaffirms his
belief that racism is permanent.  Throughout the various
chronicles she appears at different times and places as if
to say "I told you so!"

     Bell's assertion to the permanence of racism is clearly
brought to life in the Afrolantica Awakening chronicle.  In
this chronicle Bell begins by describing an unusual
occurrence which takes place in the middle of the Atlantic
Ocean, some nine hundred miles due east of South Carolina.
A body of land appears out of the ocean.  Immediately the
United States and several other countries send out
expedition forces to lay claim to this body of land.  The
first American explorers experience some life threatening
atmospheric conditions which force them to retreat, barely
with their lives.  The same thing happens to explorers from
other countries.  Subsequent efforts by the United States
and other major nations, by air all fail.  The United States
Navy then sends in a group of divers to reach the new land
under water.  Upon swimming within a few hundred feet of the
land, three of the four divers begin experiencing difficulty
in breathing and are rendered unconscious.  The fourth diver
then saves the lives of the other three and is hailed as a
hero.  The diver who saved the lives of the other three
happens to be black.  When questioned about his ability to
save the other three he states that he was not affected by
the symptoms that the other three white divers complained
of.  This leads to the discovery that blacks are immune to
the strange atmospheric conditions that enables whites from
occupying the land.  When this news is made public to
Americans it touches off controversy both within the black
and white community.  Blacks in America begin to view this
Afrolantic land as their promised land and form an
Afrolantica emigration movement.  Pro-emigration legislation
is introduced in Congress that would provide twenty thousand
dollars to each African-American citizen wishing to emigrate
to Afrolantica.  Bell explains that this "Reparations
Subsidy" would finance the move and was to be repaid if a
recipient sought return in less than ten years.

     Bell points out how deeply entrenched racism is in
white America by giving historical examples of what happened
to blacks in the past who have tried to or have organized
large groups of blacks with the intentions to emigrate to
Africa.  He points out Marcus Garvey, who in the early
1920's managed to raise ten million dollars and attracted at
least a half million members in his back to Africa movement.
He was convicted of mail fraud in a highly controversial
case, and subsequently deported as an undesirable alien back
to his homeland of Jamaica.

     The Afrolantica emigration movement leads to heightened
racial tensions between whites and blacks.  Televised
reports showing blacks able to function normally on the rich
new land sparks racial clashes and several attacks by whites
on black communities.  A man arrested at the scene of a race
riot spoke for all hostile whites:  "Damn! It ain't right!
The n___s got sports and pop music all tied up.  Now this!
It's more than this God-fearing, American-loving white man
can take!"  Bell goes on to show more sophisticated attempts
by the government to discourage blacks from going to this
new land.  He doesn't however quite explain why the
government is opposed to blacks leaving this country, only
that the government makes several legal and illegal attempts
to thwart the plans of the emigration movement.  While this
is an interesting theory as to how racist whites would react
to this scenario, Bell is simply speculating as to the
reaction of whites.  One could argue that the real racists
would be more than happy to see blacks leave the country if
that was the case, and would do anything to expedite the
process.  This chronicle ends on somewhat of an
anticlimactic note.  As suddenly as Afrolantica had appeared
it began to slip beneath the waves as several hundred
thousand black settlers were on their way to inhabit the
land.  The interesting part of this chronicle is the
reaction or lack thereof of the black men and women who are
now forced to return to America.  Bell states that neither
grief nor despair was felt as the men and women on board the
armada watched the last tip of the great land mass slip
beneath the waves.  He says this as if to say that blacks
were complacent with the current situation.  This may have
been an implication as to the complacency of some blacks
toward racism today!

     Overall the book raises some thought provoking issues
that warrant discussion.  I agree with Bell on many of the
issues that he raises, however I do not agree with the basic
premise of the book that racism is permanent.  Racism will
exist as long as people continue to perpetuate the very
thought of it never going away!
David G. Lewis
Illinois State University

Reply-To: nlbesse@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
From: "nicole besse" 
Subject: Review: AND WE ARE NOT SAVED(Besse)
Derrick Bell, AND WE ARE NOT SAVED(Basic Books, 1987).

                          Reviewed by:
                          Nicole Besse
                          Illinois State University
                          February 6, 1995

     Growing up in a rural, farm community composed of totally white people,
gave me no chance to fully understand  "racism".  I am not exaggerating when I
say all white; there were no black people and I do not think there ever had
been.  Don't get me wrong, I had knowledge of what racism was and I learned
all about slaves, the emancipation proclamation, and civil rights in history
classes, but I had never been exposed to the type of racism that people
face everyday in the real world.  All of my views on racism were developed
during class discussions with other white students about blacks.  Although
I felt strongly about the views I had taken, nothing was based on actual
experience or feelings, but on what I thought I felt.  When I came to
school at Illinois State, my small town views of the world were completely
destroyed, and I began to understand the conflict that goes on every day in
communities with more than one race.  I can not say that I am even close to
understanding everything that makes racism as ugly as it is, but I do not
think that any one is.  As I read Derrick Bell's book, AND WE ARE NOT
SAVED, I realized that I am quite a bit farther from shedding those small
town values than I previously thought.
   Bell's book made me stop and think about a lot of things that I had
never thought about before; things that I never would have imagined were a
part of the racism issue.  Throughout the whole book, it is obvious to me
that not all blacks agree on a solution for ending racism.  This was
something that I never thought about, but now it seems like common sense.
Most people do not agree on things; solutions to problems are agreed on
even less.  Bell's chronicle of the Celestial Curia pointed this out
explicitly.  Even these angelic-like women could not agree on a solution,
how can an entire country agree?  This chronicle also struck me as strange
because one of the Curia actually suggests that the entire black population
emigrate to an entirely new place.  This seems to defeat the point of
conquering and eliminating racism.  Blacks should not have to leave a
country that they are as much a part as whites.  The entire make-up of the
United States is one of diversity and mixing little bits of other cultures
to make one that is unique in itself.  It seems to me that the answer to
eliminating racism is within the U.S. and although it may be difficult to
come by, the answer will come eventually.
     I found problems reading Bell when he started blaming white people for
every bad thing that has ever happened to the black race.  I realize that
blacks have disadvantages and that some whites have treated some blacks
unfairly, but I do not think that blaming all the problems of an
entire race on another race is a solution to the problem of racism.  Again
and again Bell blames slavery for the state that blacks are in today and
this may be a large cause of "blacks being the exploited, the excluded
and...the exterminated in society", but I do not think that I should be
blamed today for something that happened two hundred years ago.  Whites who
enslaved blacks had their reasons, and whether they be racial or economic,
I do not agree with them and do not feel obligated to take the blame for
what the founders of this nation did to black slaves two hundred years
ago.  At times I feel that the slavery issue of racism is, simply put, a
way to evoke guilt in whites.  If blacks would stop placing blame for
everything on whites, the solution to the problem of racism could be closer
than it is.
     Another issue that Bell addresses is a "separate but equal" school
system for black children so that the quality of education for blacks is
improved.  In my all white school of 250, there was always the problem of
some children not getting the same quality of education as others.  This
was due to teachers teaching down to some students and teaching up to other
students.  A few kids at my school were poor and some teachers taught to
them like they were completely ignorant when the only thing different about
them was the amount of money their parents made.  When children, black or
white, are taught that they are no good, even if they are brilliant, they
will act no good.  Teach up to all children, they will feel better about
themselves and they will learn more.  If it turns out that a segregated
school system is what is best for the children, then that is fine.  But if
all black schools are okay, then so are all white schools.  No white should
be labelled as racist if, in turn, they want all white schools.  No one
should ever be prohibited from going to school anywhere they want though,
it should never be all or nothing.
     Bell's book brought out a lot of issues about racism that I never
noticed before.  Although I do not agree with all of his arguments and
conclusions, the issues he explores are very important.  I really have no
experience with racism so some of my views may not even be fully
developed.  What I do know is that no one should be treated differently on
the basis of the color of their skin and that I wish there was an instant
solution to racism. If we want equality, then everyone should be treated
equally no matter what color, sex or ethnicity.
Nicole L. Besse
Illinois State University

Reply-To: mmrosia@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
From: ("Melanie Marie Rosiak") 
Subject: review: And We Are Not Saved (Rosiak)
                Review of Derrick Bell, AND WE ARE NOT SAVED
                          (Basic Books,1987)
                             Reviewed By:
                            Melanie Rosiak
                      Illinois State University
                          February 5, 1995

     And We Are Not Saved is creatively written, has superb style, and
provides interesting stories.  From the Prologue to the Appendix, Derrick
Bell arouses emotions, and raises thought provoking questions.  The
underlying question however, is who is to blame for the racial injustices in
     This question arises in each section of the novel.  Each chapter
contains a chronicle, a made up story to demonstrate injustices blacks
have incurred due to a white oppressive land.  Following the
chronicle, two characters, the narrator-a former civil rights lawyer, now
law professor, and Geneva Crenshaw-an old lawyer friend from the civil
rights movement, debate what really took place in the chronicle and how
society would have actually reacted.
     The fault of this novel is the overwhelming emphasis Bell places on
white racism and oppression.  Although he raises many good points through
his stories, the discussions between the narrator and Geneva generally
focus on bashing whites.  Instead, he should focus on where the chronicle went
wrong, or try to discover how the situation could actually be changed.  Bell
continually charges that whites only help blacks in order to further their
own self-interested gain, and he even puts down the accomplishments of his
own race to further use white racism as a crutch.
     The chronicle of the slave scrolls, (chapter 9), exemplifies
the self-pity Bell poses on all blacks.  This story tells of the
discovery of a small ship, similar in construction of the old slave ships.
And inside this vessel lies three documents in which the slaves had written
describing how the slaves endured the terrible burdens of their lives.  The
words were seen as the secrets of survival.  As the story continues, it
tells how the pastor who had found the scrolls began to preach its message,
and black power was beginning to form based on the idea that we will show
the white people and we will overcome.  In the end of this chronicle, it
says that the white people felt threatened by this "black success," and then
were going to try and keep the black race down.  They passed racial
tolerance laws, and eventually forced the blacks to give over the scrolls,
and forced blacks back into their lowly state.
     Bell uses the above chronicle to show how no matter what blacks
do, the whites will destroy it to keep the blacks down.  The only logical
question then would be, by what name should we call all of these white Gods?
 Grange Copeland, the character in Alice Walker's novel said, "Nobody's as
powerful as we make them (whites) out to be.  We got our own souls, don't
we?"  If the white race is so great that it can pull down even the strongest
movement and convince blacks to doubt themselves and their race, why should
they even try to get ahead?  There is no doubt that racism does exist in
America, but is it really so great that it could hold back intelligent, hard
working members of the black community.  The answer is that the blacks are
strong, but continually feel less deserving than whites.
Whether this is brought on solely by racism that has been embedded in their
minds still needs to be proven.  Why else would a group get so far ahead,
and prove so much to themselves and even to whites, and then just merely
give up?  This chronicle did not portray the oppression by whites as much as
it portrayed the power blacks give to whites.
     As Derrick Bell stated, oppression was built into the Constitution.
However, over the years, the law has changed in an effort to revamp the
white dominated environment.  Laws have been passed banning segregation and
providing equal rights, programs set up in order to ensure fair
hiring practices, and additional aid has been provided to help those of the
lowest class.  And, although these programs and laws are not perfect, they
are working to correct the wrongs of the past.  A quotation from the novel
illustrates my point, "litigation may be a leaky boat whose engine has run
out of gas, but one can still paddle through treacherous waters.  It's
prudent to be aware of all of the boat's defects, making adjustments for
them, even trying to fix a few of them as time permits.  But it is not
prudent to abandon the boat, particularly if you can't swim to shore."
     On p.14, Bell criticizes those that feel blacks need to help better their own
situation.  He says, "Today, as policy makers again seek to abandon civil
rights enforcement, certain experts assert that the plight of blacks is the
fault of blacks or of the social programs on which the poor rely.  When such
claims are expounded by blacks, they obtain a deceptive authenticity.  Such
blacks, knowingly or not, dispense a product that fills the present national
need for outrageous anti-black comment."  Bell does not present a solution
to end his 'oppression,' yet he criticizes those blacks that are trying to
improve the situation for the race.  If no black people take action in some
form to ensure their equality to the white race, then would anything ever
be done, or would the black race be harmed even more.
     Derrick Bell claims that whites are to blame for all of the problems of
the black race.  He states that there is no way to get around racism, yet he
does not have a solution to fix it either.  On p. 204, the narrator says,
"I certainly don't want to condone wife cheating, wife beating, and all the
other forms of abuse--even though one needn't be a psychologist to recognize
that much of this conduct is the manifestation of frustration with racism."
How much can you blame on the white race?  Do white men not abuse?  The
answer is obviously yes.  It is time for everyone to stand up and take
responsibility for their actions.
     "America's continuing commitment to white domination looms especially
large for those citizens of color whose lives are little less circumscribed
than were those of their slave forebears." (p.4)  This statement is simply
untrue.  Unlike slaves, blacks are able to vote, and their vote counts as a
citizen of the United Sates of America.  They are permitted to have
independent families, and own property.  They are also paid employees, are
able to employ whites as workers for them, and are permitted to hold even
the highest of elected offices.
     Bell's view on racial injustice is extremely biased and gives little
regard to all of the advancements made by the black community.  If he feels
that the injustices against blacks are so gross, then he should at least
offer some solution to remedy the situation.  It is easy to sit back and
complain about the faults, but it takes a true desire to want to better
one's situation to actually stand up and do something about it.  Racial
injustices do occur, but is that really the only reasons blacks have not
advanced as far as they had hoped?

Subject: Derrick Bell's AND WE ARE NOT SAVED
Sorry for the lengthy posting.  I hope the importance of the issues raised make
it worth the read (5 paragraphs).

Normally, I am a simple lurker on this list.  I enjoy reading the reviews and
considering the thoughtful, provocative commentary.  This time I simply
couldn't resist commenting on the two most recent reviews of Bell's _AND WE ARE
NOT SAVED_.  The reviews by Nicolle Besse and Melanie Rosicek seem naive and
epitomize white denial of racism.  I am used to hearing the argument that
persons of color had better quit their whining, roll up their sleeves, quit
blaming whites and get down to business in this promised land of opportunity. 
These victim-blaming arguments are the stock-in-trade of white, suburbanites
such as Pate Phillip, leader of the suburban, "white flight"
Republican majority in the Illinois Senate who consistently claims blacks are
poor because they lack a work ethic.  But to hear the same arguments from
social science students in a book review symposium frightens me.  Sometimes I
think that white people "just don't get it."

Why do I assume these reviews were written by whites?  First off, I teach a
graduate course at Concordia University in River Forest, IL on race relations. 
About one-half of my students in that course are persons of color, primarily
Chicago city school teachers working on master's degrees.  In that course, we
engage in anti-racism "training," as well as the usual cognitive engagement
with the subject.  An anti-racist approach assumes that there are three,
distinct layers of racism: personal forms such as prejudice, institutional
forms which can be both formal and informal such as slavery or real estate
block busting, and cultural racism which roughly refers to collective
preferences according to color.  Most whites
in my experience have a failure to think beyond the individualistic default in
our culture, so if they admit racism exists at all, it is a matter of one
person being prejudiced or discriminating against another.  Those in oppressed
groups such as communities of color usually perceive racism as systemic.  The
default reaction of the oppressed to this systemic, unescapable racism is
internalization, such as "passing" for white, accepting white standards of
beauty, oppressing other persons of color through verbal, emotional, and
physical violence, and other forms of acceptance of this system.  Black people
often claim that whites are out to get them; conspiratorial thinking is the
cultural mechanism most prevalent within communities of African descent in this
society.  Can't imagine why Blacks think whites are out to get them?  Perhaps
the brutal oppression and exclusion from white-dominated institutions over four
hundred years has something to do with it.  But Besse and Rosicek join the
cacophony of white America telling them to quit whining -- after all, it's a
beautiful world out there...

White racism refers not to personal forms of bigotry, but to a social and
cultural system designed to benefit whites.  Besse and Rosicek, along with most
of white America, jerk into denial: "Well, those were other white people, not
me!  Even if it was my Grandpa, that was his fault.  Surely you aren't gonna
tax me for the sins of Grandma and Grandpa!".   One important _SYSTEMIC_
dimension of this _COLLECTIVE_ denial is white flight to the suburbs.  Inner
city communities populated by persons of color comprise "internal"
reservations created by four hundred years of _SYSTEMIC_ domination and
brutalization of persons of color.  White flight represents a kind of
collective "black out," or selective remembering.  The conditions in ghetto
communities are unspeakable in a democracy: inner city school districts spend
less than one-half per pupil what is spent in wealthier, suburban communities. 
Why?  A system of taxation in which local taxes pay for local schools.  Perhaps
Besse and Rosicek didn't create this _STRUCTURAL_, _INSTITUTIONALIZED_ reality
personally, but their white forbears did establish a system of race privilege
for whites.  Europeans came to North America and built this society through the
enslavement of one people and the near genocide of another.  That whites
continue to live in the bizarre myth of individual initiative and blame is an
aspect of white denial that their privilege in our society is due to some
unspeakable things done _IN OUR NAME_, and _WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION_.  

Why don't white people, even white social science students, understand racism
in systemic terms?  Why do whites continue to blame the victims of white racism
(Bell simply means institutionalized privilege favoring whites by the term
"white racism.")  Because, as Bell assumes, as long as whites are "drunk" on
the benefits of a racist system, the individualistic world view, especially as
applied to racism, provides a collective justification for accepting the status
quo and pointing the finger back at the victims.  This is why Bell assumes that
white racism is a permanent, structural reality in American society and
culture.  Personally, I agree with Professor Cornell West, Rev. Joseph Barndt
(_DISMANTLING RACISM_, Augsburg Press), and others who think the way out of this
mess is a cultural transformation of identity among whites.  This
transformation can only occur when whites get as angry about what racism has
done to them as Blacks and other persons of color are about what it has done to
them.  On a spiritual level (part of culture), racism has deeply implicated
whites and damaged them by forcing them into the oppressor role automatically,
because the benefits of institutional racism accrue automatically for whites
(do white people get followed around when they enter stores?; will white people
with a Ph.D. ever be told they are a "credit to their race?").  This degrades
the humanity of whites and violates deeply held cultural and religious values
of equality of all people in western culture (try reading the Hebrew story of
EXODUS from a political, instead of a spiritual angle).

Until whites quit denying that they benefit from racism and are spiritually
damaged by accepting the status quo, they fulfill Bell's argument that whites
assume "with racism I gain; with the end of racism, I lose."  By realizing how
denial and white skin privilege (albeit put in place by Grandpa, not by me)
force whites to live an enormous LIE about how they gained their status in this
society, white people can begin to break out of their cultural and spiritual
bondage and heal the damage racism has done to them.  When whites
begin to say "With the end of racism, I gain," then Bell's prediction of the
permanence of racism will go unfulfilled.  If that ever happens, white people
can be honest with themselves and with their brothers and sisters of color. 
Perhaps then white people can take their seats at the multicultural table on an
authentic basis.  Until then, along with Besse and Rosicek, those of us of
European descent must go on living in our fantasy world of denial and the
spiritual wound of the denial of racism  will continue to fester like a cancer.

Wayne Luther Thompson
Dept. of Sociology
Concordia University
River Forest IL

Reply-To: rhuck@templar.fgi.net
From: Robert Huck 
Subject: Derrick Bell
I was intrigued by Wayne Thompson's response to the recent Derrick Bell 
reviews.  I would like to address a few of Thompson's points.

I do not think that either Ms. Besse or Ms. Rosicek were attempting to 
place blame.  I just re-read both of their reviews and nowhere did I see 
any statements to the effect that black Americans should quit whining and 
just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  What I read was a criticism 
of Bell's inability to offer solutions to the problem of racism.

This is not to say that Mr. Thompson had no valid points.  Of course 
there are many forms of racism other than personal prejudice.  But in 
focusing on systemic racism, Thompson falls into the same trap that 
engulfed Bell.  Thompson spoke only of a "cultural transformation of 
identity among whites".  Just what does this mean?  I hate to sound 
patronizing, but how is this change supposed to take place?  What should 
we do to bring it about.  Thompson speaks of getting angry, but anger 
alone solves nothing.

I am also disturbed by white flight, but it is about 20 years too late to 
protest this.  White flight is a fait accompli.  We might as well try to 
prevent World War II.  We can't force whites to move back to the cities 
their parents and grandparents abandoned in the '60s and '70s.  Again, 
how do you reverse a historical fact?  As a history student, I have yet 
to see any successful attempt to revive the past.

Finally, Thompson was completely wrong about the problems of inner-city 
schools.  Yes, they are horrible places, but spending more money will do 
nothing.  Thompson points out correctly that Chicago schools spend 
less-then half of what suburban schools spend, but he fails to mention 
that they spend more than the state average.  Catholic schools spend less 
than suburban schools, but no one would call their education programs 
inferior.  The problem with schools like the ones in Chicago's poorest 
neighborhoods is that they do not exist in a vacuum.  I had a friend who 
taught at a school in a very poor neighborhood in Chicago (Dvorak 
Elementary School for those familiar with Chicago schools).  He once had 
to prevent a 2nd-grader from hitting a girl with a broken beer bottle.  
He had the windows of his classroom shot out.  He was threatened with 
bodily harm on several occasions, including his first day at school.  He 
was assaulted by a parent because he demanded that her child do her 
homework.  I fail to see how more money would change any of that.

Robert Huck					rhuck@templar.fgi.net

"German ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead
languages, for only the dead have time to learn it."
					Mark Twain

From: Johnna Jackson 
Subject: Review: Derrick Bell (Jackson)
Reviewed by Johnna Jackson,
Illinois State University

        Derrick Bell scratches the surface of the angst and woes of every
variety of African-American and then delves into their dreams of the past
and hopes for the present and future.  There are two themes throughout this
book.  One is that racism is a permanent and indestructible part of our
society; the other, that white people won't help out African-Americans
unless it benefits them in some way.

