Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence Of Racism

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9780465068142: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence Of Racism
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The classic work on American racism and the struggle for racial justice

In Faces at the Bottom of the Well, civil rights activist and legal scholar Derrick Bell uses allegory and historical example to argue that racism is an integral and permanent part of American society. African American struggles for equality are doomed to fail so long as the majority of whites do not see their own well-being threatened by the status quo. Bell calls on African Americans to face up to this unhappy truth and abandon a misplaced faith in inevitable progress. Only then will blacks, and those whites who join with them, be in a position to create viable strategies to alleviate the burdens of racism. "Freed of the stifling rigidity of relying unthinkingly on the slogan 'we shall overcome,'" he writes, "we are impelled both to live each day more fully and to examine critically the actual effectiveness of traditional civil rights remedies."

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About the Author:

Derrick Bell, 1930-2011, was a civil rights attorney, pioneering legal scholar, professor, and political activist. A full-time visiting professor at New York University Law School for over two decades, he was previously the first tenured African American professor on the faculty of Harvard Law School and the first African American dean of the University of Oregon School of Law. He is also the author of And We Are Not Saved and several other books.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Here, as he did in And We Are Not Saved, Harvard Law School professor Bell offers dramatized accounts of the dilemma of race relations in America. Bell uses stories and fables to examine such themes as desire for homeland; the role of violence; interracial relationships; and scapegoating. He argues that ``racial nepotism'' on the part of whites allows de facto discrimination to exist even without animosity: ``When whites perceive that it will be profitable or at least cost-free to serve, hire, admit, or otherwise deal with blacks on a non-discriminatory basis, they do so. When they fear- -accurately or not--that there may be a loss, inconvenience, or upset to themselves or other whites, discriminatory conduct usually follows.'' Such racism will be with us forever, Bell contends. In the face of this, he calls for blacks to ``fashion a philosophy that both matches the unique dangers we face, and enables us to recognize in those dangers opportunities for committed living and humane service.'' Bell's method of making his points through stories allows for a certain moral complexity: Thoughtful persons work menial jobs; a dynamic black leader who has dedicated his life to his people and worries about his place in history falls in love with a white woman; space aliens who speak English with Reagan's voice arrive with gold, safe nuclear power, and ``special chemicals capable of unpolluting the environment''--and all they ask in exchange is that America's black citizens be turned over to them. But the stories, for all their fablelike power, are laden with great chunks of orotund exposition and numerous overworked adverbs. By using them, Bell forfeits the polemical passion of his introductory essay, while their simplistic dramatizations jar with the impressive legal erudition apparent elsewhere. Still, despite his lackluster writing, Bell offers insight into the rage, frustration, and yearning of being black in America. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780465068173: Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence Of Racism

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ISBN 10:  0465068170 ISBN 13:  9780465068173
Publisher: Basic Books, 1992
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9780540011063: Dordogne (Philips Travel Guides)

Tuttle..., 1992
Hardcover

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