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Author Topic: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"  (Read 478 times)

legalprincesa

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Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« on: July 20, 2006, 11:59:40 AM »
Hey guys,

One of the books that was recommended reading for incoming BC Law students this fall was Derrick Bell's "Faces at the Bottom of the Well".  I am in the middle of it right now, but his thesis has been churning around in my mind ever since I read it a few days ago.  I really want to hear what you guys think about this idea, because I found it very frustrating. Admittedly I have a bias because I am white and find the idea of white dominance disturbing.  Bell even states taht his proposition is easier to reject than refute.  I've spent most of my college/grad school career studying education policy and working in predominently minority communities and schools.  His thesis feels to me like a slap in the face of the work that I have done and would like to continue doing. 

Perhaps you feel differently -I am genuinely curious. 

His thesis:  "Black people will never gain full equality in this country.  Even those herculean efforst we hail as successful will produce no more than temporary 'peaks of progress', short-lived vicotries that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways that maintain white dominance.  This is a hard-to-accept fact that all history verifies.  We must acknowledge it, not as a sign of submission, but as an act of ultimate defiance"

 
BC Law class of 2009!

2Lacoste

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Re: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2006, 12:17:23 PM »
Agreed.
Mets will take the NL Pennant.

faith2005

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Re: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2006, 12:25:23 PM »
are you saying that you think things can change? I think that things can change, but it will require a massive overhaul/power shift. I don't think that just working within the system will yield meaningful change...b/c the system was created to ensure white dominance. so each victory is countered by a re-adjustment of sorts, so there is some improvement but never a total overhaul of the system of white supremacy.

Lacoste--what are you agreeing with? lol

2Lacoste

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Re: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2006, 12:32:59 PM »
are you saying that you think things can change? I think that things can change, but it will require a massive overhaul/power shift. I don't think that just working within the system will yield meaningful change...b/c the system was created to ensure white dominance. so each victory is countered by a re-adjustment of sorts, so there is some improvement but never a total overhaul of the system of white supremacy.

Lacoste--what are you agreeing with? lol



I agree we'll never achieve a full equality.  Doesn't mean we shouldn't try and doesn't mean we can't get damned close.
Mets will take the NL Pennant.

legalprincesa

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Re: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2006, 02:03:36 PM »
are you saying that you think things can change? I think that things can change, but it will require a massive overhaul/power shift. I don't think that just working within the system will yield meaningful change...b/c the system was created to ensure white dominance. so each victory is countered by a re-adjustment of sorts, so there is some improvement but never a total overhaul of the system of white supremacy.

Lacoste--what are you agreeing with? lol



I agree we'll never achieve a full equality.  Doesn't mean we shouldn't try and doesn't mean we can't get damned close.

Don't you find that mindset particularly frustrating?  I find it so damaging to the teenagers that I have worked with.  They get this idea that everyone has told them they are never going to have the same opportunities as their white classmates and counter parts, so why shoudl they try? Why should it matter?  You personally are able to simutaneously hold the notion that African Americans will never achieve true equality, and the notion that if you work hard you are going to be extremely successful and come as you say "damned close" to equality and have it work for you.  But, if the majority of people can't do that, then the pervasive idea that African Americans will not ever achieve true equality deals constant blows to progress.  Wouldn't it be more beneficial to think, and tell future generations that with hard work and perseverence they can be equal?

I think it just feels defeatist to me. 
BC Law class of 2009!

2Lacoste

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Re: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2006, 02:24:19 PM »
are you saying that you think things can change? I think that things can change, but it will require a massive overhaul/power shift. I don't think that just working within the system will yield meaningful change...b/c the system was created to ensure white dominance. so each victory is countered by a re-adjustment of sorts, so there is some improvement but never a total overhaul of the system of white supremacy.

Lacoste--what are you agreeing with? lol



I agree we'll never achieve a full equality.  Doesn't mean we shouldn't try and doesn't mean we can't get damned close.

Don't you find that mindset particularly frustrating?  I find it so damaging to the teenagers that I have worked with.  They get this idea that everyone has told them they are never going to have the same opportunities as their white classmates and counter parts, so why shoudl they try? Why should it matter?  You personally are able to simutaneously hold the notion that African Americans will never achieve true equality, and the notion that if you work hard you are going to be extremely successful and come as you say "damned close" to equality and have it work for you.  But, if the majority of people can't do that, then the pervasive idea that African Americans will not ever achieve true equality deals constant blows to progress.  Wouldn't it be more beneficial to think, and tell future generations that with hard work and perseverence they can be equal?

I think it just feels defeatist to me. 



It may feel that way but I don't see it as defeatist in the slightest.  I think it is simply tempered by reality.  I still am passionately committed to civil rights and improving the plight of Blacks/Hispanics around the country.  But I no matter how far we may come, we'll never fully achieve success in a white man's world.
Mets will take the NL Pennant.

Rudy Huckleberry

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Re: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2006, 02:40:10 PM »
I think that things can change, but people really don't. And your students are right about their diagnosis that they aren't going to have the same unfettered opportunities as White people, but the correct response is not to do nothing, but rather to do what you can to go as far as you can.  Every accomplishment we make makes it more likely that generations later, maybe Black people can have comparable opportunities to Whites. 

It might be more effective if, instead of refuting your students' belief that racism is permanent and will affect all aspects of their lives (because how likely are they to believe it when a White person tells them racism can go away?) and instead tell them that although racism is still here and will likely be here for a long time, it's worth it to deal with it and get as far as they can.  In fact, it's a slap in the racists' faces to see them do well - and doing nothing just confirms what the racists have been saying all along.

faith2005

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Re: Derrick Bell "Faces at the Bottom of the Well"
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2006, 02:58:41 PM »
well why are you so optimistic? b/c you've seen things change so much in your lifetime? I think the whole theory that everyone can make it if they try and work hard is what leads to people like Clarence Thomas and others who think that the issue with black people is that their culture is defective, which many times boils down to the fact that they were born with the wrong skin color. The fact that racism will not end in my lifetime does not make me feel defeated. Like Bell said, it pretty much ensures that I will always be an outsider, no matter how high I go. Tell your students that its their duty to resist no matter what b/c even the everyday can be a revolutionary act. its like this June Jordan line...

"... and i can't tell you who the hell set things up like this
but i can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life"
- june jordan "poem about my rights"