        Each chapter weaves a fictitious story with true situations in the
present time.  Bell's stories may be fictitious, but he refers to true court
rulings of the past, such as Brown vs. Board of Education, to prove his
points and to point out ironies in our society.  Bell uses irony himself by
expressing ideas on increasing equality in one chapter and then in the next
chapter he writes about how hopeless our society is and that racism is here
to stay.

        The story of "The Afrolantica Awakening", (Chapter Two) entwines
hope, confusion and conflict.  The idea that only African-Americans could
live on an island that pops up off the coast of the United States gives some
African-Americans in the story a sense of great pride and hope.  While on
the other hand some African-Americans thought leaving America for this
island would be a mistake because the United States is their home as much as
the whites.  The whites in the story began to fear the African-Americans new
found confidence and race riots broke out.  The pro-emigration groups
overcame many obstacles, such as the government, to make their journey.
When the time comes the island sinks before their eyes and they are forced
to turn back.  Amazingly though they turn back with a sense of pride and
liberation.  The point of the story is that these people worked as a
community and at least had the strength to look for something better and
they no longer had to see themselves as victims.  That even though
African-Americans may never get out from under the oppressiveness of
America, by keeping the struggle for equality and freedom alive they achieve
a kind of redemption.

        All through the book Bell argues different views and ideas with a
woman named Geneva Crenshaw, who is a civil rights lawyer, the same as bell.
Geneva seems to just appear out of thin air and seems to be a part of Bell
himself.  It's as if she is his alter ego because she plays devil's advocate
every time she appears.  Her place in the book is to make Bell question
himself, which is where all of the contradiction between hope and
hopelessness comes to a head.

        Bell does a good job of giving African-Americans a sense of pride
and purpose and maybe just a little bit of hope.  He shows what a nasty scab
racism is on America.  This book was easy to read and easy to associate
with.  Bell gets his point across and, in some cases, keeps the reader
wanting more.
Johnna Jackson

Reply-To: hmsaube@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu
From: "Heather M. Sauber" 
Subject: Review: Derrick Bell (Sauber)
Review of Derrick Bell
Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Basic Books, 1992)
Reviewed By:  Heather M. Sauber
Illinois State University
February 8, 1996

        In the chilling work of fiction, Derrick Bell seeks to convince the
reader of the persistence and prevalence of racism.  Racism has become the
backbone of our society and will continue for many years to come.  In Faces
at the Bottom of the Well, Bell uses fantasies as well as the help of his
"imaginary" friend Geneva to help the reader gain more insight into the
topic at hand.

        Geneva Crenshaw is a fictional character created in Bell's mind.
Even though she does not really exist, Bell seems as if he truly loves her.
Geneva IS Bell.  She is the part of him that questions social institutions,
feelings of lost and disparity and even asks him what he believes.

        An example of Geneva's power within Bell is noticed in chapter six,
entitled Rules of Racial Standing.  These rules include black's statements
are deemed as special pleading and thus not entitled to serious
consideration.  Another is black victims of racism are less effective
witnesses than are whites. Geneva acts as though the "answers received on
the mount" are her argument bringing Bell around to her way of seeing.  She
as well as Bell believes that the message on the computer screen is a rule
all blacks must follow, "Speak Up, Ike, an 'spress yo'se'f".
        Bell's stories include a conversation between Bell, a black law
professor on his way to a convention and a simple limousine driver who helps
show Bell the light of racism in this divided country.  Another includes the
beginning of an exodus, to move African-Americans to their own island in the
middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and an alien spaceship that travels to ask the
American people to give up its population of African-Americans in exchange
for the resources they need to continue their lifestyles and society.
      Bell is pessimistic.  He truly believes through the voice of Geneva,
that African-Americans have no hope of racial equality in this country
because whites insist on holding them down.  The reason Bell gives for the
white race's constantly beating is because whites feel as though they need
to be superior to any type of people.  He does not give much information on
other ethnic groups or minorities that also call this country their home.

        Because Bell says so little about other minorities, I have the
feeling that he feels that the only race being discriminated against in this
country are blacks.  In my opinion as well as the opinion of many others,
that this is not necessarily the case, as well as racism there is also
sexism, classism and ethnic inequality.  This country is full of
hypocritical people who will shake your hand and stab you in the back if you
are Puerto Rican, female, on welfare or black.

        Bell tells blacks that they must rely on their history and pride to
show them where they have been and where they are going.  He states that,
"Now there is more here than confrontation with our oppressors.  Continued
struggle can bring about unexpected benefits and gains that in themselves
justify continued endeavor" (199).

        I did find one comparison Bell made in this book as very interesting
and easily misunderstood.  Bell gave the example of this Nation of Islam
Minister Louis Farrakhan.  He states that he is often prejudged by others
because he tells it like it is and the white people can not accept this
because they are afraid of his boldness, and even stated that "fear is not
rational" (121).  Black people are expected to denounce Rev. Farrakhan,
because he makes inflammatory remarks that are aimed at other races and
religions.  Black's who are quick to condemn him are seen as "all right" in
the eyes of the white man, while those who are not are considered to be just
as "hateful".  Geneva makes the comment that it is not hate that fuels Rev.
Farrakhan, instead it is his perceptions of the problems of racism in
American Society.  

        Bell's fictional account of the "run in" with the limousine driver
is the perfect opening chapter.  The driver acts as an awakening for Bell,
he accurately states the troubles that the black men who have not "sold out"
to the white man really feel.  "From the Emancipation Proclamation on, the
Man been handing us a bunch of bogus freedom checks he never intends to
honor (19).

        Dr. King's holiday was not so much an answer to a racial problem but
more of a sacrifice white government had to enact.  Bell's final
statement-one that rings true through the book, is that a black person does
not need an education to understand where he is and where he has been, he
only needs to look at the racism around him (I use he in the most generic of

        In my opinion chapter four, "The Last Black Hero" accurately
describes the fear of black women, and more importantly the fear that blacks
in general face.  The black women as well as anti-racist black feel as
though they are losing all their saviors and men to white women, white
causes, and a fear of being left behind in the white world.    

        Many of the things that Bell says in this book leave me with a grave
sense of guilt.  Bell implies that the white man has only helped the black
man so that he could once again be shown as the superior race.  Just when I
had thought that as a person, and more importantly a representative of my
race, have tried to face the problem of racism with an open mind.  I feel as
though I am compelled to do either one of two things, either fight for
equality with more of a vengeance or close my eyes and say that I as one
person can not solve the persistence of racism.

Heather Sauber

Reply-To: jmjacks@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu
From: Johnna Jackson 
To: gmklass@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Subject: Review: Derrick Bell (Jackson)
Reviewed by Johnna Jackson,
Illinois State University

        Derrick Bell scratches the surface of the angst and woes of every
variety of African-American and then delves into their dreams of the past
and hopes for the present and future.  There are two themes throughout this
book.  One is that racism is a permanent and indestructible part of our
society; the other, that white people won't help out African-Americans
unless it benefits them in some way.

        Each chapter weaves a fictitious story with true situations in the
present time.  Bell's stories may be fictitious, but he refers to true court
rulings of the past, such as Brown vs. Board of Education, to prove his
points and to point out ironies in our society.  Bell uses irony himself by
expressing ideas on increasing equality in one chapter and then in the next
chapter he writes about how hopeless our society is and that racism is here
to stay.

        The story of "The Afrolantica Awakening", (Chapter Two) entwines
hope, confusion and conflict.  The idea that only African-Americans could
live on an island that pops up off the coast of the United States gives some
African-Americans in the story a sense of great pride and hope.  While on
the other hand some African-Americans thought leaving America for this
island would be a mistake because the United States is their home as much as
the whites.  The whites in the story began to fear the African-Americans new
found confidence and race riots broke out.  The pro-emigration groups
overcame many obstacles, such as the government, to make their journey.
When the time comes the island sinks before their eyes and they are forced
to turn back.  Amazingly though they turn back with a sense of pride and
liberation.  The point of the story is that these people worked as a
community and at least had the strength to look for something better and
they no longer had to see themselves as victims.  That even though
African-Americans may never get out from under the oppressiveness of
America, by keeping the struggle for equality and freedom alive they achieve
a kind of redemption.

        All through the book Bell argues different views and ideas with a
woman named Geneva Crenshaw, who is a civil rights lawyer, the same as bell.
Geneva seems to just appear out of thin air and seems to be a part of Bell
himself.  It's as if she is his alter ego because she plays devil's advocate
every time she appears.  Her place in the book is to make Bell question
himself, which is where all of the contradiction between hope and
hopelessness comes to a head.

        Bell does a good job of giving African-Americans a sense of pride
and purpose and maybe just a little bit of hope.  He shows what a nasty scab
racism is on America.  This book was easy to read and easy to associate
with.  Bell gets his point across and, in some cases, keeps the reader
wanting more.
Johnna Jackson

From: "Erik S. Weidner" 
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well
Erik S. Weidner
Political Science Department
Illinois State University

Derrick Bell Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism
HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0-465-06817-0  Cloth
Publication Date:  1992
  The book "Faces at the Bottom of the Well" by Derrick Bell is a very
 interesting way to put across your view points.  Tell shorts stories with a
 meaning instead of preaching at people.  I enjoyed the short story part of
 the book.


 The Preface and Introduction are to me a restating of the obvious an I
 found this part of the book rather boring.  The following are some examples
 of either this restatement of commonly known facts or questions that, I
 feel insult our intelligence:20


 In the very beginning of the book Bell says that the poorest whites
 "deliverance depends on letting down their ropes" in order to help both
 themselves and the poor blacks.  Why would poor whites; who probably live
 in the south and hate black people, or "niggers", as they would cal them;
 have any desire to help the poor blacks?

 Other than for the authors own satisfaction, why would he write, pled and
 argue for equality if he believed that, "racism is an integral, permanent,

indestructible component of this society?"

 So far it appears that Bell is stating something that any semi-intelligent
 person already knows - that racial discrimination is a very elaborate, well
 concealed part of our every day social workings.

 	      The "us v. them" mentality, mentioned in the introduction, is often
 	applied during economic hard times is a scapegoat often used to keep 	the
 blacks down and the poor whites happy that they are not black.

I did like the Epilogue though because it asked new questions and brought
 new insight to an issue that needs a new way of looking at old, bad ideas. 
 Not bad in the sense that what blacks want, true freedom, (that is not
 bad), but bad in the sense that the approaches taken to ensure that
 "freedom" are not working and something else needs to be tried.

 I will give a brief overview of each chapter because I feel that this will
 be helpful in discussing Bell and his ideas.

 In "Racial Symbols: A limited Legacy," it is said that many times the
 blacks are given symbolic victories in order to pacify them into obedience.
  Such "victories" would include, but not limited to, a national holiday for
 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., desegregation of our schools, the civil rights
 movement and even something so trivial as BET (Black Entertainment
 Television) or Miss Black America.  Throw em92 a little scrape so they92l
l keep quite.

 In "The Afrolantica Awakening" was an attempt at showing how society would
 not let Black America have anything of value unless they profited ten fold
 from their fortune.  It also showed that trying to improve your condition
 and failing is better than not trying at all.

 The "Racial Licensing Act" keeps referring to 91morals-policing92 laws as
 a justification for licensing discrimination.  Citing that other such laws
 as: alcohol prohibition, antigambling, etc. as failures an that this is the
 only solution.  Making people pay for money in advance for the right to be
 able to discriminate.  Again the argument that ALL "civil rights laws or
 constitutional provisions" only benefit the whites.  The black community
 may benefit a little but only if the white community benefits a lot.  White
 self-interest lawmaking.  Nepotism - giving  preferential treatment to
 family members.  Advantages to RLA:

		1.)	 Allows the right of non-association, if someone does not 		want to be
 around a certain group of people then they don92t 			have to.

		2.) 	Public admission of racial discriminatory actions along 		with the
 high payments for that "right," not only do they have 		to admit publicly
 that they are racists, but they have to pay 			big bucks for that

		3.)	 Blacks will know up front if they will be discriminated 		against and
 won92t have to waste their time in that establishment.

 In "The Last Black Hero" the dilemma that Jason is facing is that of
 interracial marriage and how both side of the fence see his decision, a
 black man, marrying a white women.  The whites see it as, other than
 unthinkable and disgusting, a relief, that the teeth have been taken out of
 the black militant attitude.  For now he is with a white so surely he can
 not be as radical.  The blacks,  especially black women, felt betrayed and
 as if Jason were a sell out.

 In "Divining a Racial Realism Theory" the author meets up with Erika
 Wechsler a white female who is a member of WCBS (White Citizens for Black
 Survival).  This group, sometimes known as John Browns92 Brigade, is a
 type of 20th century underground railroad.  Erika describes her groups two
 "pronged" mission.  The first, is to create a racial realism.  That is to
 get blacks to understand that other than just being "historical
 scapegoats," blacks are on the verge of being exterminated by whites. 
 After this is realized then the WBCS goes into phase two, "to build a
 nation wide network of secret shelters to house and feed black people in
 the event of a black holocaust."  During the story the professor (who never
 introduces himself to Erika, and we see why in the end) and Erika have many
 deep discussions about racial problems in our country.  These discussions
 are but justification that the WBCS should be taken seriously.  But in the
 end we see that this was also a ploy on Geneva92s part to see if the
 author, unlike Jason, could maintain a proper relationship with a white

 In "The Rules of Racial Standing" Bell describes for us the five rules of
 racial standing and uses examples from the not so distant past the show how
 these rules are truly rules of our society.

 Rule #1 - "No matter what their expertise black statements are deemed as
 91special pleading92 and thus not entitled to serious consideration." 
 The example used is that of Ralph Ellison92s book Invisible Man.

 Rule #2 - "Not only are black complaints discounted, but black victims of
 racism less effective witnesses than are whites, who are members of the
 oppressor class."  The example was that of Brown v. Board of Education.

 Rule #3 - Similar to rule #1 except that a black person can have
 credibility when speaking out against another black person that is doing
 something that upsets white people.  The example used is Clarence Thomas92
 appointment to the Supreme Court (he opposed affirmative action).

 Rule #4 - When blacks get uppity whites find other blacks that will condemn
 their (the uppity blacks) actions.  Those recruited will have
 91superstanding status92 while those that decline will be punished.  The
 example given is that of Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan.

 Rule #5 - The truth that the knowledge will lead to frustration and no
 chance of repeal.  In other words,  there is no possibility of change for

 In "Racism92s Secret Bonding" Bell tells us of a 91data storm92 that
 enlightens White America to the plight of the black person.  The
 frustrations of discrimination, under education, unemployment, low wages
 and poor housing conditions.  These are not the only injustices, just some
 of the more glaring.  Bell then goes on to talk about how whites know what
 they are doing and encourage it.  There is an unspoken pact to keep blacks
 at the bottom so as to keep social and economic stability.  This pact is
 how, in Bell92s view, all whites are bonded by racism

 In the "The Space Traders" I could go into who betrayed who and who was
 considered to be an "Uncle Tom" and for what reason the blacks were
 allowed, or should I say forced, into leaving "the New World as their
 forebears had arrived," (fearful and in chains).  Instead I will simply ask
 the same questions that the author did (rephrased slightly):  Would you
 stay someplace that you knew would persecute you even more than now, and
 probably kill you for their continued plight?  and  Would you send away
 millions of innocent people, not knowing if they would be turned into
 slaves or even murdered, just to receive a better way of life?

ERIK  :)

Erik S. Weidner


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Subject: Erik's review of Derrick Bell

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Erik Weidner's review of Derrick Bell was at times intriguing, at times
provocative.  He claims that some of Bell's thesis is "restating the obvious." 
Curious choice of words.  Legendary sociologist C. Wright Mills in his seminal
piece "The Sociological Imagination" used the exact same phrase to describe
the enterprise, craft and science of sociology.  Sometimes, Erik, the obvious
bears restatement.  In the case of this book, you noticed that the use of story
is the medium through which cultural and structural analysis of race relations
is approached.  

In "Space Travellers," a story in which visitors from beyond offer to purchase
all African Americans and give white America only days to decide, I believe
Erik misses the point.  This story is being used by anti-racism trainers from
Crossroads Ministry of Chicago and People's Institute for Survival and Beyond
in multicultural consulting situations with churches and community groups.  As
these organizations tell it, Bell was suggesting that the story has already
occurred in America.  White Americans have already sold African Americans for
their thirty pieces of silver.  What happened between the ancient Egyptians and
Hebrews resulted in utter hopelessness for race relations in that society.  In
"Space Travellers," we play a game of Twilight Zone proportions in which a
futuristic science fiction story is really a reflection of what has already
happened in our midst.  Will the future of race relations in the United States
turn out like Bell's high-tech science fiction yarn or like ancient Egypt?  

Bell suggests structural changes will better the state of race relations in
America.  Only when Americans of European descent come to grips with terrible
things that were done in their name to give them a better life at the expense
of people of color will they be willing to remove the obstacles to full access
to the American dream for all Americans.  Living with this "secret" and the
resulting denial of responsibility is what puts a wall between whites and
African Americans and other people of color.  In the process, white America can
heal itself and come to the multicultural table on a more honest basis. 
Perhaps then trust can be reestablished and we could build a truly
multicultural society.  The healing of which Bell often speaks is a cultural
process; dismantling the privileges of being white in this society is a
structural one.  Both are necessary to move beyond the impasse and boundaries
of race in America.  

Besides raising a number of interesting issues, I did find Erik's review to be
difficult to read, due both to cryptic and elliptical prose and to some
binary-type characters being inserted throughout the text.  Did you type this
on a word processing program?

Wayne Thompson
Sociology Dept.
Concordia University
River Forest IL 60305-1499

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From: CRFTHOMPSWL@crf.cuis.edu
To: gmklass@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu

Subject: Doug Kershaw's reply about Bell's 'Faces' and Erik's review

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In a dialogue about my reaction to Erik's review of Bell's "Faces...," Doug
Kershaw asks about the limits of white guilt and shame.  

Whites weren't 'white' until they engaged in denial of responsibility for
systemic racism in North America.  Forgetting European roots (religion,
culture, history, communalism) fuels denial of responsibility.  How?  I would
argue that responsibility must be communal.  After all, the God of the
Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) often spoke to Israel, not
to particular Hebrews per se.  Jews acknowledge this in the holiday of Yom
Kippur -- if one of us in our community has sinned, failed or is in pain, on
some level the entire community needs to ask how this could have happened, how
we all failed.  It is only in developed, modernized, urban societies where the
notion of the individual emerges at all.  So, the responsibility for the
problem of racism and its solution must be collective, not merely individual.

Personal responsibility for racism is a waste of time and a divergence from the
real issues.  Making people feel guilty, on a personal level, does not
dismantle systemic, institutionalized racism.  People of European descent need
to claim responsibility on both personal and cultural levels for the unfair
advantages of being born "white" (and/or male) into this society.  The key
point here is that Euro-Americans continue to benefit in 1997 from things done
in their name in the proximate and remote past.  To deny that is at the heart
of white flight to the suburbs and other forms of running away from our true
heritage as oppressors.  Perhaps I didn't discriminate, I didn't enslave.  But,
to be fair, as an American of Swedish ancestry, I do reap the bennies of those
actions done in my name.  European-Americans cannot begin to break out from the
prison of systemic white racism until they morally come to terms with this
legacy.  Contrary to the extreme individualism of our culture, white people in
1997 did come from somewhere; our privileges in this society were created
unfairly, through the enslavement of one people and the near genocide of

As Martin Luther King said often to white volunteers in the freedom struggle
for civil rights, "white man (woman), go home and heal your own people."  It is
not only people of color who are damaged goods because of racism.  White people
have forgotten their true heritage, including not only systemic racism
established in their name but also many among us who have resisted against
racism.  The function of a racist system is to socialize the next generation of
oppressors who deny that the system favors them, that they directly benefit
from the racist actions of their forebears.  When whites realize that racism
cuts them off from their brothers and sisters of color, and from an honest
recollection of their cultural identity and heritage, then they can begin to
heal, too.  Coming to the multicultural table on that more honest basis is the
only way people of color will begin to trust us again, so together we can
struggle against oppression and dismantle the privileges that are now the
birthright of European Americans.  Racism is a prison.  Rethinking our past and
putting our cultural identity on an anti-racist plane is the key to unlocking
the prison door.


Wayne Luther Thompson, Ph.D. and budding anti-racist
Dept. of Sociology and Social Work
Concordia University
River Forest IL 60305-1499

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From: Juan Jose Ortiz 
To: gmklass@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu

Subject: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well (Ortiz)

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Derrick Bell, FACES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL                                
reviewed by: Juan J. Ortiz

        One could easily read Derek Bell's book and think that there is no 
hope for blacks in America.  His preface alone could give that impression 
but, this book is not about cynicism it is about giving another voice to a 
problem that has existed for hundreds of years.  The problem of race 
relations Bell argues has become an integral part of the American way of 
life.  This fixture in American culture is a problem Bell addresses in his 
book in a very intellectual and entertaining manner.

     The book itself is compromised of nine different short stories.  Each 
story is different and touches on a variety of subjects, I believe this is 
what makes this such a good book.    He presents these stories in a variety 
of styles yet, keeps on a single theme.  Each story presented is used to 
illustrate how the problem of racism is an integral part of American 
culture.  Bell touches on many different aspects of the race problem in his 
stories.  He touches on economic issues, inter-racial dating, and job 
advancement.  Each story could almost be seen as a parable.  A parable of 
course tries to teach us something and I believe that's all Bell is  really 
trying to do.

