Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1996


It is easy to admire Derrick Bell for the passion of his principles, and to empathize with the pain he feels for his people. Those same emotions, however, are so often conveyed with such rhetorical acrimony that his considerable merits as a role model - as well as his standing as an impartial scholar engaged in objective and well-reasoned analysis - have come to be substantially diminished. Nevertheless Bell's letters have a disturbing resonance, a tintinnabulation that gives many people of good will second thoughts about the quest for equality in America.

Professor Bell certainly has a right to his opinions, even those that conjure up a conspiracy of white supremacists or fly in the face of objective fact and clearly-viewed experience. Nor need he publicly repudiate every racist who comes down the pike. But when his own teaching smacks of their patent bigotry, his colleagues in the academy have the right - no, the moral obligation - to challenge and condemn it, and to chastise the teacher.