Conservative Pundits Strive to Tarnish Derrick Bell’s Trailblazing Work to Advance Equality

March 8, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

As is being widely noted by media, right-wing pundits, or blowhards, such as Fox News’ Sean Hannity, are feverishly working to create uproar over President Obama’s association with the late Harvard Law School Professor Derrick Bell.

TPM’s Ryan J. Reilly reports on Hannity’s airing of a video edited by associates of the late Andrew Breitbart that shows a young Barack Obama, then a Harvard law student, hugging Bell at an event calling for the law school to hire more African American women for its tenured faculty. “This was supposedly secret video that the late Andrew Breitbart had promised from Obama’s college days, showing … Obama supporting Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell’s campaign for more diversity at the institution,’ Reilly writes.

The video, as TPM and Media Matters’ Simon Maloy note, has been aired and written about before. But, Breitbart’s team hasn’t given up on trying to sully Bell’s legacy.

As Maloy writes, Breitbart, who died last week, has painted Bell as “a dangerous radical who, in the act of pressing his body to the young Obama’s, imparted to him all the insane radicalism that now animates the moderate liberal currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”

The late professor, however, was no radical. Remember, this charge is coming from the late Breitbart, who Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone points out, should be celebrated largely for his shamelessness.

Obama, and many others for that matter, should be proud of Bell (pictured) and his work.

As noted by Inimai Chettiar, a civil rights attorney, for ACSblog, Bell “was a racial justice pioneer and teacher who enlightened many.” She continued, “He was the first black law professor at Harvard Law School, yet in 1990 he vowed to take an unpaid leave of absence until the school hired a black woman for its tenured faculty.”

Anjana Samant, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights and former student of Bell’s, also in a post for ACSblog, lauded that late professor for his tireless work to help the nation overcome inequalities. Indeed, as Samant notes, Bell left his tenured job at Harvard “in protest over the institution’s failure to hire women of color for the faculty.” He dedicated, she continued, “over forty years to teaching, during which time he consistently engaged with his students as people without retreating into the proverbial ivory tower.”

Breitbart’s work, however, is far removed from the noble legacy of Bell. As Taibbi concluded “no homage is complete without a celebration of the whole man, and the whole man in this case was not just a guy who once said, ‘It’s all about a good laugh,’ but also someone who liked to publish peoples’ personal information on the internet, hack into private web sites, tell lies in an attempt to get his enemies fired, and incite readers to threats against his targets and their families, including death threats.”

[image via David Shankbone]