     "The Afrolantica Awakening" is one of the best short stories in Bell's 
book.  In this story Bell tells of an island that arises from the ocean off 
the coast of South Carolina.  This new island is filled with natural 
resources and is described as a paradise.  There is only one problem, no one 
can get close enough to the island to survey it and really see what's going 
on that is, all except black Americans.  This new island black Americans 
come to believe is their version of the Jewish promiseland.  In the story 
Bell tries to make a connection between the  island migration to the 
migration of blacks back to Africa in the early nineteen century and the 
nineteen-twenties.  He cites three specific black Americans who, in their 
earlier attempts to return to Africa were either successful or had some 
measure of success.  In the story Bell goes on to describe how the United 
States Government is willing to pay blacks to move to the island.  The black 
community comes together and is ready and willing to move to the island when 
disaster strikes.  On the eve of their departure the island sinks back into 
the ocean and is never to be seen again.  This story I believe shows two 
different points one negative and one positive.

     The positive point I believe is the coming together of the black 
community to accomplish the goal of moving to the island.  There is always 
talk of the lack of black unity among black leaders.  This story though, not 
factual still shows that when people work towards a common goal it can be 
accomplished.  I believe that this is what Bell is trying to get at.  Even 
though the Island disappeared it showed that black unity was not an 
unattainable goal but, one that is out of reach due to lack of participation 
among some blacks.  The negative aspect of this story seems to imply that 
America wants to rid itself of all black people.  This of course goes back 
to Bell being seen as cynical.  I believe at times that Bell feels so down 
trodden that he loses all hope and gives into paranoia.  This paranoia being 
that if given the chance white America would easily see itself free of all 
black people.

     "The Space Traders" another story in Bell's book deals with this theme 
exactly.  The story goes that aliens from another planet come to planet 
earth and particularly the United States.  The aliens arrive on January 
first and want to reach an agreement with the United States.  This agreement 
was that if the United States would give up their black citizens they in 
turn, would supply the United States with an unlimited energy supply, gold 
to bail out the economy, and a cure to the ailing environment.  The aliens 
give the United States fifteen days to decide the fate of it's black 
citizens.  The story then progresses to the United States proposing that 
black citizens be drafted to go with the aliens.  The president and his 
cabinet members see this as the only way.  The cabinet members seem to 
justify their motives by appealing to patriotism.  Patriotism for a country 
that has never shown full and equal respect for all of it's citizens.  As 
the days slowly go by black America begins to leave the country.  Black 
people fear the worst from the aliens and know what lies ahead for them if 
they don't get out.  The fifteen days are up and the United States is has 
decided to give up it's black citizens.  The aliens come back and unload the 
promised goods and take the remaining black population with it.

     This once again shows that Bell has a notion that if given the chance 
America would get rid of it's black citizens.  In this particular story 
though, it is science fiction, it doesn't give what I believe to be a 
realistic argument.  Even if there were no space aliens what if, another 
country proposed the same thing.  I don't believe, despite Bell's thinking 
that America would abandoned it's citizens in such a manner.  I believe the 
Unites States would look for other alternatives.  Perhaps it would try to 
get rid of people from another country before our own.  He also does not 
give enough credit to the black people as a whole.  We are not dealing with 
African bushmen who were lured in with trinkets.  Today we have very many 
strong black people who would oppose the idea of such a thing.  Though it is 
science fiction the question still remains.

     Derek Bell's book as a whole is trying to establish a very poignant 
argument.  That is despite the Civil Rights movement and all of the rhetoric 
between the races not much has changed since those days of the sixties.  
Sure we eat in the same places and we even go to the bathroom in the same 
places but, that's about it.  There is still unequal employment, unequal 
payment, unequal housing, and unequal education.  All of these things have 
been around for many years know and we all know it.  So why has nothing 

     Bell argues that even when changes are made, they may better the black 
population but, only to the advantage of  the white people.   There can be 
no equal footing in a society that refuses to let it's citizens reach the 
top.  This is where Bell gets the title for his book.  Were all in a 
hierarchical well with blacks being at the bottom.  Even though there may be 
whites who are just as  worse off they can always say "At least I'm not down 
there."  This is an attitude that has been ingrained on white America.  I 
believe Derek Bell has a right to be cynical at times.  After so many years 
of fighting for what he believes should come naturally and still doesn't see 
a path one could easily give up hope.  Bell's only hope lies in the 
cooperation of the races.

     Bell addresses the issue of racial cooperation in his story "Divining a 
Racial Realism Theory."  In this story Bell's charecter, a black lawyer, 
finds himself in a wooded area of Oregon relaxing and doing his work.  While 
making himself comfortable under a tree he is shot at.  When he comes to his 
senses he is approached by a white woman who introduces herself as Erika and 
apologizes for her mistake.  As the story line progresses we come to find 
out that she is a lawyer as well and is also running a  shelter group.  This 
group is devoted to the preservation of the black people in case of a "black 
holocaust."  She explains that her group also deals with making people aware 
of the black plight.  The story goes on as a discussion between the two 
charecters until they are approached by yet, another man.  This man however 
is not as friendly and is part of a group of men who are not very tolerant.  
Bell describes him  as wearing a WWI helmet complete with the point.  The 
man commands the two to move because he was going to take them to his 
commander to be punished.  Erika refuses to move and further explains that 
it would not look good if he were to kill a proffesional black lawyer.  The 
man leaves with only his ego bruised but, in one piece.  This story 
underscores what Bell sees as the only solution to the problem of racism.

     Bell believes only throuhg the cooperation of the races towards a 
better society can racism be stamped out.  Bell argues that only when the 
white people see that they too are negatively being affected by racism will 
change ever come about.  The white people of America have long been led to 
believe that racism in not about them but, about those that it affects.  
Only when the people of America realize that our country will never be equal 
as long as there are people on top who keep others down.                     
 I personally enjoyed this book and found it entertaining and enlightening.  
I must admit when I began to read this book I found it hard to place myself 
in the shoes of a blackman or woman.  Despite my Latino background I have 
never faced blatant racism.  I'm not sure on how I would react or even how 
to feel.  This book gave me a small glimpse of what it would be like.  Until 
faced with the ugly truth that Bell speaks of, I can only hope my time is 
not yet come.    Derek Bell's words should not be misconstrued but, should 
be looked at with great admiration for, he is only trying to do what the 
rest of us are trying to do.  Better ourselves, our community, and our 
country by opening peoples eyes to a problem that seems to be wearing 

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Subject: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well (Martin)

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Derrick Bell, Faces At The Bottom Of The Well (Basic Books, 1992)

Review By:Don Martin

Mail to:damart1@odin.ilstu.edu.

     Racism and color consciousness have been two prevalent issues
throughout America's storied history. The undisputed fact that this
country was founded on racism, asserted by Bell, has set the stage for
experiences that Americans of all colors have faced. Although it may be
argued by some that the Constitution set forth values of liberty,
equality and the pursuit of happiness. The prior notions did not include
Blacks or even women, specifically including what amounted to White male
land owners. It was at this stage of American evolution that hypocrisy
began to permeate written ideological statutes. This is one of the many
issues Bell discusses throughout the course of the book- "law put in the
books is not necessarily law followed in action."

     Bell utilizes an unorthodox writing style to present personal views,
and those held by adversaries, on various topics relating to race.
Employing a number of "female alter-egos", Bell at times argues with
himself through the feminine personalities.  Intertwining both fact and
fiction, Bell leads the reader through a series of historical chronicles.
Although much of what Bell recounts of history is one of a personal
perspective, the message conveyed is clear- racism is a norm that has
been en grained in American society much like that of baseball, apple pie
and Chevrolet.

     One of the stories in which Bell uses somewhat of a metaphoric
analysis is "The Racial Preference Licensing Act." The act is similar to
the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of pollution control.
Allowing companies to pollute the environment, but at a cost that may or
may not benefit them in the long-run. The race based act in which Bell
proposes allows "all employers, proprietors of public facilities, and
owners... of homes and apartments" to discriminate on the basis of color
upon application to the federal government. The license to practice
discrimination was expensive, however , not to the extent that it could
not feasibly be obtained. A 3% commission derived from income received
from employing and servicing customers on the basis of color and also the
licensing fees would be used to aid blacks in attaining socioeconomic
status. Although the policy would benefit Blacks, Bell recognizes through
one of the feminine personalities that many Blacks may not view the act
as progress, but as regression. Bell's ability to see the other side of
the coin, viewing issues from an entirely different perspective, is a
definite strong point

of the book.

     Bell expresses implicitly and explicitly that it is by no ordinary
means will Blacks accomplish the ends they wish to achieve. In terms of
the book, Bell's means of expressing personal perspectives are truly
unordinary-hence the continual utilization of metaphorical analysis. As
society rapidly changes in many phases the manner in which we confront
racial injustices must also change. Bells asserts that changes in the way
of a demand for more flexible legal forms and philosophies must accompany
the struggle for improved socioeconomic status for Blacks. Although I
agree the intent of such flexibility in regulations may in fact be that
of a positive nature, however, the possible outcomes of such flexibility
being used against Blacks may result. The old saying "be careful of what
you wish for because it might become true" comes to mind. A prime example
is  affirmative action legislation designed to aid Blacks in attaining
benefits shared by Whites is now, and has been for some time, standing in
the Supreme Court for Whites alleged to be discriminated against.

     How is it that the efforts to benefit Blacks seem to always benefit
Whites as well? Bell cites the Bakke case where the
Supreme Court invalidated the policy of a California medical school of
holding 10% of its openings for minorities. However, it seems that while
Bell supports flexible and expanded judicial and/or legislative
statutes,(as were the affirmative action when they were passed) when
these same statutes aid

Whites- Bell cries foul. Either this is a glaring contradiction or he is
ambiguous in determining how Blacks will benefit from contemporary
legislation, without Whites attaining benefits as well. It seems

highly improbable to have one without the other, unless policies are
written so specific as to exclude Whites from any predicted benefits.

     Another one of Bell's fictional chronicles depicts a vast land in
the middle of the Atlantic Ocean known as Afrolantica. One of the unique
features of this land, roughly the size of the New England states, was
that initial attempts by the U.S. and other countries to explore it
failed because no one could breathe. It was later determined that only
African-Americans could survive on Afrolantica because they seemed to be
immune to the strange air pressures. Many African-Americans began to pull
together making preparations to leave America for what was thought to be
the promise land. However, the government felt that Blacks seeking to
live on Afrolantica were traitors and in some cases feared what was to
come from inhabitants of this land. The number of African-Americans
seeking refuge in Afrolantica began to steadily increase. There was also
an increased sense of unity by blacks planning to go and even those
staying. Resources were  gathered, however, the first group to set sail
witnessed the land, they thought to be their place on earth, sink before
their eyes. Bell concludes the story by emphasizing the power that Blacks
possess when there is unity. This power proved to be a source of hope
that Blacks

can in fact accomplish goals if they reach out and help one another.

     This is what I believe to be one of the lost norms in the Black
community. The helping of each other to make a better way for all those
in the Black community. At one time the Black community served each
others needs, for example if children were engaged in mischievous
behavior a neighbor would be able to set them straight, without
opposition from the child's parent(s). That virtue is long gone because
not only are the neighbors scared of the children, but the parents are
too. Not to mention the fact that there has been a dramatic increase in
the presence of single parent homes, most of which are headed by mothers.
Although this may not be directly related to racial inequality, it is
pertinent to the state of the Black community today.

     There is very little debate as to the existence of racism in
America, what seems to be one of the focal points is whether or not
racism is the primary barrier hindering Black's progress. Bell proposes
that no matter what strides Blacks attempt to make in achieving racial
equality Whites create the boundaries in which they choose Blacks to
step. Blacks with superior or comparable education to their White
counterparts are routinely passed over from the business community to
academia. Bell's personal experience in matters of this nature have been
in higher educational institutions from Oregon State to Harvard. It was
in the latter institution that Bell went on a two year protest against
what he asserted was a continual and deliberate practice of excluding
Blacks from tenured and tenure-line faculty positions. Harvard's
reasoning was that Blacks generally lacked the traditional academic
background. I do not dispute that Harvard in fact purposely excluded
Blacks from their faculty, however, Bell fails to note that it is
extremely difficult for anyone-White, Black,or whoever to retain a
position on the faculty, especially one of tenure.

     Furthermore, Bell asserts that education alone is not the key for
Blacks success in America, although it is a starting point. I agree with
Bell that for any real progress to be made sacrifices will have to made
by both Whites and Blacks. However, it can be generally assumed that
Whites continue to be hesitant to make any sacrifices of significance due
to the dismal state of affairs in contemporary society. How can we move
toward a racially balanced society when the government has knowingly
operated to oppress minorities. The recent CIA scandal recently confirmed
what many Blacks have held for years-they (U.S. government) simply are
not concerned and/or are willing to sacrifice Black lives in favor world

     One of the problems in bringing to light racial injustices is that
two perspectives may result. One of which seems only to add to the
discouragement many Blacks have endured. The other is that Blacks must
continue to fight the struggle much like that of their predecessors. It
seems there is only one way to attack racial injustice, that is head-on.
If those in the past fell victim to discouragement and did not fight to
move forward, what would be the state of contemporary society?

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Subject: Faces at the Bottom (Vinson)

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X-Comment:  Political Science 302 Discussion List

Derrick Bell, Faces At The Bottom of The Well: The Permanence of Racism
Basic Books, 1992
Reviewed by Aricka Vinson 

Aricka:	What are you all watching?

Larry:	Nothing worth mentioning.  I'm sick and tired of seeing this stuff on 
t.v. and hearing all these white folks make their comments and judgments on 
us and they don't even know us.

Darryl:	I'm just sick of Black women coming down on me cause I don't feel 
like going out with them.

Kim:	Well I'm sick and tired of all you old tired men 

Freda:	(cuts her off) ..Ain't that the truth girl.  We sit up waiting on 
these men and what do they do?

Kim:	They run to some white woman!!!

Larry:	That's cause you all fuss too much.

Marshall:  I do not have a problem with any of the aforementioned problems I 
am just tired of going to work at my new job that I have supposedly been 
hired for based on my credentials  until "they" see my face.  If you are not 
choosing to hire me because I'm Black them tell me up front.  I have a 
degree as a matter of fact I have three.

Darryl:	You know why Mr. Harvard graduate if the "man" ain't taking them, 
then they hiring all the "sisters" because...

Sheila:	Wait one minute!  I go work all day, school part-time, take care of 
family & don't forget about the weekend hours I volunteer at work so I can 
compete with everyone else.  Why?

Freda:	Because you have to work twice as hard just to keep from "them" from 
assuming you're some "token."

Marshall: Have any of you ever read "Faces at the Bottom of the Well by 
Derrick Bell?"

Sheila:	Finally, a brother who explains our trials and tribulations by using 
fiction to explain fact.

Larry:	What does he explain?  

Aricka:	Well, basically......

All the problems that African Americans face daily cannot be summed up by 
labeling it discrimination.  One has to analyze the situation.  One has to 
confront the problems surrounding the problem.  In order to discuss why 
African Americans lack symbols in the community or feel as though they must 
separate from they so-called "melting pot" it takes a realistic, yet 
unorthodox approach.  Attacking the subtle discrimination that exists in the 
workplace and recognizing instead of ignoring it can address some problems.  
Realizing that yes, some black men stray from "their" culture for whatever 
reason confronts the problem.  Do not forget that knowing the rules of the 
race as we know the rules of the road is important in succeeding to locate 
the problems.  Understanding that sometimes three degrees from Harvard and a 
letter of recommendation from the most prestigious member of the board 
cannot cut through the undying smog of racism is essential.  African 
Americans must admits that no matter how far along they are in life they are 
still at the bottom of the well no matter how many nationalities migrate to 
the beautiful U S A (undying suppression of African Americans).  When 
Africans who brought to America become so comfy with their status in the US 
that they truly believe that they are part of America realize that at any 
give moment they will be sacrificed as they have been for years then and 
only then have they solved the problem.  Expecting nothing and knowing that 
something separates (and always will) blacks from whites is the solution!!!

Sheila:	He discusses that and then some.  Marshall, you would really like 
his section about discrimination in the workplace.

Marshall:   I've read it and he describes "The Racial Preference Licensing 
	Many African Americans are jobless not because they are unqualified or 
unmotivated but because they are unfamiliar with the Caucasian persuasion.  
Call it what you like.  Yes, sometimes the job was already filled even 
though it wasn't when I spoke to the manager over the phone.  It is also 
true that there a Black people working in the store as janitors, so they do 
hire us.  I will also acknowledge that there are other qualified 
individuals, but what qualifications are being considered.  
	Instead of wasting my time and allowing me to fill out an application that 
will never be reviewed just tell me "I don't like Black people and I'm 
certainly not going to hire one."  Bell suggests that since the 
discrimination occurs everyday why not regulate the already illegal 
practices and make those people literally pay for their prejudice.  Bell 
identifies what many of us already know but others are unwilling to see.  By 
blatantly addressing the issues that few admit forces society in this 
instance to deal with African Americans  reality.

Darryl:  O.K. so what if whites are forced to pay for their prejudiced 
actions how is that going to change anything if you are hired?

Aricka:	Bell knows from personal experience that a job does not equal job 
security.  He addresses this in his section called "The Law Professors 

	Fighting discrimination in the workplace can be handled in a variety of 
ways.  For example, one may choose to refuse the job on principle while 
others may accept in hopes of changing the environment from the "inside."  
Well assume that one chooses the latter and attempts to lobby for change.  
Even at Harvard University, which has been categorized as a prestigious 
maker of minds, racism is ingrained in the system from the hiring, 
promotion, firing, and admissions process.  So Bell sets the scene for his 
next lesson in the day of the life of a black person which involves a system 
such as the one described.  The professors and administrators at the 
university have decided to discuss the problems and in hopes of reaching a 
solution to the racial inequalities that exist.  However, this discussion is 
ended abruptly by a bomb which kills each and every person that including 
all the black professors that attended.  This meeting was to reveal numerous 
positive changes in the curriculum as well as hiring practices. This extreme 
example demonstrates the existence of institutional racism and the truth 
that efforts by those on the inside continue to fail.

Kim:	Well I'm glad that he discusses the truth about some of our Black men's 
pattern of leaving Black sisters behind for white women.  Bell writes as if 
he is amongst family (blacks) discussing problems that he has noticed, but 
he also includes company (whites).  Darryl you should this section on "The 
Last Black Hero."
	Many Black men have a tendency to go outside of their race and not just the 
affluent brothers.  Many of the reasons include a lack of common interests 
or that they are just easier to get along.  Whatever the reason many sisters 
continue to support these men and for what, betrayal.  After years of 
slavery and continued racism Black men fail to realize that their actions 
are a direct slap in the face.  Not only do they parade around with white 
women as their trophies but they expect Black women to accept them both into 
the community.  

Darryl:	(interrupts) I date who I choose to date!  Why should I have to only 
date Black women.

Kim:	You don't.  At the same time do not exclude all Black women as if we 
are not worthy to grace your presence.  Do not belittle us.   Do not compare 
us.  And certainly do not expect us to accept you and yours when you cannot 
accept yourself. 

Aricka:	O.K. what I think Kim is attempting to communicate is the feeling of 
betrayal that stings the heart and stabs the soul of Black women.  Black 
men's tendencies to date only white women and the continual impression that 
we are acceptable only at a certain status concerns us when we continue to 
support you.

Larry:	Well, I detect a bit of prejudice in Bell's tone.

Freda:	You detect a tone of preparation for what can happen again.  We are 
so comfortable in America that we have forgotten who and where we are.  Many 
Blacks fail to remember how we got here and the thousands on top of 
thousands who died to build the land of the brave.  In the "Space Traders" 
Bell challenges us all and asks us to recognize that just as easily as we 
were brought here in shackles we can find ourselves in them again. 

Larry:	I'm a part of the workforce.
Freda:	Everyone is expendable!

	Daily Blacks go to work and come home without ever questioning or 
contemplating that tomorrow they could be sold.  If you were to ask a person 
what they would be doing 10 years from now they might think of their class 
reunion, but not many if any would say, "Um... I think I'll be enslaved so 
it really does not matter."  Bell challenges Blacks to imagine the 
unimaginable that "their" government for guaranteed stability is willing to 
sacrifice all African Americans.  Bell is aware that many African Americans 
have forgotten that they are not originally from this land, so why should 
America care if Africans brought to America are sent to some unknown land 
and keep in mind it's for a profit.  This section invites Blacks to truly 
comprehend their role in society as the country's scapegoat.

	Each section of Bell's book is like a new release of a Spike Lee or John 
Singleton film.  They are the new generation of Derrick Bell waiting to tell 
their story in hopes of enlightening & educating African Americans.  They 
convey in film what he does in writing; the plight of the Black person.  
Bell holds a conversation with the reader and that conversation is targeted 
towards the Black person, but if someone white overhears it that's even 
better.  There is a theater with a line of Black people wrapped around the 
building waiting to get in to see "Faces at the Bottom of the Well.  Once 
you've entered the theater there is a curtain which keeps some white and 
black people out, but they can hear the story.  During the movie the crowd 
laughs and cries because they understand the author.  Bell gives the 
impression that some Blacks and whites are on the outside looking in and 
cannot fully understand his ideas and/or his methods for explaining The 
Permanence of Racism.  
	Permanent is the scar of slavery across the backs of African Americans.  
Lest us not forget the millions of African Americans that are permanently 
disadvantaged because they were never allowed to be equal.  How can one 
forget the permanent skin tones that encompasses every shade of brown that 
enables onlookers to pass judgment.  Remembering always the permanent strong 
black features that others try to emulate which allows African Americans to 
be mocked by others as well as themselves.  Racism cannot be anything but 
permanent it is in every element that makes an African an American.  	



Derrik Bell
Basic Books, A Division of HarperColins Publishers, Inc. (1992)
Reviewed by:  Erik S. Weidner

Derrick Bell’s Faces at the Bottom of the Well might seem to be, at first
glance, a very morbid book with a very depressing message.  The message
might be misconstrued as saying to blacks:
"No matter how hard you try or what you do you will never succeed in
America because this is a white man’s land."

This is not the message at all thought.  I believe that the message Bell is
trying to convey is:
"Even though things may be tough, they are better than they were, and if
the fight is not fought then all is lost.  It is better to fight and lose
than to never fight, because the battles fought today, might well become
victories for our children tomorrow."

I think that Bell is trying to get all of America, and the world, to see
the problems that are inherent in America.  Our social problem are so deep
and so ingrained into everyone’s head that it may take decades to change
the problems.

Bell’s book is that of nine different short stories of different styles,
but similar content and messages.  I would like to review three of these
stories and offer a brief summary of each.

The first, "Racial Licensing Act," is acknowledging the fact that racial
discrimination exist in America.  Using this line of logic the argument
that ALL "civil rights laws or constitutional provisions" only benefit the
whites.  The black community may benefit a little but only if the white
community benefits a lot.  This is known as "White self-interest
lawmaking."  Sometimes viewed as nepotism (giving  preferential treatment
to family members) because whites view themselves as one big racial family.
 He sites this later in the book in ‘Racism’s Secret Bonding.’  Bell argues
that knowing this, and the fact that it can not be done away with, this
tendency to discriminate should then be used to try to help blacks and
other minorities.

If whites are going to discriminate then they should have to pay for the
privilege of being racist.  Making whites pay large, but not impossible,
amounts of money in advance for the right to be able to discriminate.  This
would in the long run help everyone and Bell sites what the advantages are
and that this is the only short term solution.  Advantages to RLA:
1.)	Allows the right of non-association, if someone does not want to be
around a certain group of people then they don’t have to.  This 	might very
well reduce some of the tensions and violence between 	racial groups.
2.)  	Public admission of racial discriminatory actions along with the high
	payments for that "right," not only do they have to admit publicly 	that
they are racists, but they have to pay  big bucks for that 	privilege.  The
money collected from the RLA will then be funneled 	into minority
communities to use in education and housing 	improvements.  This
improvement in education will in the long run 	give minorities the weapons
to better fight the racial inequality 	battle. 
3.)  	Blacks will know up front if they will be discriminated against and
won’t have to waste their time in that establishment.  It will help
minorities to better target their career/housing search so as to be 	more
productive and less frustrated.  They will know in advance 	why they won’t
get the job/apartment.

Racist whites who read this might think this is a great idea, "a God send",
now we can keep those "niggers" out and all we have to do is give them some
money.  Where do I sign up?

I personally think that this is horrible. That we as Americans would even
consider such a thing.  I do think that money should be redirected into low
income areas for the purpose of increasing education and the opportunities
that go along with increased education, but I don’t think legalizing racism
is the way to do this.

I don’t think that Bell feels this way either.  He is just trying to help
us to see how bad the problem is, and that the time has come to fix the

The second, "The Rules of Racial Standing," Bell describes for us the five
rules of racial standing and uses examples from the not so distant past the
show how these rules are truly rules of our society.  Again this could be
seen as a message to blacks of just how desperate the times are (as stated
in Rule #5) or, as I perceive it, as a call to action by both blacks and
white to end this crippling disease that has infected and sickened our
country.  Bell uses what I consider to be shock appeal to show us, the
reader, how deeply embedded racial discrimination is in our society.
 	Rule #1 -	"No matter what their expertise black statements are 		deemed
as ‘special pleading’ and thus not entitled to serious 		consideration."
The example used is that of Ralph Ellison’s 		book Invisible Man.
 	Rule #2 -	 "Not only are black complaints discounted, but black 		victims
of racism less effective witnesses than are whites, who 		are members of
the oppressor class."  The example was that of 		Brown v. Board of Education.
 	Rule #3 -	Similar to rule #1 except that a black person can have
credibility when speaking out against another black person 		that is doing
something that upsets white people.  The example 		used is Clarence Thomas’
appointment to the Supreme Court 		(he opposed affirmative action).
 	Rule #4 -	When blacks get uppity whites find other blacks that 		will
condemn their (the uppity blacks) actions.  Those recruited 		will have
‘superstanding status’ while those that decline will 		be punished.  The
example given is that of Muslim minister 		Louis Farrakhan.
	Rule #5 - 	"The price of this knowledge is the frustration 		that follows
recognition that no amount of public prophecy, no 		matter its accuracy,
can either repeal the Rules of Racial 		Standing or prevent their
operation."  In other words,  there is 		no possibility of change for
blacks or their social condition.
After Rule #5 is given the author sites this as being, "One more dilemma
confronting black people and their leaders."  Geneva agrees but reminds,
that this should be looked upon, not as discouragement, but as advice and
encouragement to:  " ‘Speak Up, Ike, an ‘Spress Yo’se’f!’ "

The third, "The Space Traders," is what I consider to be the most thought
provocative story of them all.  I will go into ,briefly, for what reason
the blacks were allowed, or should I say forced, into leaving "the New
World as their forebears had arrived," (fearful and in chains).  Also I
will ask the same questions that the author did (rephrased slightly):
Would you stay someplace that you knew would persecute you even more than
now, and probably kill you for their continued plight?  and  Would you send
away millions of innocent people, not knowing if they would be turned into
slaves or even murdered, just to receive a better way of life?  Not only is
this story the most barbaric, but it shows us the mentality that might have
been used in the slavery times of the pre Civil War era.

The story unfolds when aliens from another planet visit the United States.
These aliens offer the United States with what they so desperately want and
what they so desperately need.  Although not spoken of openly the "want" is
two fold:  one, to fix the economic and pollution problems, and two, to get
rid of the blacks.  The "need" is the cure for these problems, which the
aliens offer.  An unlimited clean energy supply, enough gold to get rid of
the deficit (and then some) and a solution to the pollution problem.  In
return all the aliens want is our blacks, all of the blacks in the country.
 This solves the other problem as well, getting rid of the blacks.

There is a movement by some of the minority groups to urge the government
not to do such a thing but only because if the black leave then all of the
persecution will be aimed at them.  The government quickly halts this
movement.  The president and his advisors decide that it is the ‘patriotic
duty’ of all blacks to willingly offer themselves to the space traders for
the greater good of society.  The government goes on to site examples of
all the fallen war heroes who gave their live willingly to ensure that our
great nation would go on.  Now, it is time for the blacks to do the same.
One of the major flaws of this argument is that blacks have never been
treated fairly to begin with and have always been asked to give of
themselves, or should I say forced to give of themselves.  

As scary as this might be, I think that if faced with this exact same
situation the probability of it coming true would be high.  Our government
is already trying in many ways to control, manipulate and segregate of
races.  One such example is that of our public school system.  The amount
of money that the public schools receive is directly proportional to the
amount of money that the local community has.  The richer the communities
(usually white communities) have better the school system.  The better the
school system the better educated the students are and the better their
opportunities will be later in life.
It is a big cyclical process and works to keep the more advantaged more
advantaged, and the less advantaged less advantaged.

I would like to close with what I found interesting in Bell’s book.  Bell
is trying to get us to look beyond the rhetoric and look at the facts that
even after the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and Affirmative Action
not much, if anything has changed.  It may have even got worse in the fact
that the discrimination is now more subtle but still as effective.  So now
there is no way of knowing what battle to fight because there is no way of
knowing who the enemy is.

Unequal employment opportunities, unequal housing opportunities and unequal
education opportunities have all been left in place.  No real move to
change anything has been made.  Why?

Because the lowest of the lowly whites, under our current system, can still
have comfort in knowing that there is still someone below them…the blacks.
Bell argues that, "Surely, they (the poorest whites) must know that their
deliverance depends on letting down their ropes.  Only by working together
is escape possible"  This may very well be true but it is going to take
many generations of non racial thought to erase all of the discrimination
that is already in place.

From: Paul G Beeman 
Subject: Gospel Choirs (Beeman)
Bell, Derrick. 1996. Gospel Choirs: psalms of survival in an alien land
called home. Basic Books

Reviewed by Paul Beeman.

Economics are often the central issue in American race relations. Those
with more often excel, and those with less do not. Clearly America's middle
class majority is white, and enjoys a comfortable existence. What if that
comfort enjoyed by so many were threatened? Would White's seek true answers
to their newfound hardships or immediately pass the blame as quickly as
possible on scapegoats that have bore the brunt of hardship throughout
American history?

        GOSPEL CHIORS, a fictional collection of short stories by Derrick bell is
an attempt to provide insight about the threat of racism in America. Bell
opens each chapter with a Gospel excerpt to provide readers with an
understanding of how Blacks persevere with racism in America. Slaves sung
these songs long ago and were "able to transcend the awful oppression that
defined their lives… This helped slaves to be free in their own mind (1).
Keeping in tradition of the Black struggle in America Gospel music, deeply
rooted in Black culture, now serves to comfort the afflicted, console the
bereaved, strengthen the weak, and reassure the discouraged.

        The significant characters in Bell's book consist of a Civil Rights lawyer
who represents himself, argues and takes the position Bell wants to make.
Geneva Crenshaw, another Civil Rights attorney, acts like an understanding
guardian angel because of her "superhuman powers of insight with regard to
race". Although a creation of Bell, She is much more toned down than the
"Bell" character with regard to his severe outlook about white racism.
Although the dialogue these two have is the creation of Bell, he points out
it reflects the ambivalence he feels and thinks a lot of Blacks feel. For
instance, Geneva suggests to Bell in his book that rather than litigate for
existing anti-discrimination laws, Black Civil Rights attorneys should
fight for racial preference licensing laws. Other characters consist of
stereotypical White racist rednecks who speak for the rest of White
America. Bell seems to be justifying the futility of Black equality because
despite the contribution Blacks have made in shaping America, they are
often first to be blamed by Whites if they cannot find work or lose their
jobs because of corporate downsizing.

        Bell outlines what he calls the "triple threat blacks face today" in the
prologue of his book and if my interpretation is correct, utilizes these
threats as the basis for his numerous short stories. The triple threat to
blacks today according to Bell is the diminishing status of Blacks,
economic distress, and how history not only teaches, but warns Blacks that
in times of severe economic distress, "the rights of Blacks are eroded and
the lives of Blacks endangered" (9). These primary threats to feed into the
thesis of Bell's book because when Whites seek to find reasons and pass
blames for their own difficulty, Blacks are immediately as scapegoats for
blame. This only heightens White resentment of Blacks and exacerbates racism.

        Utilizing this outline gives the reader a better understanding of the
motivation behind some of the wild illusions Bell writes about in his book.
For instance, Bell writes that because the status of Blacks is getting
progressively worse. Black unemployment is more than twice the overall
rate, long term joblessness has devastated Black families and their
communities, and prisons are filled with Blacks who have turned to crime.
Whites perception of Black unemployment as laziness, or inferior and not
capable of working. Because of this perception, if alien space traders
landed in America and offered sufficient stores of gold to pay off our
national debt (created by Blacks dependence on welfare and incarceration
expenses), chemicals to cleanse the environment, and a safe energy
alternative to replace our diminishing fossil fuels, Whites would quickly
move to trade all Black Americans with "barely restrained glee".  What does
this mean? Because Whites percieve Black's as lazy, inferior, or stealing
jobs, Whites would trade them to the space traders to alleviate the burdens
they create in American society.

        Another threat Blacks face is the economic distress due to the
technological revolution of automation, and the deportation of jobs to
third world countries. Many corporations are reducing employment rolls by
thousands of employees, all in the name of profit. This exemplifies the
unemployment problem in America and increases false accusations of Whites
blaming Blacks about job rejections and White unemployment.  Bell argues
this case with his fictional arrogant unyielding talk show host "Bif
Rightwing", and his audience of predominantly white males called the
"yessirrees". The Fortune 500 corporate executives are responsible for what
Bell blames for large-scale unemployment. Bif Rightwing and his redneck
audience of yessirrees refuse to acknowledge this claim and use opposition
to affirmative action policies as a way to for Whites to manifest their own
justifiable fears about the jobs they are losing by the millions-not to
Blacks, but to technology. When Bif is asked if America would trade its
Fortune 500 corporate executives to the space traders for a tax credit, the
vote is overwhelmingly for NO! Bif also points out that if Whites did vote
to trade Blacks to the space traders, it would not be racist. It would be
because "his viewers are disgusted with Blacks like Bell who are trying to
promote a radical social agenda using racial disorder as a smoke screen".
What does this mean? Whites refuse to believe the corporate executives, who
cut jobs or transfer industries to foreign countries are to blame for
unemployment rates.  Through no fault of their own, Black's are blamed for
lack of employment opportunity, "and condemned to suffer because of
economic condition we did not create. We not only are bearing the brunt of
unemployment but are also the focus of the rage of the many White's who,
fearful for their own jobs and future well being, are too easily convinced
that the threat to both is our black presence rather than the real
villain-corporate greed" (10).

        This situation illustrates Bell's third point about the rights of Black's
eroding, and their lives put in danger. Bell support this point once again
through story when he finds himself in his office reading his students
papers. One paper was about the slaughter of Blacks during the many racial
uprisings in American history. While reading this paper, the words "NIGGER
FREE" appears after every account of racial violence. Blacks were killed in
greater numbers compared to White's during these race wars, and leads one
to wonder about the intent of White's when retaliating against Black's
during those encounters. Bell soon finds himself university office during a
White uprising. Mobs of White's walking the streets looking for Black's to
pummel and kill. The circumstances for this mob action is unclear but one
can reasonably assume it stems from the explosion of White resentment and
racism, and once again retaliation is in overwhelming proportion. Bell's
students contended that "riots in the past were the most dramatic active
component of the unacknowledged desire of many White's to rid America of
Black people" (128). What does this mean? As Bell argued in his third
threat to Blacks, the rights of Blacks are eroded and their lives
endangered. The police cannot be relied on for protection because "they
often gave aid and support to white rioters" (128).  Bell argues that
because Black's have always been seen as a source of labor and scapegoats
in economically bad times, Black's are more at risk of "genocidal politics"
than before. Despite our nations history of race riots, lynching, and
homicides, violent revolution-"the ultimate response of oppressed people to
their oppression, "it is not available to Afro- Americans" (130).  Meaning
that when these tactics are used, Whites have reason to kill and maim
anyone of color, not just those who initiate the revolt.

        The use of short stories by Bell is an attempt to convey one underlying
message. This message, far from a solution to racial tension, is that when
things start going bad, Black's are usually blamed and racial tension is
heightened. These accusations are not unfounded, and seem to provide a
sense of awareness about what should be expected in hard times. What Bell
fails to interpret in his short stories intentionally or not, is his broad
negative generalization about White's. The wild accusations in some of his
stories discredit a very serious issue, and his points lose some validity.
What he seems to convey is that there may be some non-racist White's, but
that is only when there is no competition for jobs and other resources. If
so, then it is every race for itself. The end result is hatred, suspicion,
and segregation, all of which fuel racism, and racial intolerance.

        What I enjoyed about Bell's book is that perspective readers can decipher
their own interpretation, which may offensive or enlightening. The use of
fiction in his novel is much less in your face and given a much lighter
tone than most race critics. Fiction also gives him much greater leeway in
interpreting through story the threats that are facing the Black community
in America.

Sender: The Race and Ethnicity Book Review Discussion List
From: robert joseph nuckolls 
Subject: Re: Response to Paul Beaman's book review.
Paul, as I prepared myself to write the assimilation paper, I reviewed some
of the book reviews others wrote about the authors, and the respective
books they wrote.  Your review was one of the ones I re-read.

Although it appeared you had some difficulty with the total comprehension
of what Tony Brown was attempting to convey, from what I gathered from your
review, the book seems to be quite interesting, and one I wish I could have
read. I have always been interested in what black leaders thoughts are
towards black self-economic empowerment, and what measures need to be taken
for blacks, as a race, to advance and prosper in this nation.

As a result of your most interesting review, I may read this book in its
entirety some time soon.

From: "Alison M. Navarrete" 
Subject: Review: Gospel Choirs (Navarrete)
Derrick Bell  Gospel Choirs
(Harper Collins, 1996)  Reviewed by:  Alison M. Navarrete

        The problem is far from gone.  According Derrick Bell in Gospel Choirs, he
clearly points this out in an entertaining manner.  Bell organized his book
with a series of fictional stories set with him as the main character.
Along with him and his fictional character friend, Geneva Crenshaw, he
takes the reader to a level of understanding of smaller tales that actually
draw out a bigger problem.  This is what he thinks has not disappeared.
Discrimination is still apparently a major issue.  He rejects several
things that currently exist in our system that are just continuing to fail
the Black community.  Affirmative action is not doing any substantial help
for the entire community.  Not only is this failing, he blames white
corporate America for ignoring the issue too.  Along with the short
stories, Bell includes the importance of gospel music in our world, which
he draws his book around.

        A reoccurring theme that Bell focuses on is the importance of gospel
music.  He disclaims that it "echoes the tempos of the soul for God's peace
in the midst of a hostile world."  This music is a reflection of hurt
within the black community that could help.  The soothing sound reaches to
all race, color, class, or creed to hear the heart felt tone and have such
an ability to touch and unite across barriers of race and class.  "Perhaps
gospel music is the much-sought link that can untie the people of this
nation across barriers of race and color, class and creed, enabling all of
our souls to "ride the air in the songs we are singing."  Gospel music is
an outlet for the oppression, current status, and past slavery that has
haunted the blacks. Even the Emancipation was created, many thought that
this be the cure for slave situation, but no one realized that the woe and
hurt done to the blacks.  Their daily experiences suggested that the
future, as far as they could see or imagine, offered only more anguish,
more hardships.  This music was a way to encompass life's troubles and
disappointments.  More importantly, Bell fell that this music speaks to the
unavoidable fact that, at bottom, we are all in the same boat.  Could this
soothing, optimistic attitude, give blacks the courage to confront, the
wisdom to find new solutions to our greatest crisis?  No, Bell tries to
explain that this should be a warning to confirm what many blacks know but
are afraid to acknowledge, that the present is suffering of so many could
foretell the future fate of us all.

        What is the current problem that exists for blacks?  According to Bell, he
says there is a triple threat that is lingering in black's faces today.
The first problem that exists is that the status of most blacks is steadily
getting worse.  Black unemployment is more than twice the overall rate;
black income is only 60 percent that of whites; long-term joblessness has
devastated individuals, their families, their communities; and the prisons
are filled with black men who have turned to crime.  This is all viewed as
devastation for the blacks, but for whites, it is just another sign that
blacks are not ready.  White America is using the black's status to blame
them for the current economic well being.  Whites use blacks for what is
occurring.  In other words, they are just another scapegoat for the
problems that whites face.  As Bell states, "it's everybody's fault but
theirs.  I don't think that's going to change."  Such instances as with
hiring, whites want to point fingers why they did not get the jobs; they
simply can say that affirmative action did it.  In other words, white
America is benefiting from keeping blacks down and helping blacks.  It only
keeps them where white America is.

        A second threat that is lingering is the economic distress.  Blacks are
suffering a dramatic illustration of the technological revolution that is
eliminating work as the cornerstone of the nation's stability.  What has
happened to jobs?  There has been a growing reliance on automation, the
deportation of jobs to third-world countries, and the importation of cheap
foreign labor have all worsened the unemployment problem.  What companies
have done is reduce their employment rolls by thousands of workers in order
to maintain or enhance profit levels.  These advances have left once
employed white collared workers into washed up unemployed professionals.
And the availability for cheap foreign labor has been almost impossible to
resist for many companies.  This has eliminated many jobs for everyone.

        A third threat to black America is that history not only teaches but warns
that, in periods of severe economic distress, the rights of blacks are
eroded and the lives of blacks endangered.  In hard times of history,
whites tend to blame blacks for their misfortunes.  Such an example
occurred when America changed from an agricultural to industrial base.
Since blacks were already hated by large segments of society, particularly
hard-pressed farmers in the south and factory workers from the north.
Black people were made a target for the wrath and frustration of all the
whites that were squeezed out of their jobs.  Currently, the pattern of job
loss has worsened and this is hardly more than a convenient excuse for
blacks who crave preferences while disdaining performance.

        One important character that acts as Bell's conscience is Geneva Crenshaw.
 Often, Geneva appears to Bell in moments of reflection and when he is
least expecting it.  She appears to be the female counterpart of his
character.  She gives Bell advice on how to correct the current racial
problem that exists within the black community.  She believes that the
black people will only destroy themselves.  Geneva offers a solution to
Bell.  "We must persuade black people to review their relationships with
one another, to refuse to accept this society's gender roles featuring male
dominance and female subordination."  The problem will continue unless
curbed and corrected by new understanding of male-female relationships,
such deflection of anger could crucially undermine the effort to survive.
In order, for improvement, a better relationship amongst black men and
black women need to arise.  A strengthening of personal relationships can
only occur if men reject male dominance and women reject subordination.
This is crucial if there is going to a rebuilding of communities.

         Bell offers an interesting sense in many scenarios that are presented in
this book.  One interesting event occurred in Chapter 1. This chapter is a
continuation of what Bell mentions in previous books.  It is the story of
the Space Traders interrupting a long journey back to the home star.  In
our book, it is the continuation of the Alien offer. Aboard this ship are
African Americans fleeing onto a voyage that will offer them freedom and
equality. The image is that Aliens swoop onboard to a space ship and offer
to take all the people off this voyage.  The Aliens offer a trade in
exchange for the people aboard. If this is to be a fair trade, sufficient
stores of gold to pay off its debts, chemicals to cleanse its environment,
and a safe nuclear engine and fuel to replace disappearing fossil fuels for
the United States. In return, these Space Traders wanted only one thing; to
take away to their world all African Americans.  The deciding factor is
focused on a census vote?  The travelers are asked if they would want to
stay or continue their voyage? It is actually the story of a hypothetical
situation.  Would whites sell out their own people for a trade of
resources?  Would the African American voyagers vote to continue their way
to free planet or would they decide to stay back and accept discrimination?
 It is a moral judgment question that makes the reader think.  What if
white America sold the black population once again?

        There was another interesting scenario that occurred in Chapter 4.  Bells
uses one of his characters, Jesse B. Semple, as a symbol of the ordinary
black citizen. In this chapter Bell carries on a dialogue with an ordinary
fellow which makes some relevant points about what whites feel about the
current situation. He uses this character to speak for the ordinary - not
the bourgeoisie black folk.  Semple is speaks for the non-educated,
non-professional, ordinary black person that has an opinion.  Semple states
that whites blame everything that goes wrong on the black folks which makes
it a lot easier to face up to the big guys.  Whites are always distorting
the truth.  "They talk about colorblind, but what they (whites) are is
color crazed."  He believes that whites would make the space trade if this
meant that blacks would have a better life.  Whites are scared of blacks
and what they might do to employment, economy, and the nation.  Semple
criticizes the Contract of 1995 by saying "it's nothing' but a contract on
black people.  The Republicans knew what they were doin'.  They knew the
real attraction in a lot of those provisions is they seem aimed at getting'
black folks."  Semple continued on criticizing the Bell Curve, which
insulted blacks IQ.  As it stated, blacks scored 15 points lower than
whites.  What this book wants the black population to believe is that
blacks are dumber.  Again, it was just another ploy to outwit the black
population's capabilities.  Overall, Semple spoke for the average black
individual 's position in today's society.  He claimed that whites would do
anything to keep the blacks where they were - at the bottom.

        Affirmative action is not the root of all evil in our nation.  Bell states
that affirmative action is not causing the whites to be unemployed.  We
should look at companies' actions such as: downsizing for profit, illegal
immigrants working, cheaper foreign labor, and new technology advances.
Affirmative action may cost some whites their jobs, but this is not the
actual problem that needs to be addressed.  Another problem that Bell has
is the stereotypes that follow blacks.  Blacks are often called lazy.  We
should look at this label a little bit more serious.  For one thing, blacks
do not have the same benefits as whites do.  They did not grow up with the
same education or opportunities in their neighborhoods. Blacks did not grow
up with the resources or the money that whites did have either.

        White America is constantly blaming blacks for society's problems.  If it
isn't the problem with our economy than they are blaming blacks for social
ills.  White America is using blacks as a scapegoat for the problems that
our society is facing.   Whites have blacks where they want them - at the
bottom. They benefit from the social gap that exists the blacks. Bell
points out that corporate America is to blame.  Corporate America should
open its eyes to the situation.  Our nation needs to stop pointing fingers
and admit that discrimination still exists.  Unfortunately, whites are
happy where we are as a nation.  Bell's main point was to address that this
is still an issue.  America should be organizing programs that will benefit
anyone who is willing to work.  There should be programs that teach work
skills and provide childcare for parents.  Bell's work in this book was
done very well.  I enjoyed his stories he included because they were
organized in a way that explained the current situation.  This was an
intelligent set-up for anyone that wants to read about the real situation
in white America.  I will have to say that some of his characters are a bit
perplexing, but his stories were entertaining along with being educational.

From: "John C. Japuntich" 
Subject: Review: Bell, (Japuntich)
Derrick Bell  Gospel Choirs
(  Harper Collins, 1996)   Reviewed by: John C. Japuntich

        There is a myth today that there is no discrimination towards minorities
in the United States.  The reason that most blacks are not doing well in
today’s society is not because of discrimination, but of laziness and lack
of motivation.  The conditions are ripe for blacks to succeed in today’s
society.  It is the blacks that are destroying the United States.  Half of
all those incarcerated in U.S. prisons are black.  It is the blacks
committing all the crime, and it is the blacks who have only one parent.
It is the blacks who take the jobs of more qualified whites through
affirmative action.  These are the exact thoughts that white America has
displayed today.  It is no more evident than in Derrick Bell’s Gospel
Choirs .  It is through these myths that Bell argues that discrimination is
far from gone, that it is not blacks but corporate America ruining the U.S.
 and that not just blacks but everyone in the U.S. should be worrying about
their prospective jobs.  Bell was very witty and out of the ordinary tries
to get the reader interested by telling a number of fictional stories that
build off the other.  It is through these various stories that Bell who is
the main character in these stories finds a new fictional character to
interact with to get his points across.  Bell also uses the fictional
character Geneva Crenshaw.  Geneva is another fictional character who is
the voice of Bell.  Geneva is the rational thinking figure in Bell’s
different stories.

        Bell speaks highly of music.  Music is an overriding theme throughout.  It
is through gospel music and other types of music that blacks can fully
express their thoughts and feelings about being discriminated against.  It
began when they were torn from their slave ships in the 1600’s and put on
boats to America.  The black race began using singing and hymns as a way to
deal with the constant torture and hate they felt.  As novelist Alice
Walker believes that music for blacks is" inoculation against poison,
immunization against the disease of racist and sexist selfishness, envy,
and greed."  And in its ability to express" all the connectedness that
racist oppression and colonial destruction tried to keep hidden."  Bell
believes that  gospel music along with its way to speak of oppression is
its possible ability to bridge the racial gap.  Gospel music has already
crossed over and is popular in portions of the white community.  Perhaps
gospel music is the much sought link that can unite the people of this
nation across barriers of race and color, class and creed.

        Geneva Crenshaw offered a possible solution that many blacks face today.
She argues that blacks must be gender friendly to each other to cut down on
social instability and crime.  Actually she argues that all males of every
race, class, and creed should be gender friendly to one another.  The
pattern is clear.  Men who are unable to find work, take their frustration
out on their female counterparts.  And all to often whites project their
anger on blacks who are as helpless as they are.   Unless curbed and
corrected by a new understanding of male-female relationships, such
deflection of anger could crucially undermine our effort to survive.  Both
men and women must come to embrace mutual support as the critical
prerequisite to rebuilding and reorganizing communities.  Thus
restructuring of gender relations will lead to a stronger black community,
one better able to fend off the myriad manifestations of hostility.

        There is a certain scenario that Bell throws out in his past book that
really makes his readers think about in chapter one.  Aliens from outer
space have come to Earth and offered the president of the U.S. gold,
minerals, and fuels to last the U.S. another century.  In return the space
travelers want all people of the black race in the U.S. to go with them
back to their home planet.  If voted upon, would the people of the U.S.
vote to trade all blacks for the goods that the space travelers had.
According to Bell, yes the people of the United States would indeed offer
the blacks for the goods.  Chapter one is a sequel to that story when all
the blacks are now on the spaceship in outer space.  But first one must
think to themselves, would I really vote to trade?  It would seem logical
for white people  to vote in favor.  Would the white race sell out its own
citizens, and human beings for some greedy gold and fuels?  What if the
space travelers wanted white people for the goods?  Then what would white
voters think?  Once on the ship the blacks are given a final vote to stay
on the ship towards the alien home planet or to go back to Earth where
their real home is.  Two characters way the positive and negative
consequences  for returning to Earth.  Geneva believes that all the blacks
should continue the journey to the alien planet because of  promised
equality on the new planet.  Mr.Golightly on the other hand believes the
blacks should go back to Earth because that is where they were originally
from and that is where they have tried so hard and made progress in
bridging the racial gap.  In the end there is no real consensus on what to
do but you can really tell that Bell wants his readers to ponder both sides
of the argument and not come to a conclusion but to stir up further
discussion about the positive and negative points both Geneva and Mr.
Golightly make through their speeches.

        Chapter 2 is easily the most important and controversial story that Bell
tells.  Bell goes to a talk show where he is the guest to Biff Rightwing
on the Biff Rightwing show.  Biff Rightwing symbolizes the white race and
their beliefs today and Bell is the voice of the black community and the
logical , intelligent figure on the show.  It is a classic white
conservative vs. Black liberal match up.  Bell believes that blacks have
not had the same opportunities as whites.  Through the dysfunctional black
social system, many blacks will end up living on the streets and making
minimum wage which leads to crime.  Asked why Bell has made it big he gives
the expected answer, because" I grew up in a stable family and in a
community that was relatively safe and very supportive.  My mother didn’t
have to work and could stay in touch with my teachers.  And every one I
knew pushed me toward college-not as a possibility, but as a foregone
certainty."   There are other reasons why America is failing than just the
reason that many whites argue - blacks.  According to the white populace
blacks take jobs through affirmative action, cause all the crime, and are
lazy.  But it is not blacks but corporate America which is causing many of
the problems the workforce faces today.  Bell gives four reasons. 1.
Corporate America is downsizing.  They are not downsizing to cut losses,
but to enhance profits.  Companies are laying off loyal workers just to
make a few extra dollars.  Greed has turned into loss of jobs, not blacks.
2.  The United States government is allowing corporations to fire millions
of workers to again enhance profits by importing cheap labor from other
countries.  Just think about it.  Mexican workers making minimum wage in
the U.S. is like making hundreds of thousands in Mexico, and so on with
many other countries.  So U.S. corporations are selling American workers
out and hiring cheap foreign labor just to add to their profits a little
more. 3. Corporations are continuing to rake off billions and billions of
dollars in government grants and tax benefits.  4. There is a uncanny
distribution of wealth today.  Today the top 1% of U.S. citizens own about
40% of the wealth.  That has been the highest income gap ever.  CEO’s
continue to get richer while they cut thousands of jobs just to make an
extra buck. Again greed comes into play.  The white people argue that black
crime is on the increase.  Half the prison population is black, a high
percentage of black births are out of wedlock, and most of those children
will live in single-parent homes.  Bell counters that blacks make up only
12% of the population.  Why do whites treat the problems in the ghetto as
the major problems facing the country.  There are other major problems that
demand attention but the white community does not want to admit to.
Uncontrollable trade and fiscal deficits, a low savings rate, an obsolete
military strategy, an anachronistic and corrupt electoral system, and the
worst primary education in the First World, and the bulk of its population
facing long-term economic decline.

        When faced with affirmative action Bell argues that it is not affirmative
action ruining jobs in the U.S. but again corporate America.  Affirmative
action is just the scapegoat that whites use to argue why they lost their
jobs.  When in reality it is downsizing for profit, cheap foreign labor,
illegal immigrants, and new technology.  Affirmative may cause some whites
their jobs but it is not enough to proclaim affirmative action as a white
job killer.  Actually whites benefit from civil right programs.  Then their
is the stigma that blacks are just lazy.  Blacks are not lazy, they just
did not have the same opportunities as whites growing up.  How could a
black support a family or him or herself  for that matter on $6.00 an hour
at the local Mc Donalds.  It is impossible.  They do not have the money or
resources to land a good job or go to college.  They do believe in self -
help programs  but other programs are needed such as basic social reforms
to benefit all Americans:  guaranteed employment at decent wages for all
who want to work; effective schooling and training programs; and child care
to release parents to work.

        White America benefits from keeping blacks down.  Blacks are the
scapegoats that whites use to blame employment and other social ills on.
White America also benefits by trying to increase the income gap between
the black community.  Whites get a satisfaction that if things are going
wrong that it can not be as bad as blacks.  That is a sad statement but
many times is true.  White America believes that discrimination is gone.
They think that their jobs and social ills are problems forced on by
blacks.  But it is a sad reminder to the America populace that
discrimination still exists, jobs and social ills are caused by corporate
America, and whites actually commit more crime than blacks.  Bell does a
masterful job by keeping the reader interested throughout the book by
breaking it up into different stories.  He makes his points via the stories
he tells.  He intelligently counters almost all possible statements and
questions that one might ask throughout the book.  I would recommend this
book to anyone who wants to find the real truth of the racial situation
today.  The only negative I found was Bell’s confusing prologue.  It jumped
all over the place and made no sense by jumping from gospel music to Geneva
and gender solutions.  Gospel Choirs will shock many people especially the
working white community.  I think it is time to stop blaming societies
problems on blacks but start blaming on the real problem, corporate America.

From: Heather Freeman 
Subject: Review:Gospel Choirs
        Sometimes facts, statistics, and the dry philosophies of public
intellectuals are not enough to adequately explain the problems associated
with race relations.  Derrick Bell uses his storytelling skills to paint a
picture of how he sees racism affecting black America.  His stories also
encompass the role he sees whites as playing in fueling this racism.
        Blacks are faced with a triple threat today that makes them more vulnerable
to certain disaster in the future.  Bell believes that the status of blacks
is steadily getting worse.  He gives numbers of black unemployment in the
U.S. and compares the wages of whites and blacks.  According to Bell, these
numbers lead to blacks feeling overwhelmed by their situation, and whites
believing that this is evidence that blacks are lazy and inferior. The
second threat that blacks face today is that the technological revolution
has led to corporations downsizing and the deportation of jobs to
third-world countries, where labor is cheap.  While skilled workers, both
white collar and blue collar, are losing their jobs, executives are getting
pay raises.  If manufacturing workers had shared in the productivity gains
and profits, the same as executives, they would be making $81,000 a year
(7). This is a threat, but this threat is to all Americans, not just black
Americans.  The third threat that Bell sees is that history has shown that
when there is economic stress blacks are in danger.  He cites the example of
blacks being a target when, a hundred years ago, America changed from
primarily agricultural to having an industrial base.  Blacks were blamed
when there was a squeeze for jobs.  He says that today, "patterns of job
loss and racial antagonism are worsening at the same time perhaps a majority
of whites believe that racial discrimination is hardly more than a
convenient excuse for blacks who crave preferences while disdaining
performance."  He gives no substantial evidence that a parallel exists
between the two.  Is racial antagonism worsening?  It seems that much needs
to be done to improve race relations, but is it worse than it use to be?
Even if the improvements have been small and of little real substance I find
it hard to believe that the situation today is worse than a few decades ago.
The real villain of the present day economic situation is corporate greed.
Bell believes that blacks are the scapegoat for corporate America.  The
media focuses on stories about black street crime and welfare cheats instead
of white collar crime.
        Who is there for blacks to look to for help?  The courts and the political
process have not shown themselves to be trustworthy in the past.  Bell's
answer is gospel music.  Blacks were able to use gospel music to overcome
previous hardships. While it will not be easy for gospel music to overcome
corporate power, Bell believes that he (either as himself or as his
character), and Geneva Crenshaw will find a way.
        Geneva Crenshaw is Bell's more feminist side.  He uses her as a means to
soften, somewhat, his harsh views that come out in his character the
professor.  In the last chapter, The Gospel Light, Geneva is asked to give a
sermon before a congregation.  In the sermon, and Geneva's story, Bell's
explanation is given on how gospel music can help blacks in their current
situation.  She speaks of a time when blacks attempted to please whites by
not raising their voices, in emotion and praise, when singing.  This was
their way of showing whites that they were their equals and not like their
slave ancestors who would sneak off and dance, shout and clap their hands to
praise god.  By staying away from gospel music, to appease whites, these
blacks were in a way still enslaved because slavery can be defined as silent
obedience. Geneva explains that to bring gospel music back, after it had
been forsaken, had been a risk and the preacher or preachers who did this
had risked their popularity, support, and maybe even their jobs.  This is
the type of risks that blacks are asked to make.  In Geneva's story Melodie
"rejected the predictable, the prudent, the easy way." Bell is trying to
explain that blacks can stay safe and secure or they can take a sacrificial
risk and not try to please the majority, whites and corporate power, but to
strive off on their own.  Doing this might not be the easy way, but it is
the only way that blacks will see the light that Melodie saw or the fair
treatment that they deserve.
        The same theme is apparent in Bell's story of the space traders.  In this
story aliens offer the U.S. "sufficient stores of gold to pay off debts,
chemicals to cleanse its environment, and a safe nuclear engine and fuel to
replace disappearing fossil fuels (17)".  In return the aliens want all the
African American citizens.  The U.S. takes a vote and 70% agree so, the
trade is made.  The aliens claim that their people are suffering and they
want the black Americans to teach them how to transcend suffering, through
emotional and spiritual strength, as they have been doing for years.
Through monitoring, however, the aliens find that their captives want to
return home. They are amazed by this because their home is a place of racism
that has sent them off without caring about their fate.  The aliens decide
to let them vote on whether they continue on their journey or negotiate a
bargain for their return.  Of course, the U.S. will probably be more than
happy to have them back because in their absence the nation has fallen
apart.  Before the vote two people are called to speak.  Geneva is one of
these people and she explains to all aboard the ship that if they return
nothing will have changed.  She names the times that blacks have helped bail
out white America.  As slaves they helped fund the Revolutionary War.  In
the Civil War black soldiers made the difference between victory and defeat.
These acts and many more have made little difference and racism still
continues.  What white Americans really wants for blacks to do is, "just go
away and shut up and stop taking up so much time and food and air and then
the world would return to Norman Rockwell loveliness and America could be
employed and happy once more."  Through Geneva, Bell is once again saying
that the racial situation is not going to change.  Assimilation did not work
and neither has trying to teach white Americans, as Bell discusses in
several of his chapters.
        What then will improve the race situation and the lives of black Americans?
Bell does not offer any realistic suggestions, but in his story The
Entitlement he offers an interesting one.  Donnell B. Dancer is a talk show
host.  His show focuses on black sexuality and all that it includes.  The
show is hugely popular and covers such topics as "mate swapping, men who
beat women, fat women who are porn stars, the superiority in size of  black
men's penises, transvestites, men who don't support their
children.......people who love to have unprotected sex.....white women who
love black men, strippers, black women who love white men."  The show was
expected to go on forever, but suddenly it was canceled.  The show was
having problems getting guests, when before there had been tons of people
wanting to publicly air their stories.  Dancer gets a visit from a reporter
for Essence.  She tells him about a phenomena called Sexual Entitlement
Therapy or S.E.T. that is being investigated and is probably the reason that
his show was canceled.  Only blacks in healthy, nonabusive relationships are
able to have sexual relations.  Couples where a power struggle or abuse
exist are immediately confronted by a shield when they try to make a sexual
move toward one another.  The positives of S.E.T. is that it has put an end
to abusive sexual relationships, all unmarried teenagers are unable to have
sex, HIV positive people can not have sex unless they are using protection,
and rape no longer exists.  Whites do not seem to be affected only black or
interracial couples.  The report thinks that this might  be a gift from
beyond to help black people get themselves together.  Dancer, of course,
feels that whites must be behind this.  He says, "White folks been
castrating black men, physically and mentally, since the beginning of this
damn country.  Today the white folks do the same economically by cutting us
out of jobs we need to support families and keep some kind of dignity."  The
reporter answers him that the black community has been using sex to
compensate for their lack of money and power, and that makes the situation
worse for blacks.
        I appreciate Bell's attempt to point out areas of trouble in the black
community where some sort of change needs to be made to improve their
situation.  I also understand that in many cases he has every right to hold
whites responsible for the racism that has added to the problems that the
black community experiences.  Instead of placing blame, however, Bell could
have used his stories as a way of offering solutions.  Sure, corporate
America is a threat, not only to blacks, but to all Americans.  So what
should we do?  Maybe he is right, if aliens did offer the U.S. great rewards
they would trade all of the black Americans.  But what will arguing about it
do to change the race situation?

From: robert joseph nuckolls 
Subject: Review of Derrick Bell's Gospel Choirs

                                                         BY DERRICK BELL

                                                     Reviewed by Bob Nuckolls

Fantasy versus reality.  Perception versus conclusiveness.  Invalidity
versus validity.  These thoughts come to mind as one reads Derrick Bell's
"Gospel Choirs".  Once again, Bell demonstrates the use of allegorical
stories with Gospel Choirs.  Gospel Choirs is entertaining and easy to
read.  Yet, there is one requirement one needs have to read Gospel Choirs;
imagination.  One needs to think broadly, with an open mind.

The book is a collection of stories.  During each story, there are at least
two main characters who remain constant; Derrick Bell the "Professor", and
Geneva Crenshaw the "higher power", the "voice in the distance", the "angel
from above", the "spiritual leader", and the "mentor".  Often throughout
the book, Bell seeks guidance and approval from Crenshaw as he struggles
with different issues.

As I read through each chapter, I went from participating with aliens from
outer space in regard to a "space trade" which involved the offer of
"untold treasure" in exchange for the surrending of all black citizens, to
a talk show host who made his fortune through the exploitation of other's,
mostly black, sex lives.  Although some would argue the latter is not
unrealistic, the former would require a sense of imagination as I earlier

Although each story provides its own form of respective insight and hidden
message, the two stories I enjoyed most were chapter 2, "Trying To Teach
The White Folks", and chapter 5, "The Freedom of Employment Act".  Why
these two chapters?  Because I felt although the stories had different
content, they were also related in many ways.

In Trying To Teach The White Folks,  Bell "the professor" is a guest of a
popular talk show host cleverly named "Biff Rightwing".  Rightwing refers
to his audience, who agree with his every suggestion and thought, as the
"Yessirrees".  Again, cleverly named.   Bell, is introduced to the audience
as an "African-American law professor known as a liberal.  He's got some
ideas we conservatives consider crazy and some that raise questions worthy
of debate".   Bell is referred to as a black man who had "made it big, and
made it despite  having been born and raised in relatively humble
circumstances".  Biff mentions Bell's accomplishments such as, being a
government civil rights lawyer, a tenured professor at the Harvard Law
School, and dean of the Oregon Law School.  Biff mentions, "in a happier
time of American race relations, blacks and whites would hail you (Bell) as
a credit to your race".

Bell's intentions as a guest was indeed to speak about race relations.  In
front of a clearly hostile audience, which was made more hostile (and
closed minded) by Biff as the show continued on, Bell's goal was to "teach
the white folks" that contrary to most assumptions and beliefs, racism was
alive and well in America.  Bell intended to show this through examples and
imaginative hypothetical situations.  One of the situations involved what
would America do, specifically white America, if space traders from outer
space offered untold treasure for the exchange for all the black citizens.
Bell, who spoke in front of a predominantly white audience, suggested that
whites would readily accept the trade.  He argued that as he lectures
across the country and offers this question to the audiences, virtually all
the blacks in the audiences immediately raise their hands in agreement.
Basically, Biff and the audience promptly dismissed this as a valid
example. Even when Biff asked Bell about the whites in his audiences, and
Bell explained when he asked them to raise their hands to signify whether a
majority of whites living in their community would vote for the Space
Traders' offer, and most of them-however reluctantly-raised their hands,
Biff summed this as "not a very scientific poll".

It should be noted Rightwing's audience were all white with the exception
of one black male.  This male was very animated and active with the
audience.  Although they were from the same race, clearly, the man was not
a Bell supporter.  The male wore a cowboy suit complete with bright red
boots and a ten-gallon white hat.  His role was to urge the audience on by
struting up and down the aisles.  The things which were not mentioned was
the suit was much too tight, the pants were too short, the brand of his red
underwear could clearly be seen,  and the male was chomping down on a large
cigar.   Again, as I earlier wrote, an imagination is required.

Biff maintained that white America would not accept the trade, but related
"any blacks who don't like it here are free to leave without waiting for
the assistance of people from outer space." Biff continued to say "my
viewers are red-blooded American patriots and many of us are sick unto
death of your people's bellyaching even as you are committing most of the
violent crime and receiving more than your share of welfare payments.
You'd rather be coddled by wishy-washy liberals than carry your fair share
of taxes and other duties of citizenship.  Considering all the trouble you
folks cause, I'd be surprised if even thirty percent would vote against the
Trade."  Now after this tirade, anyone with any sense would conclude that
Bell need not argue any longer.  For all he needed to conclude that racism
does continue to exist, was to point towards Biff's extremely racist
statements.  He could even suggest Biff's form of racism is most dangerous
because as a talk show host, his views, in this case, racist views, reach
and or adopted by a large audience.  Another method to promote and
strengthen racism.

Although Bell could have chosen this tactic, he decided to use another.
Bell suggested that Biff had set some reasons why his audience and most
whites would accept the Trade.  It's not that they hate blacks.  It's
because, in their view, black people take jobs from whites, live on
government largesse, and commit crimes.  Although with basically the same
content, but with a different perspective, Bell offered another imaginative
scenario.  Bell suggested suppose the Space Traders were offering to trade
gold and other goodies for the top executives of America's Fortune-500
corporations.  The Space Traders identified some two thousand of these
CEO's as responsible for the loss of two million jobs in this country.
That the CEO's had sent millions of jobs to third-world countries to get
cheap labor and are importing thousands of foreign workers - skilled as
well as unskilled - to this country to replace American workers.  The Space
Traders show how many of these corporations are firing hundreds of
thousands of workers, many with years of loyal service, and the downsizing
is not to cut cost as they claim, but to enhance profits.  In addition,
these corporations are raking off billions of dollars in government grants
and tax benefits, and much of the resulting profit goes to them or to those
in the top 1 percent of the population who now hold over 40 percent of the
wealth.  Biff turned to the audience for their vote.  Led by the black man,
the audience concluded they would not accept this trade.

Throughout the remainder of this show, in efforts to prove racism does
exist, Bell gave argument after argument.  At times, Bell would turn to
Geneva Crenshaw, his invisible mentor, for support.  In efforts to dispel
Bell of any credibility, Biff also gave argument after argument.
Throughout the show, Biff accepted telephone calls from the audience and
continued to poll the audience about the Space Traders deal regarding the
top CEO's.  None of the callers supported Bell, and the final poll revealed
one thousand callers oppose a trade for the top CEO's, and only ninety-five
would support it.  Rightwing concluded the show by summarizing that the
viewers didn't think the CEO's were criminals, and if they would support
the trade of African-Americans, that support would not be racist.  Rather
the viewers are simply disgusted with blacks like Bell.

Many would conclude this show as a defeat for Bell.  I would not.  With
Biff Rightwing, Bell was successful in demonstrating how ignorance,
specifically racial ignorance, often prevails, sometimes by those who many
believe are filled with intelligence.  In a bright and clever method, Bell
was successful with demonstrating that racism still exist.

In chapter five's, "The Freedom of Employment Act", Bell was again a guest.
 The Freedom of Employment Act (FEA) was a fictional law developed by Bell.
 The preamble to the FEA advises that the act will allay growing hostility
by eliminating policies that undermine fundamental principles of fair play
in a misguided and socially disruptive effort to remedy instances of past
racial discrimination, problems that mostly disappeared with the enactment
of civil rights laws decades earlier.

As introduced, the legislation contains three provisions:

First, it bans all affirmative action programs, including preferential
recruitment, hiring, promotions, or other employment policies, practices,
rules, and regulations, based in whole or in part on race or ethnicity.

Second, the measure establishes a strong presumption that all persons of
the African race or of Hispanic ethnicity obtained their positions for
reasons that included consideration of their race or ethnicity and thus
were actual or potential beneficiaries of affirmative action policies.  As
such, they hold their positions unfairly and without proof that their
qualifications were superior to those of other applications who were not
eligible for consideration under affirmative action policies.

Under the legislation, such positions are rendered "vulnerable to
challenge" by individuals (job challenges) not eligible for affirmative
action preferences and presumed harmed by them. If any such challenger can
show that he or she had superior training or experience at the time the job
was filled, the presumed affirmative action beneficiary holding the
position must, upon formal demand, vacate the position within thirty days.

Third, all those who held or were eligible to hold affirmative action
positions are, upon surrender of those positions, required to find work
within thirty days, or be subject to induction into what is called "Special
Service" and assigned to work deemed in the national interest.  The Special
Service would be like the military.  All those found physically and
mentally able must go.  The terms of the service are three years.  Inducted
workers will receive the minimum wage; and while deemed on duty at all
times, they will normally work eight-hour days and receive room, board, and
recreational facilities at no cost.

Although this act was fictional, Congress intended to make this as law.  A
group of influential blacks named the Committee of Two Dozen (CTD) had
gathered to discuss the proposed bill. Although one must again use some
imagination, the scenario was quite similiar to the Biff Rightwing show.
The "host" was the group's speaker, Avery Jones, a retired lawyer. The
"audience" was comprised of  the remaining members of the CTD.  Once again,
the "guest" was "Professor Bell" and the "mystery guest", the one only Bell
could visualize, was Geneva Crenshaw.  There was even a person who played a
similiar role to the black man in the cowboy suit.  This person was named
Claude Carraway, a pompous know-it-all who everyone knew.  Carraway boasted
about the country clubs where he was usually the only black person present.
The "show" centered on the group's obvious concern for the proposed bill.
Most of the group blamed "Professor Bell" for the bill.  Bell argued he was
not to blame, but similiar to the Rightwing show, his arguments were not

As one reads Gospel Choirs they will notice there is a religious theme
throughout the book.  The title has religious characteristics.  The word
"Psalms" which is noted in the subtitle, is a book of the Bible.  Also,
Bell provides a short spiritual passage at the beginning of each chapter.
Again, if one ponders the respective passage for a moment, and uses a
little imagination, one can relate each passage with the respective
chapter.  Another example of a religious theme is inherent within chapter
14 aptly titled, "The Gospel Light".  In addition, Geneva Crenshaw, who in
the Gospel Light chapter is featured as a preacher speaking to a church
congregation, unquestionably assumes a "mystical" religious persona.

After I finished reading Gospel Choirs, I felt a just read a
"self-portrait" of Bell which instead of being committed to a painting on a
canvas, was committed to words in the forms of short stories or passages,
which each containing hidden or a special messages.  At the same time I
felt entertained and challenged in trying to determined what exactly Bell
was attempting to convey in each story.  For example, when Bell writes
about the Space Traders, most will conclude that there is no such thing as
a "Space Trader" and quickly determine the story as unrealistic, thus,
failing to comprehend the true meaning of Bell's message.  This is what I
admire most about Gospel Choirs, as well as, other Bell's writings. He
challenges the reader to not only read the words written on the pages, but
to comprehend them as well; to think broadly.  Bell encourages the reader
to not only think or look "within the box", but to think or look "outside
the box" as well.

Although at times during the reading, Bell tends to generalize, which may
lead to some criticism, overall, the book is brilliantly written.
Unfortunately, some may summarize the book as a collection of fictional
stories.  But are they really fictional?  Again, use your imagination, and
think "outside the box".

Date:         Fri, 1 May 1998 19:50:15 -0500
From: "Douglas S. Phelan" 
Subject: Re: Derrick Bell (Nuckols)
Very good book review, one where you don't want to stop reading!  Even
>though Bell seems to have very strong opinions, I think his book would be
>very interesting to read.  One question, I do not understand the reference
>to the black man walking up and down the aisle during the talk show.  It
>sounds like this was one of MANY hidden messages contained in the book.
>Would you recommend it?

From: Ryan Snyder 
Subject: Re: Response(almli):Gospel Choirs

        I agree entirely with what you stated about Derrick Bell.  Although I
did not read the book, he was often criticized and attacked in the book
Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on the Law
by Daniel Farber and Suzanna Sherry.  They use a story of
Derrick Bell's in which aliens offer the United States "untold treasure"
in return for surrendering all blacks to the aliens.  The American public
votes to accept the deal by an overwhelming margin.  He also states in
his story that the Jewish leadership condemn the trade as genocidal and
organize the Anne Frank Committee to oppose it.  According to Bell, the
true motivation of the Jews is a fear without the blacks, they would
become the scapegoats.  Bell believes that the Jews do not want black
equality they just want the blacks around to deflect the anger and racism
from the whites.  Throughout this book, they examine Bell's arguments and
give criticism to those arguments.  Bell believes that westren
institutions and ideas are socially constructed to serve the interests of
the powerful, white men.  He also believes that there is no objective
truth or knowledge.  Farber and Sherry gives the argument that if there
is no objective truth or knowledge, why should we bother listening to
what the "radical multiculturalists" have to say?  Why should we listen
to Derrick Bell if there is no objective truth?  I believe that Derrick
Bell does not to try to solve the problems facing America, and the fact
that he wants us to listen to gospel music in order to solve these
problems is presumptous and arrogant.  Derrick Bell is certainly an
extremist and does not get to the actual problems facing America.

From ???@??? Fri May 01 06:59:47 1998              
From: Justin Michael Almli 
Subject: Re: Response(almli):Gospel Choirs
In-Reply-To:  <199804291710.naa58080@h-net.msu.edu>

It is an interesting theory to use stories to create a desiered thinking
response.  These stories, as well as they were constructed, should have
been able to offer some solutions or ideas as to where to go.  In my view
this constant talk about the problem is remedial.  Most men and women know
what the problems are.  Poverty, lack of education, lack of employment,
drugs, gangs, high divorce rates, high domestic violence, etc..  This is a
long list ladies and gentleman.  We need to address the problems with
solutuions, and not just stories that attempt to make people constantly
ponder where the problem comes from.  Problem solving skills are required,
not problem finding skills.  Bell also had a theory that the black
community should use gospel music to overcome some
of their problems.  Gospel music is good for motivating, creating
strength, and diminishing low self esteem, which might have been enough a
hundred years ago to keep people going, but it is going to take more than
just a style of music to solve these problems.

Date: Feb 18, 2001 (Sun, 22:58:21)
From: Amanda M <amandamoore78@HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Amanda Moore)

Bell, Derrick. "Faces at the Bottom of the Well". (Basic Books, New York,
Reviewed By: Amanda Moore amandamoore78@hotmail.com

"I think that black people are the faces at the bottom of the societal well,
that whites -- most of whites in America who are only one level above, also
denied opportunity, also oppressed in a certain way, are fascinated in
looking down on us, rather than looking back at the top to see where the
folk at the top are manipulating both groups" (Bell Interview).

In "Faces at the Bottom of the Well," author Derrick Bell expresses the
hopelessness, bitterness, and torment which he believes to be inherent in
the permanence of racism in America. With this assumption/thesis so
ostensibly expressed, it seems that one might best begin analysis by stating
this author's own comments rather than by simply making assumptions without
basis in fact. Thus, research revealed the transcript of author Derrick
Bell's C-Span interview with Brian Lamb on "Booknotes" which aired in
November, 1992, shortly after Bell's book was published. The above-stated
quote from that interview better demonstrates Bell's position than could any
analysis. The verbs are negative: denied, depressed, looking down. And,
the message is unmistakable -- racism in America is permanent, promulgated
by Caucasians who sustain such prejudice and injustice in order to preserve
their own position anywhere but on the "bottom of the heap."

First, a brief summary of "Faces at the Bottom of the Well" reveals that
Derrick Bell through a series of allegories, illustrates that racism in the
United States is a permanent fixture. In "Racial Symbols: A Limited
Legacy," Bell immediately establishes his premise through a fictional
conversation with the black driver of his car. His opening "salvo" is best
summarized when Mr. Semple, the car driver says, "From the Emancipation
Proclamation on, the Man been handing us a bunch of bogus freedom checks he
never intends to honor" (Bell, 19).

In "The Afrolantica Awakening," a new land emerges from the ocean upon which
only persons of African descent can survive. Through this parable Bell
illustrates the depth of racism in America as Caucasians vacillate between
hoping that all African Americans will leave the United States and settle in
Afrolantica, and a deep jealousy that this land of "milk and honey" is
available only to black people. However, by Afrolantica suddenly
disappearing into the ocean as unexpectedly as it emerged, Bell reaffirms
his theme that circumstances never work out positively for black Americans.

Through each of the ensuing chapters, Bell utilizes various characters and
tales, always seeking to affirm his contention that racism in the United
States is deep, basically unchanged, and permanent. As each makes a similar
point, not all shall be detailed herein; however, Bell's final chapter, "The
Space Traders," should be noted. In "Space Traders," aliens from another
world offer various and much-needed riches to the United States in exchange
for sending all black Americans with them to their homeland forever. As
Bell develops this particular story, the public, private, and political
negotiations are detailed, finally resulting in an overwhelming approval of
a Constitutional amendment to send black Americans away to the alien land.
Bell thus closes his book with what is perhaps his most powerful message,
affirming that Americans would easily and gladly trade the black Americans
with whom they share this country, for riches.

Before examining aspects of "Faces at the Bottom or the Well" beyond Bell's
use of parables, one should pause to reflect upon the theme that
predominates the reactions of the various people to the scenarios he sets
forth. Mr. Semple, Geneva, Sheila, Neva, and the responses of characters in
both "Afrolantica Awakening" and "Space Traders" are all similar, if not
identical: racism in America is permanent and white Americans have no desire
for any change in this condition. In my opinion, there is partial truth in
Bell's central thesis as few issues are ever completely unambiguous.
However, I do not find his theme to "ring true" throughout all America and
among all Americans. There has been change, there continues to be
improvement, and progress persists, albeit not at breakneck speed.

Having summarized "Faces at the Bottom of the Well" in sufficient depth to
convey both Bell's thesis as well as the vehicle he uses to affirm his
message, this writing now turns to analysis of three diverse elements of
Bell's book: the effectiveness of his writing style, racism and the
Constitution, and finally the probability factor, all of which are selected
specifically because they address more than the central message communicated
by Bell. Admittedly, the analyses that follow are neither those of a
professional writer nor a Constitutional law expert; however, the opinions
offered are supported.

First, I believe that although the Bell's plots are at times very creative,
much of the dialogue is stilted such that one is distracted because it is
non-conversational. Such dialogue is particularly conspicuous in "Racial
Symbols: A Limited Legacy," in the conversation between the author and Mr.
Semple. Parenthetically, it is important to note that the intent this
analysis is not to discount Mr. Semple's remarkable intellect and knowledge.
Bell offers conversations that are simply unlikely and stilted, such as when
Semple says,

"But…you're right. Dr. King was recruited by the masses in Montgomery and
responded to the call with some down-home black Baptist leadership for us
and some pretty potent philosophy for the rest of you. Even so, I don't
think middle-class blacks and many liberal whites really accepted King until
1964 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize" (Bell, 26).

This statement by Mr. Semple is like many others throughout the book. They
are long, more as if written than spoken, and thus not always authenticating
the character who is speaking.

This review now turns to a much different element than writing style, namely
an analysis of the assertions made by Bell that racism was actually
validated and promoted by the original Constitution. In researching this
claim by Bell, it would appear that there certainly is some basis in fact
for his charge. In an analysis of precisely this issue by Paul Finkelman,
author of "Slavery and the Founders," Finkelman states:

"To this day historians argue about the relationship of slavery to the
Constitution. The awful word does not appear until the Thirteenth
Amendment, which abolished the institution. Nevertheless, the main body of
the document is littered with references to slaves as 'other persons,' 'such
persons,' and 'person held to Service or Labour.' Through these clauses the
South gained extra representation in Congress because of its slaves;
Congress was prohibited from interfering with the slave trade before 1808;
and masters gained the right to recover fugitive slaves from other states"
(Finkelman, 1).

It would thus appear from Finkelman's writing as well as that of other
Constitutional scholars, that Bell's claim against the framers of the
Constitution is accurate. Having recognized this point, however, this
writer believes that the discussion should continue. After all, the
Constitution is a living, changing document, and changes brought about by
the Thirteenth Amendment (abolishing slavery), the Fifteenth Amendment
(guaranteeing all the right to vote), and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment
(prohibiting poll tax), all negate much of Bell's claim regarding the
original document. He seems unwilling to concede any progress or offer any
established facts which would indicate progress in the Constitutional
struggle against racism.

The final element I address in this review is the probability factor. That
is, does the probability factor in Bell's work influence the reader toward,
or dissuade the reader from his argument? Accepting the fact that
allegories need not necessarily be based in fact in order to be effective,
nevertheless, Bell's choices sometimes harm rather than promote his cause.
A specific case in point for this reader was "The Space Traders." And, it
is not the alien element wherein the problem exists. As a writing vehicle,
the alien concept is perfectly acceptable. The distracting and probability
issue comes in the reaction of the United States Government and its
Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches to the question under
consideration. There are so many unlikely and remote scenarios, that the
reader is distracted. I find it most unlikely that a Constitutional
Convention would draft and approve a Constitutional Amendment in just seven
days; that the United States Supreme Court would unanimously refuse to hear
all appeals by black challengers; or that any President would
surreptitiously engineer the acceptance of such an proposition. In the
opinion of the writer, none of the decisions reached or actions taken by any
of the government branches in "Space Traders" is probable enough to be

Thus, the common thread in the elements of "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
which has been analyzed herein is despair versus promise. Bell often offers
unlikely dialogue, dwells heavily upon the past, and chooses improbable
scenarios to affirm his contention that racism is permanent in America.
Having offered these somewhat critical analyses, however, does not discount
the fact that racism does exist in America. Is it rampant? At some times
and in some places. Has it lessened? Somewhat. Is it permanent? I
believe not.

Martin Luther King once said,

"Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and
forgotten....America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay.
If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history
will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the
most indispensable element of greatness--justice" ("Quotes").

America certainly must not lose the will to finish or slacken in its


Bell, Derrick. Interview. "C-Span Booknotes." Aired: 15 November 1992.

Finkelman, Paul. "Slavery and the Founders." New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1996.
Available: http://www.globaldialog.com.

"Quotes By Martin Luther King." January, 2001.
Available: http://www.jps.net/rame/king/quotes.html

Amanda Moore
Date: Feb 19, 2001 (Mon, 23:27:45)
From: Jessica Claire Pearch <jcpearc@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Jessica Pearch)

Derrick Bell. "Faces at the Bottom of the Well". (Basic Books, New York,
Reviewed by Jessica Pearch

How has racism changed in America? Some may argue that the abolition of
slavery and the enactment of civil rights laws are undeniable steps toward
eradicating racism in American society. Others may argue that the granting
of legal civil rights to African-Americans does nothing to change the
attitudes of the majority of white Americans who do not believe that racism
is wrong. Instead, it only forbids people to openly exhibit their true
opinions on race. Discrimination and racism, while once practiced openly,
are undoubtedly still a real part of everyday life for African-Americans,
however, those perpetuating it, must keep it hidden.

In "Faces at the Bottom of the Well", Derrick Bell would agree more with
the latter. Through the use of several fictional stories, Bell explains
his stance on race in today's American society. While the plots of the
story range from a conversation with a cab driver to an interracial love
affair to the exchange of African-Americans for the cure to the nation's
social problems, three themes are apparent throughout. First, racism is a
permanent and deeply embedded component of American society. Second, white
Americans are willing to make concessions to African-Americans on racial
issues, but only in their own self-interest. Third, African-Americans are
expendable to the majority of white American society. In other words, the
continued existence of African-Americans is in jeopardy if the right offer
comes along.

In various places throughout "Faces at the Bottom of the Well", Bell refers
to African-Americans in seemingly subhuman terms. In "Afrolantica
Awakening", Bell describes a land that emerges from the ocean. Through
several exploration attempts, it was discovered that the level of air
pressure on the new continent was twice of that on the ocean floor. It
"threatened human life" (p. 34). Yet, African-Americans and only
African-Americans could survive on the new land. They were somehow immune
to the conditions that endangered other human life. A possible
interpretation of Bell's words is that African-Americans lead a non-human
existence in America. Another example of demeaning language is found in
"Racism's Secret Bonding". In it, Bell refers to a short story by Ursula
Le Guin. In the story, a child is locked in a dark, damp cellar, a victim
of obvious abuse and neglect. Yet, the child's suffering in such inhumane
conditions is necessary for the town's prosperity (p.154). Bell likens
this child's experience to the experience of African-Americans. In doing
so, he reiterates his point that white Americans will commit unspeakable
abuses against African-Americans in order to ensure their prosperity.

Perhaps this is Bell's perception given that generations upon generations
of African-Americans have suffered from discrimination based solely on race
at the hands of white Americans. Or, perhaps Bell sees this as the
perspective that white Americans need to have in order to continually
perpetuate racism. After all, it is easier to deny humane treatment to
another if her or she is not human.

"As victims," Bell explains, "[African-Americans] suffer racism's harm, but
as a people, cannot share the responsibility for that harm" (p.155).
Instead, throughout "Faces at the Bottom of the Well", Bell points the
finger at white America to assume responsibility for the situation facing
African-Americans today. There is no doubt that much of the blame rests
with white Americans; however, Bell will not be satisfied until it is
admitted that all of African-American's problems are caused by white
discrimination and racism. Bell credits broken homes, anarchy in
communities, and futility in public schools (p. 4) on racially determined
unemployment. Drug-related crime, teenaged parenthood, and disrupted
family life are the result of racially determined poverty forcing
African-Americans to "seek refuge in self-rejection" (p.4). Black-on-black
crime results because those "victimized by an uncaring society" (p. 196)
turn their anger onto other victims. Despite the existence of joblessness,
crime, teenaged parenthood, and many other of these problems in white
America, Bell denies that poor white Americans can identify with their
black counterparts. Therefore, since white America can never empathize
with black America, the cycle of abuse and oppression can never and will
never be broken.

While racism will always exist in American society, white Americans will
occasionally allow for limited progress toward racial equality. Yet, this
progress must either come with little or no cost to white Americans or
benefit their own self-interests. One example of such a "symbolic" gesture
is the observation of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday as a national
holiday. According to Jesse B. Semple, the cab driver in "Racial Symbols:
A Limited Legacy", "it is mostly a symbol that won't cost [white Americans]
much and will keep us blacks pacified" (p. 18). He later asks, "Tell me
how a holiday for Dr. King helps the poor, the ignorant, the out-of-work,
and hungry blacks all over this racist land?" (p. 21).

Despite allowing for the occasion step toward racial equality in American
society, white Americans see their African-American counterparts as
expendable. According to Bell, African-Americans must realize that white
Americans will betray them with little thought and for only a meager
benefit. In "Divining a Racial Realism Theory", the fictional organization
White Citizens for Black Survival is explained by one of its founders,
Erika Wechsler. Also realizing that white America finds black America to
be disposable, the group has an activist phase to its mission. The
objective of this phase is to "build a nationwide network of secret
shelters to house and feed black people in the event of a black holocaust
or some other all-out attack on America's historic scapegoats" (p. 93).
Additionally, in "Space Traders", Bell envisions an America that is in a
desperate situation economically, environmentally, and racially until
visitors from outer space come to earth to offer a cure. Despite the
costs, Americans eagerly accept the offer of the Space Traders. The
majority of white Americans thought sending nearly the entire
African-American population to an unknown fate was a reasonable trade to
ensure their own future prosperity. Hopefully, the White Citizens for
Black Survival was able to carry out its objective and save some
African-American families.

"Space Traders" shows just how disposable African-Americans are to white
Americans. Yet, this story shows that any group can be considered
expendable to the larger society if the nation's situation is grave enough
and the benefits are large enough. In this story, Bell suggests that "were
the Space Traders attracted by and asking to trade any other group -- white
women with red hair and green eyes, for example -- a horrified public would
order the visitors off the planet without a moment's notice" (p. 167). Is
this so? The number of white women with red hair and green eyes living in
America must be significantly smaller than the fifteen percent of the
population comprised by African-American. If severe enough conditions
faced America, it seems likely that any group will be willingly sacrificed
without too much thought.

In "Space Traders" some consideration was given to the substantial impact
that the African-American community has on the economy of the United
States. However, perhaps it was not considered enough before making the
final decision. It seems unlikely that the business sector can have as
little influence on the decision as it did in the story. While the
businessmen's television campaigns may not have swayed the voting public
into changing their minds, the truth about the composition of the market
may have had some weight with those in government. Although accepting the
offer means immediate riches, losing such a significant portion of the
market potentially has serious adverse consequences, especially after those
riches are gone. Also, Bell gave no consideration to the fateful decision
would change America's international relations. Could such a decision make
America lose its influence internationally? Or, given the grave state of
affairs prior to the offer, had it already lost much of its influence?

Throughout "Faces at the Bottom of the Well", Bell offers no possible
solutions for ending racism in American society, perhaps because there are
none. Even an educational campaign of the caliber of the one outlined in
"Racism's Secret Bonding", where white Americans could not escape learning
about, knowing, and feeling the suffering their actions have brought
generations of African-Americans, would not lead to change. "We fool
ourselves," Bell argues, "when [African-Americans] argue that whites do not
know what racial subordination does to its victims ... Knowing is the key
to racism's greatest value" (p. 151). Even if such a campaign could lead
to reform, would it be the result of a true desire to change or would it be
the result of guilt? Without having a true desire to improve the racial
situation in American society, would any changes implemented be enforced
and effective? Or, would Bell argue that these changes are just the
attempts of white Americans to ease their troubled conscience?

Bell encourages African-Americans to recognize that there are no answers or
solutions to the race problem in American society. Yet, he also promotes
having an awareness of its existence and harmful effects. While the
situation seems to be a never ending battle, Bell encourages
African-Americans to never give up the fight for their rights. With this,
I have a final question for Mr. Bell. How is life back in America for
those attempting to settle on Afrolantica? Were they able to keep their
renewed spirit in their community and fight to improve their situation in
America? Or, did the effects of the ever-present racism in American
society soon strip them of their newly found confidence and relegate them
back into the role of victim?

Date: Feb 13, 2001 (Tue, 16:55:54)
From: Justin Vaughn <justinsvaughn@HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Justin Vaughn)

Justin S. Vaughn
Review of:
Bell, Derrick. Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism.
BasicBooks: New York, 1992.

Without a doubt, racism is the single greatest barrier between black
Americans and equality today. Admittedly, other barriers do exist, as well
as persist, but all are derivatives in one way or another of the racist
tendencies of the United States, its government, and the people of which,
for which, and by which it is governed. The salient nature of the racial
problem in the United States stems from its institutionalization in every
aspect of society, public in addition to private.

Black Americans have no hope of ever surmounting this barrier, of ever
truly achieving equal standing in the eyes of their fellow countryman. Any
effort to overcome this barrier, even the thought of persevering in such a
struggle, is mere folly, foolishness, and destined to perpetuate the misery,
frustration, and anomie that Black Americans are already entrenched and
suffocated in.

Allegedly instrumental civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King,
Jr. and Medgar Evers, are examples of the dangerous and trivial effort to
heal the racial divide of this nation. Both men, once thought of as
defeating insurmountable foes and opening previously padlocked doors to
opportunities only reserved for whites, in the end lost their lives
violently and unnecessarily. Nearly forty years later, all that has changed
is the wording of how blacks are discriminated against and systematically --
as well as systemically -- persecuted and oppressed by the descendants of
the same privileged race that once enslaved their own ancestors. Instead of
continuing to laud and rest upon the false and meaningless goals of
yesteryear's civil rights legends (such as token holidays and employment
assistance programs that are more contentious and controversial than they
are helpful), black Americans should relish brothers and sisters like Biona
McDonald -- an aged woman dedicating her life to civil rights not out of
desire to see her people overcome. Rather, in her own words, "I lives to
harass white folks."

Such is the position of renowned author, scholar, and critical legal
theorist Derrick Bell, in his national bestseller Faces at the Bottom of the
Well. Faces, as it shall be referred to for the remainder of this review,
marks the return of Bell's fictional heroine Geneva Crenshaw, introduced in
an earlier work, And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice.
Crenshaw, an apparent lawyer and scholar, borders on mythological and
divine as she is anecdotally portrayed in a series of blatantly fictitious
accounts by Bell, serving to further his argument and purpose in some, while
playing the role of devil's advocate and representing various views of his
certain critics in others. It can be argued, and has, that Crenshaw's
character is representative of the inner feminism inherent in Derrick Bell.

In Faces, Bell's mission is to tell the truth about race relations
in the United States today, to dispel certain myths and promote
understanding about the reality of the times in which we live. In some
respects Bell is markedly successful in his effort, though in others he
undermines the purpose for which he writes. Both respects shall be further
discussed in more detail in the following paragraphs. Although Bell hits on
a number of points in Faces, his approach can be aptly described as
following three main themes. First, due to the construction and
institutional nature of American government and society, blacks are viewed
and treated as inherently unequal; a label that they are unable to shed,
certainly not through the means currently being espoused and employed by
what Bell contemptuously and reservedly refers to as "black leadership."
Second, Caucasian Americans, the source of black America's misery and
frustration, do not and will not help blacks unless it appeals to their own
self-interest. The third theme, albeit a lesser one, produces the notion
that blacks cannot continue to rely upon or trust white America to refrain
from selling black Americans back into servitude, whether in actuality or
simply in metaphor.

In regards to the first theme, many of Bell's stories and essays reflect
his opinion that racism is an institutionalized barrier, particularly the
chapters titled Racism's Secret Bonding and The Rules of Racial Standing.
In Racism's Secret Bonding, Bell gives the impression that black Americans
bear no responsibility or fault for their own lives or mistakes. Instead,
he advocates that all shortcomings stem from the white man, and excuses all
improprieties of the black race on the account that they stem from the
"rage, frustration, and despair" black Americans experience from the
maltreatment they receive from white Americans. Bell also advocates that
the relative security and peace of the United States not only embraces such
maltreatment, but is actually dependent upon all other citizens hating
blacks. According to Bell, this hatred enables other immigrants and
nationalities to fit in better, for poor whites to ignore their true
oppressors (read: the wealthy upper-class) and rest on the laurels that "at
least they aren't black," and further the ability of corporate America to
perpetually enslave the masses within their materialistic and
purchase-oriented lifestyles. However, Bell also contradicts himself with
this idea. While early on in the chapter he subtly attributes the
prevalence of racism in America to the upper-class as a means to maintain
their stranglehold on poor America, he later attributes such racial
tendencies to all Americans in general, arguing that whites purposely engage
in racist thought and action because they know it hurts blacks. In the
former case poor whites are victims, in the latter they represent the
perpetrator of racism. Either way, Bell's take on racism involves some
ornate conspiracy, whether perpetrated by the rich to get richer or by all
white Americans simply because they are masochist and enjoy observing the
suffering of black Americans.

In The Rules of Racial Standing, Bell again argues that American
society and the institutions within it are inherently structured to maintain
inequality between the races. He comes up with five rules, each essentially
documenting a way in which life in the United States is contested on a
playing field dramatically sloped to the white man's favor. These rules
touch on areas such as blacks in the legal arena and the phenomenon of
blacks siding with whites when an outspoken black leader offends or upsets
the white establishment. Throughout this book, Bell maintains a vehement
and hateful tone for such "race traitors," as he disparagingly refers to
them. These "Uncle Toms "essentially include any black man or woman who
holds an opinion on race that is anything to the right of his own ideology.
Bell continues his divisive and scornful criticism, arguing that blacks who
disagree with militant or extremist blacks should not voice their dissent,
nor should extremists moderate their behavior in attempts to make other
blacks more comfortable and less pressured by whites to denounce their
rhetoric and activities. In other words, non-liberal/radical blacks are
simply wrong and should become more like Bell, but extremists in every sense
of the word are acceptable and should be lauded. This does not seem very
representative of tolerance and good will, though one would be hard-pressed
to describe Bell using those terms in any manner. Another contradiction is
evident in Bell's stance here. In one parable Bell created a character
named Jason Warfield, a respected and powerful black leader that fell in
love with a white woman. Though Bell criticizes black writers and figures
that take positions counter to those espoused by him, he celebrated Warfield
for following his heart, even though it could destroy a great civil rights
movement. It seems that one can only have a sincere and heartfelt position
on something if that position is symmetrical to Bell's, any other case
equals an act of treason committed against one's race.

The second theme featured prominently in Faces reflects Bell's conviction
that white Americans will only help their black countrymen when it appeals
to their own self-interest. This notion is also featured in a number of
stories, in particular The Space Traders and The Racial Preference Licensing
Act. In The Space Traders Bell advocates the most far-fetched possibility
imaginable, then proceeds to use his fantasy as substantive fact proving his
case against white self-interest. In this story whites have imprisoned
blacks in the inner city with thick, tall walls until one day when visitors
from outer space arrive and offer a struggling United States a deal. In
exchange for all black Americans the visitors will essentially cure all
American societal ills and fix the economy for all time. Arguably Bell's
finest literary effort in Faces, the United States is soon consumed by a
national debate over the deal. Every sector that can benefit from the deal
is pushing for it, while all the corporate entities that thrive off of
Bell's admitted sense of black materialism fight against it. Both sides
claim to hold the best interests of black Americans at heart, but in Bell's
reality they are only manipulating black Americans for their own selfish
gains. In this tale all of America has a voice and an opinion, except for
black Americans. In the end, the self-interest of the majority wins out
over the minority. Bell contends that this is indicative of the racism of
America, but I struggle to see how an obviously and fantastically crafted
work of fiction can be used as any form of evidence to support such a claim.
Yet Bell time and time again composes such fictitious accounts and
routinely uses them to explain and support his multi-prong thesis of white
racism in America. Oddly enough, the one voice of reason in this essay was
that of a black conservative, an ideological demographic hated by Bell like
none other.

In The Racial Preference Licensing Act, Bell again uses a fictitious
account of legislation to prove how racist whites are, and specifically
spells out his belief that whites have historically only supported the civil
rights movement and its corresponding laws when it appealed to their own
interests. For example, Bell argues the Fourteenth Amendment, one of the
historic Civil War Amendments, was not written to protect blacks for their
own sake, but rather for the protection of whites guarding against a
Southern revival that would threaten the Northern hold on government.
Bell's theory of racial nepotism furthers this sentiment. This theory
posits that whites tend to treat one another as family, and only deal with
blacks when there is a pressing need to. According to Bell, whites would
rather deal with a less qualified, less competent white person than a more
highly skilled black. Unfortunately, Bell fails to provide conclusive
evidence of this charge, instead preferring to rely upon his opinion as
proof. Bell further uses this indictment of white selfishness as a warning
that the civil rights movement needs to adapt its goals and outdated
policies. The entire point of the essay is to encourage activists to look
beyond their traditional views since black people can no longer afford such
rigidity on racial issues that no longer appeals to white self-interest.
One could levy a range of charges against Bell's position with this theme,
but he contradicts himself with a character in another of his stories. In
Divining a Racial Realism Theory, Bell creates a character named Erika
Wechsler. Wechsler, a white woman, is a member of an organization solely
devoted to the protection of black Americans in the event of a black
holocaust or any other similar attack. Wechsler is not motivated by
self-interest, but merely out of an internal need to right the wrongs she
sees in contemporary society. Such motivation does not fit in Bell's world,
a world in which every motive is questioned.

The final theme prevalent in Faces concerns the notion that blacks cannot
rely upon whites. More explicitly, Bell argues that whites will sell blacks
back into servitude in a heartbeat given the opportunity. This theme is
prevalent in The Space Traders, Divining a Racial Realism Theory and many
other chapters. In Divining a Racial Realism Theory, the entire
organization and ideology that Erika Wechsler represents is in existence due
to anticipation of the white race suddenly and violently turning on the
black race in the United States. The Space Traders offers an even more
stark and drastic warning to blacks considering placing their trust in the
white race, depicting whites as greedy people willing to sell the entire
black race off into slavery, if not much worse. The world in Faces is one
in which the black man can trust no one; not whites, not the current black
leadership, not even themselves.

This cynicism is one of several objections I have to Derrick Bell's work.
Bell is carelessly divisive and belligerent. He is subsumed in the
"politics of they." Though his stories and sermons bemoan the unequal state
of black Americans today, his tone and rhetoric always single out someone
else, another group, any other source on which to pin the blame; in other
words, "they." Bell derides white-dominated society for its racial and
cultural intolerance, although any white who disagrees with his opinion is
racist and any black that is a shade more conservative than he is a race
traitor or Uncle Tom, regardless of the sincerity of their views.
Apparently tolerance equates to agreeing with Bell. Another problem with
Bell is his tendency to create fictitious accounts to demonstrate a
particular aspect of American society, but routinely relies on those same
arguments he created for dramatic effect as proof of his beliefs. Finally,
Bell seems to have written Faces at various stages. Some of Faces is
incredibly cynical, others more hopeful. Such inconsistency gives the
reader the impression that Bell wrote an original draft, then revised with
much more optimism at the request of less desolate reviewers. Nevertheless,
in all fairness to Bell, many of his obstacles are accurate. He keenly
perceives the racial divide in America and frequently communicates various
hidden inequalities in a sophisticated and compelling manner. However, the
refreshing nuance and insight Faces is at times built upon is nullified by
Bell's intolerance and lack of credible evidence.

All told Derrick Bell's Faces at the Bottom of the Well is an interesting
take on the racial question in the United States. However, his legitimacy
is made questionable by his failure to take the same advice he gave to
contemporary blacks regarding lessening the rigidity of their civil rights
objectives. There are few certainties in this world or even in this
country, but at least one truism exists: No one ideology has the corner on
the truth market, but you are only wrong when you refuse to acknowledge or
consider any other position. Bell fails this maxim remarkably and Faces at
the Bottom of the Well suffers for it.

Justin S. Vaughn
Graduate Student
Department of Political Science
Campus Box 4600
Illinois State University
Normal, Il 61790-4600
Shroeder Hall 209-A


Date: Feb 19, 2001 (Mon, 23:38:1)
From: Melissa Ann Lynott <malynot@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Melissa Lynott)

Bell, Derrick. "Faces at the Bottom of the Well." (Basic Books, New York:
1992). Reviewed By: Melissa Lynott malynot@ilstu.edu

"Black people are the magical faces at the bottom of society's well. Even
the poorest whites, those who must live their lives only a few levels
above, gain their self-esteem by gazing down on us. Surely, they must know
that their deliverance depends on letting down their ropes. Only by
working together is escape possible. Over time, many reach out, but most
simply watch, mesmerized into maintaining their unspoken commitment to
keeping us where we are, at whatever cost to them or to us." (Bell,

Race and racism have been divisive issues since the beginning of our
country. One of the reasons for these divisions is that there are many
differing views on the issues of race and racism. Some people argue that
racism is a major problem in our society and that we, as a society, need to
do something drastic to alleviate this problem. Others argue that racism
is a problem only for African Americans and that only African Americans can
do something to eliminate the problem of racism. Still others argue that
racism is not a problem at all in American society and that there are more
important problems that need to be dealt with or that racism is not the
source of the problems that African Americans face and that other factors
such as economics play a more important role.

Derrick Bell argues that racism is an integral, permanent component of our
society and that nothing can be done to eliminate the problems created by
racism. Bell thinks that white people have tried to comfort each other
with the belief that time will eventually solve America's racial problems,
but he disagrees. Bell argues that white people only help blacks when it
is in the best interest of all white people and that all white people
benefit from racism. This may be one reason why Bell idolizes an elderly
black woman who finds the courage to continue working for civil rights in
the face of intimidation because she "lives to harass white folks."
Furthermore, Bell argues that people, especially white people, are racist
because they know that it hurts black people and thus the problem of racism
is hopeless, but that blacks should still try to fight racism.

In Faces at the Bottom of the Well, Bell tries to make these arguments on
the basis of fictional stories that address racism. In one such story,
Bell asks his readers to imagine that a new continent has just risen out of
the Atlantic Ocean. This new land has everything from beautiful beaches to
majestic mountains to rich vegetation. However, there was only one major
problem with this perfect land: white people could not survive there. This
was because the air pressure of the new land made whites unable to breathe
and made them feel as though they were "trying to breathe under the burdens
of all the world." Bell uses this description to illustrate the way that
blacks feel everyday in our society.

Because only blacks could survive on the new continent, the media began to
refer to it as "Afrolantica" and blacks began to wonder if it was their
"promised land." However, there was little agreement as to what should be
done with Afrolantica. At first, Congress was offering to pay twenty
thousand dollars to each black citizen wishing to emigrate to Afrolantica.
However, opponents argued that the only reason Congress was being so
generous was that whites, from the beginning, had engaged in an endless
cycle of "pushing blacks around in accordance with the political and
economic needs of the moment." This argument further reiterates Bell's
belief that whites only help blacks when it is in their best interest.
People who were opposed to emigration argued that blacks should not give up
their long equality struggle because they had made some very important
gains. On the other hand, people who were for emigration argued that
efforts to establish black communities in this country had been harshly
opposed by whites and that a purely black nation would awaken black pride
and bolster the self-esteem of all blacks.

After some debates, the government eventually changed its view and became
anti-emigration because they were afraid that Afrolantica posed both a
political and an economic threat to America. There was also the reaction
that white people need African Americans to be at the bottom of society or
else it might become them. Therefore, the government and corporate
institutions began to create barriers for blacks that wished to emigrate.
They made it almost impossible to obtain a Visa and threatened that blacks
moving might sacrifice their citizenship rights to America. Despite these
barriers, a thousand ships departed for Afrolantica one Fourth of July
morning. However, the ships never made it to the new land. First, a
sudden change in the weather made it almost impossible for them to continue
sailing, and they were forced to turn around. Then, when the mist ended,
everyone could see that Afrolantica had begun to sink back into the ocean.
Bell uses this story to show that nothing ever works out for blacks and
that there are no solutions to the problems of racism.

Another story that Bell uses to make some of his main points is the Space
Traders story. In this story, things have become so bad in the world that
whites have basically imprisoned the blacks in the inner cities, using
tall, thick walls and armed guards to monitor the exits. Then one day,
aliens come from outer space and offer our government a deal. The aliens
say that if we, the United States, will give them all of our black
Americans, they will essentially fix all of the societal ills, such as
giving us the cure for cancer and giving us a brand new energy source. An
enormous debate then ensues, somewhat similar to that of the Afrolantica

Many people in the United States begin to push for accepting the alien's
deal. These people argued that black Americans would be doing a great
service for the rest of the society and that they should be proud that they
could play such a role. They also argued that maybe the aliens would be
taking the black Americans to a new land where they could thrive, a land of
"milk and honey." On the other hand, there were several sectors that
opposed acceptance of the deal. One of these groups was the coal miners.
The coal miners opposed accepting the deal because it would mean that we
would have a new, better source of energy and that would put them out of
business. Another group that was against accepting the deal was corporate
America. They were against it because black Americans make up so much of
their market that they were afraid that their business would suffer. Both
sides of the debate claimed to have the interest of the black Americans in
mind, but both sides were really just interested in what was best for
themselves. This just reiterates Bell's point that whites only help blacks
when it is in their own best interest. In the end of the Space Traders
story, the majority overrides the tiny voice of the minority and they
accept the deal. Bell never tells what happened to the African Americans
after that though, which kind of shows that he doesn't really think
anything like this would ever happen in favor of the blacks.

Geneva Crenshaw, an apparent lawyer, scholar, and prophet, makes her return
in this book. She borders between a real person and a mythological
character that Bell has created. Bell uses Crenshaw to further his
arguments by replaying fictitious accounts of conversations that he has had
with her. Sometimes Crenshaw serves as the devil's advocate in these
arguments and other times she immediately agrees with Bell.

I think that Bell makes some interesting arguments, but that he has little
evidence to back any of his arguments up with. Because he uses only
fictional, unrealistic stories to make his points, it is hard to take some
of Bell's arguments seriously. But perhaps the biggest criticism of this
book is that when Bell makes a point, he then later contradicts himself.
For example, Bell criticizes blacks that try to get ahead, but at the same
time Bell himself is a prominent lawyer and teacher who has managed to get
ahead in life. Bell criticizes the celebration of Martin Luther King,
Jr.'s birthday because every black public figure is able to mount a
platform and collect a fee and that they benefit from this time of the
year. However, at the same time Bell is saying this, he is riding in a
limo, on his way to give a lecture in connection with the holiday. Another
example of such a contradiction can be seen in the Afrolantica story
itself. Bell argues that this story shows how nothing ever works out for
blacks and that nothing can help to reduce the amount of racism in America.
However, Bell also argues that the experience of Afrolantica made blacks
discover that they possessed qualities of liberation and that they no
longer need to act as the victims of centuries of oppression. This just
goes to show that something good did come out of the Afrolantica experience
and that it did help blacks. Overall, Derrick Bell's Faces at the Bottom
of the Well is a unique perspective on the racial problems in the United
States and the rest of the world. Bell definitely sees the racial divide
in America and that it is not going away any time soon. It may have
lessened to some extent, but in other ways it has only been hidden.
Perhaps the one argument that Bell does manage to get across is that it
would take some magical, outside force to save black Americans and that
neither whites nor blacks could do it by themselves.

Melissa Lynott malynot@ilstu.edu Illinois State University Normal, Illinois

Date: Feb 19, 2001 (Mon, 22:59:11)
From: Michelle Mattia <mtmatti@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Michelle Mattia)

Bell, Derrick.  Faces at the Bottom of the Well, The Permanence of
Racism, (Basic Books, New York: 1992)
Reviewed by: Michelle Mattia mtmatti@ilstu.edu

Image that one-day a new island appears as out of nowhere that seems like something
out of a mythological story.  This new land is a picture of beauty,
as if it was perfect in every way with its beaches and mountains. 
The land is even perfect for vegetation. But as the major powers in the
world are rush to explore and conquer this new land, they find out that
this land is not as perfect as they might have thought. Whites cannot
live there. It turns out that the black people of the world are the only
people suitable to inhabit this new land.  Now, a dilemma for
Americans occurs.  Should all the blacks in the United States
emigrate to this new land now called Afrolantica? 

This a question of blacks “leaving” the United States for a better situation
that goes back to the time of the founding of Liberia.  Once again
Americans become divided on this issue. Blacks and whites are debating
over which would be better for all sides.  Is it better for blacks
to have their own land or would they be better off staying in the United
States?  Finally a decision is reached and some blacks are allowed
to leave and move to Afrolantica but once they get there, the island
disappears back into the ocean almost as quickly as it had appeared. The
blacks that made the journey now return back to America. The point that
this tale was making is that it is worth a try for blacks to look for
something better but what they will find may not be exactly how they

The story of Afrolantica is one of the unrelated short stories in which Derrick
Bell tries to show that America is full of racism and racist
people.  Contained in Faces at the Bottom of the Well are
such stories of a "Racial Preference Licensing Act" where it is
legal to discriminate against different races provided that you pay for a
permit.  In "Space Traders," aliens come for all the black
people and there is also the ad fore mentioned 
"Afrolantica" to demonstrate the black struggle to free
themselves from racism.  Blacks may not have attained the promise
land but they tried to fight racism and fighting racism is half the

Faces at the Bottom of the Well contains fictional stories of racism in
which Bell uses to try to prove that racism exists.  Bell himself is
a black law professor who believes that blacks should fight to get ahead
in life and not use race as crutch that is keeping blacks down.  The
problem is that by using fictional stories, Bell is only proving that he
can write stories of racism and is not proving racist behavior that
exists in reality.  He does not have any support to back up his
claims of racism.  Bell does a better job of showing that there is a
social class division that exists in America. Bell creates these tales of
seemingly extreme situations of racism and uses past occurrences of
racism to prove how people will react.  That is a problem that I had
with Faces at the Bottom of the Well , is that these stories are
interesting but they are, in fact, fiction.  He then uses these
stories to prove racist behavior.

In reading the different stories that are included in Faces at the Bottom of the
Well , a couple of the stories in particular stood at to me.  The
first was the story of "Afrolantica."  Bell has a very
negative feeling about human nature.  In the very, very unrealistic
chance that this could happen, he portrays whites as greedy, racist
beings.  While there are whites in America who would be in favor of
“getting rid” of all the blacks, I believe that this the minority. 
Bell portrays whites as greedy throughout the book and in particular in
the final chapter entitled "Space Traders."  Here again
Bell writes of how the whites in America give up all the blacks in the
country in return for their gains.  "Space Traders" is the most thought provoking and interesting tales of racism that Bell delivers.  Here aliens come down from outer space
and offer the United States everything it could ever need or want. 
Bell tells a story of an America that has turned into a third world
country where the economy is a disaster, pollution is severe and blacks
live in armed slums in the ghettos of America due to reverse Civil
Rights.  Blacks are confined to these areas where they are unable to
leave. These aliens offer to give the U.S. the answer to all their social problems and
in return for all the black people in America.  At first most of the
leaders of the United States are in favor of the trade until cooperations
come out against it.  Blacks represent an important market because
they spend more they their share of what they make.  Here Bell shows
how greedy and selfish whites are.  The only reason these white
people wanted to keep blacks on the planet was because they were afraid
of losing their all mighty dollar.  The one thing that I
particularly liked how Bell asked that question other people argue that
what happens if these aliens come back again and want a different
minority group?  What if the aliens what all people with red
hair?  Bell writes that it would be different if the aliens wanted
just red haired people or if they just wanted people with green
eyes.  The majority would not be so quick to give up those groups of
people.  I believe that if someone is given enough money, they will
do just about anything and that is what Bell is saying.  It is not
race which drives the white majority to get rid of all the blacks, it is
money that drives them.  In the end, the pleas from those against
the trade do not work and all the blacks are sent off into space. 
Greed wins out and the wealthy, upper class gets what they want.
"Space Traders" shows an example of what has happened in the past when
minority groups are gotten rid of by the majority.  Although it is
unlikely that aliens will land and want all the blacks in America, it is
not unlikely for a minority group to extinguished from a county.  In
"Afrolantica" and "Space Traders," white Americas try
to get all the blacks to leave.  This is not unlike the Nazis
getting rid of the minority of Jews.  Bell uses the analogies to
show that there is enough racism in America for something similar to Nazi
Germany to occur here in America.  I believe that Bell writes

Date: Feb 20, 2001 (Tue, 13:12:58)
From: Steven Robert Treonis <srtreon@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Steve Treonis)

Bell, Derrick.  Faces at the Bottom of
the Well, (Basis Books, New York: 1992)
Reviewed by: Steve Treonis

Racism is the mistreatment of a group of people on the basis of race, color,
religion, national origin or ancestry.  Racial discrimination dates
back long ago in our society.  In ancient writings, it was found
that the Chinese believed that the white man was a direct descendant of
monkeys.  According to Native American beliefs, God made mistakes
when creating white and black men.  They thought that God
"baked" blacks too long and thus, they came out burnt.  On
the other hand, whites were not "baked" long enough, and they
came out pale.  Native Americans felt that God "baked"
them just right, which resulted in their perfect golden shade.
In regards of racism through slavery, there was slavery in the world long before it
existed in the U.S. or England.  However, the States and
northeastern Europe were the first to establish slavery on the basis of
skin color.  The story of slavery in the States is not a pleasant
one.  Blacks were treated like, and thought to be animals. 
They were badly beaten both on the voyage over to America and once bought
by their future owners.  Whites often tricked themselves into
believing that all blacks were unintelligent, violent, dirty, weak, etc.
in order to "feel better" about slavery.  Some even went
so far as to state that blacks were weak and frail and that they couldn't
survive without the help of white people.  Even though slavery was
abolished and blacks were eventually considered "equal," they
were still treated as lesser humans throughout much of the century.
Derrick Bell is just one of many black people fighting for what he considers, the
equality of Black America.  After reading "Faces at the
Bottom of the Well ," I walked away with mixed feelings. 
The book is composed of nine short stories that combine both fact and
fiction in order to call our attention to the racial injustices that
blacks continually deal with.  Some of the stories in this book are
very well written and show the plight that blacks have faced and continue
to face in America, while others are so far-fetched that one struggles to
find the relevance.  "The Racial Preference Licensing Act"
and "The Space Traders" were two tales that stuck out in my

The preface of this book leaves a sour taste in one's mouth
immediately.  Bell gives little hope for blacks in the fight against
racism.  He quotes Albert Camus who states: "Man is
mortal.  That may be; but let us die resisting' and if our lot is
complete annihilation, let us not behave in such a way that it seems
justice!"  What Camus is saying basically goes along with
Bell's outlook in that racism will never go away and blacks must continue
to fight it.

In "The Racial Preference Licensing Act," the President at the
time signed a bill stating that employers, owners, managers of
apartments, etc could obtain a license from the government that would
allow them to discriminate on the basis of race and color. 
"Once obtained, it required payment to a government commission of a
tax of 3 percent of the income derived from whites employed, whites
served, or products sold to whites during each quarter in which a policy
of 'racial preference' was in effect" (Bell 48).  License fees
and the commissions paid were to be put in a pool that would go towards
interest free mortgage rates and scholarships for blacks.  The act
required license holders to display their licenses in a place where
everyone could see it.  Licenses were not granted to those who might
hire one or two blacks; either you discriminated against everyone or you
would not get a license.

In theory, I feel that The Racial Preference Licensing Act is a great
idea.  First of all, it would create revenue that would greatly aid
blacks.  There would be more incentives for blacks to buy homes
because of the lack of interest rates and with an increase in
scholarships, more blacks would go to college.  I think that it
would also put a stigma on the whites that decided to purchase the
license.  Those with licenses would be perceived as racists by other
members of society, which in turn could lead to a loss of business and/or
respect amongst colleagues.
    "The Space Traders" is a tale designed to convey how white
America perceives blacks as an expendable asset in our society.  In
"The Space Traders," aliens from some far off planet arrive at
the shores of America on January with an offer that would solve all the problems our country is facing at
the time.  They will give us enough gold to fix our faltering
economy, special chemicals that would unpollute our environment, and an
unlimited supply of nuclear fuel to replace our depleted fossil
fuels.  In exchange for all of these amenities, the aliens requested
that the United States give up all of their black citizens to them. 
 The U.S. has until January, which is when Martin Luther King's birthday is to be observed, to make a decision.  This puts the President and his cabinet in a very
precarious situation.  They can either accept the offer and prove to
blacks that there never really was any equality in America, or they can
decline the offer and show blacks that we really are one nation under
God.  As you could expect, the President decides that the deal is
just too good to pass up and accepts the terms of the offer. 
However, in order to make himself feel better about what is happening,
the President claims that it is the "duty" of blacks as
Americans to go through with it.  As someone in my group alluded to,
when the blacks were boarding the ship, it was almost as if history was
repeating itself, and that blacks were being condemned to a life of
slavery all over again.

    Bell also does a good job of depicting the reactions of other groups in response to
the aliens' offer.  The leaders of corporate America gathered and
opposed the offer because "blacks represented 12 percent of the
market and generally consumed much more of their income than did their
white counterparts" (Bell 180).  Coal and oil companies worried
because they were planning on raising prices even higher because of the
decreasing fossil fuel supplies.  The real estate industry would be
losing the millions of dollars they annually make in commission because
they could no longer raise the rent whites pay to keep blacks out of
their neighborhood.  Jews were worried that with the loss of blacks
they would become the scapegoat for "white frustrations."

As stated earlier, I feel that Bell used "The Space Traders" to
show how white America perceives blacks as an expendable asset in our
society.  If something like "The Space Traders" actually
were to happen, America would strike down the deal, but it does make you
think.  If we were presented with this proposal fifty years ago, I
think it would have been a little tougher to strike down the offer. 
Bell offers no solution for the problems of racism that exist in
America.  The reason behind this is because he feels that no matter
what happens or what blacks do, racism will always be a part of our
society.  However, blacks should continue to fight it, if for no
other reason, than to harass white folks.  Even when blacks
accomplish something that looks to combat racism, Bell feels that it is
just because "White America" allowed it. 

By no means do I think that we live in a perfect society, it's just that
I think we've come a long way in the last half of a century.  Though
the results aren't coming at the speed most would like, they are coming,
nonetheless.  Of course there are those who are going to argue that
racism is just being hidden better nowadays, and they are entitled to
their opinion just as much as I am entitled to mine.  Always
remember, you had to learn to crawl before you could learn to walk

Date: Feb 28, 2001 (Wed, 17:1:26)
From: Thomas Linas <tclinas@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Tom Linas)

Bell, Derrick. Faces at the Bottom of the Well, The Permanance of
Racism, (BasicBooks, New York:1992)
Reviewed by: Thomas Linas tclinas@ilstu.edu

Racism, according to some, is an outdated concept that has been eradicated
through legal advancements and changes in our social attitudes. Proponents
of this belief characterize racism as a passing fad that no longer has
standing in the modern age of racial tolerance and precedent cases like
Brown v. Board of Education. To them, racism has come and went. However,
to some critical legal theorists, like Derrick Bell, such assumptions are
monumentally naive. According to them, racism is nothing that can simply
be swept under the carpet and forgotten about. It is a living, breathing
reality that has institutionalized itself in to every aspect of American
life. Bell's Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism
attempts to justify the notion that racism will always be a permanent scar
on the face of American society; that it is an ulcer that may never
heal. Throughout the course of his literary journey in and out of various
parables and hypothetical impossibilities, Bell draws us closer to the very
essence of perceived contemporary racial injustice. It is unclear whether
or not his motives are to inspire hostility or to evoke empathy for the
minority "underclass", but one thing is for certain; his stories are aimed
at challenging the norms and standards of the American cultural lexicon.

The journey begins in the chapter entitled Racial Symbols: A Limited Legacy
with a quote from the renowned poet Langston Hughes, "So we stand here on
the edge of hell in Harlem and we look out at the world and wonder what
we're gonna do in the face of what we remember." (Bell, 15) This quote
sets the stage for the conversation between Bell and a New York City cab
driver as they commute from midtown Manhattan to a college in Westchester
County. The bulk of the conversation is devoted to the status of blacks in
contemporary America. During this conversation, Semple, the cab driver
states, "From the Emancipation Proclamation on, the Man has been handing us
a bunch of bogus freedom checks he never intends to honor." (Bell,
19) This statement implies that the white establishment has always made it
a point to keep Blacks subordinate. The law is only intended to look good
on paper and not to translate well into reality. Semple makes a valid
point in this passage. The literalism approach to the words of the
Emancipation Proclamation suggests freedom for African Americans, yet what
it lead to was withheld citizenship and legally sanctioned racial
segregation, i.e. Dred Scott v. Sanford and Plessy v. Ferguson. Decisions
like Brown v. Board of Education promised incorporation on the surface, yet
in actuality all it provided was "with all deliberate speed". However,
this chapter also includes a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
birthday and Black History Month. Bell defines this holiday and
celebration in the following terms: "This six-week commemorative period is
a boon to every black public figure- from politician to sports star able
to mount the platform and collect a fee." (Bell, 16) He views this time of
year as an opportunity for Black academics, political figures, and
entertainers to profit from their own ill treatment, not as an occasion to
spread a message of racial tolerance and social equality. He
sophisticatedly contradicts his own motivation for taking the cab ride in
the first place, to give a lecture in connection with Martin Luther King,
Jr.'s birthday. Finally, this chapter introduces a fictitious character
named Geneva Crenshaw who serves as Bell's alter ego throughout the
piece. She guides Bell throughout the journey, providing him with clever
insights and interpretations.

On the next stop of our excursion, we travel to the third chapter entitled
The Racial Preference Licensing Act. This chapter begins with the
following quote from Matthew S. Goldberg, "Racial nepotism rather than
racial animus is the major motivation for much of the discrimination blacks
experience." (Bell, 47) The concept of racial nepotism implies providing
unwarranted preferential treatment for job applicants solely on the basis
of their race. Goldberg uses this concept as a justification for why
blacks have been discriminated against in the job market. Bell embellishes
this concept in an attempt to bring it to our attention through the use of
a hypothetical piece of legal legislation called the Racial Preference
Licensing Act. This act requires "all employers, proprietors of public
facilities, and owners and managers of dwelling places, homes, and
apartments could, on application to the federal government, to obtain a
license authorizing the holders, their managers, agents, and employees to
exclude or separate persons on the basis of their race and color." (Bell,
48) Once this license was obtained, the holder was required to provide 3
percent of the operation's total revenues towards an "equality fund" which
would be used to underwrite black businesses, mortgage loans for
perspective black home buyers, and scholarship programs for black
students. The revenue generated by this program could be used to subsidize
the harmful effects of discriminatory employment policies. Bell 's
fictitious characterization of the President, insists that this act is not
a return to the 'separate put equal' standard of the Plessy v. Ferguson
decision that legalized segregation, but rather is an attempt to promote
the concept of racial realism. This concept does not assume the
nonexistence of racial tolerance, but rather is intended to promote the
cause for racial justice.

At first, Bell appears to be apprehensive toward the newly proposed
legislation. He cites the fundamental rationale behind the Equal
Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, "to bar government-sponsored
racial segregation." (Bell, 53) Yet, during a conversation with Geneva
Crenshaw he gradually changes his mind and accepts the act. During this
conversation, Crenshaw makes the following claim, "Your beloved Fourteenth
Amendment is a key illustration of this white self-interest principle."
(Bell, 54) She implies that the reigning white establishment uses the 14th
Amendment as a tool to promote their own interests. She defends her
perspective with references to the Jim Crows laws that were justified by
the Plessy v. Ferguson decision and how the 14th amendment was used to
legally justify white interests in segregation. Although her example is
valid, Crenshaw must recognize the fact that this legal action took place
in 1896. Crenshaw's claim is not completely applicable to the modern
legal-decision making process. For example, in a recent 1995 case entitled
Adarand Constructors v. Pena, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was a
violation of the of Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment for state
contracting agencies to discriminate on the basis of race classifications.
This decision clearly benefited minorities by upholding affirmative action
policies and was justified by the very clause of the amendment that was
criticized by Crenshaw.

The final destination of our journey is to the chapter entitled The Space
Traders. This chapter concerns a fictitious account of a visit by an alien
civilization to the United States. The purpose of this alien visit was
"to take back to their home star all the African Americans that lived in
the United States." (Bell, 160) The Space Traders were offering the
United States "gold to bail out the almost bankrupt federal, state and
local governments, special chemicals capable of unpolluting the
environment, which was becoming daily more toxic, and restoring the
pristine state it had been before Western explorers had stepped foot on it;
and a totally safe nuclear engine, to relieve the nation's all-but-depleted
supply of fossil fuel." (Bell, 159-160) This offer inspires a nationwide
political debate, while the African Americans stood idly by awaiting their
fate. The most shocking aspect of this debate was how the business
community reacted to the proposed deal. For example, the retail industry
denounce the offer, not on the basis of the concern for their fellow man,
but rather out of their interest in preserving the revenues generated by
African Americans. They argued that they could not stay in business
without the financial support of the African American population. The
energy sector also opposed the deal out of self-interest. It argued that
it would be put out of business if the country received a clean, free
alternative fuel source. These developments do not only exemplify the
notion that the white majority's actions are inspired by self-interest, but
stress the importance of social and economic interdependence. This concept
promotes the idea that the success of our society is dependent upon the
cooperation of all the citizens of our nation-state. Without cooperation
between the races, our system is doomed to fail. Bell acknowledges the
fact that we as a society need to work together in order to succeed.

In retrospect, Bell's Faces at the Bottom of the Well, The Permanence of
Racism provides a disturbing account of racial injustice in contemporary
America. Its exaggerated nature is intended to "shock the conscious" and
makes people consider race-related issues in our society from another
perspective. One thing is clear, there are still major social and economic
discrepancies between blacks and whites. "The unemployment rate for blacks
is 2.5 times the rate for whites." (Bell, 3) Forty-four percent of the
total prison population is black when they only constitute a little over
seventeen percent of the total population of the United States. Despite
the fact that racism may always be a part of American society, we must not
give up hope that we cannot limit its effects or eventually find a solution
to this evil of the twentieth century.