A Guided Tour Through Derrick Bell's Afrolantica Legacies, Part 1

As a 28-year-old student at Harvard Law Barack Obama supported the activism of Professor Derrick Bell and urged his peers to open their hearts and minds to the words of Critical Race Theory‘s founder.


But what did Bell believe and how could his ideas have any relation to the president’s policies today?

The answers to these questions reside in Bell’s 1998 book Afrolantica Legacies, published by Third World Press. I read it over the weekend and will share a series of excerpts this week with analysis.

The myth of the rise and fall of Afrolantica — a kind of Atlantis where only African Americans can live — opens the book and provides Bell with a way to tie together his essays, fictional dialogues, and political parables written through the ’80s and ’90s. From seven of these essays, Bell extracts these principles to serve as “rules of racial preservation”:

“and salvation achievable”

“one that stretches toward the divine”

“For some a prophetic power”

In Afrolantica Legacies Bell relies on a number of religious, mystical, and occult literary devices. (And I’ll identify them in the upcoming posts.)

This New Age presentation of Critical Race Theory as a secular, political theology mirrors the black liberation theology Obama imbibed at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United. Politics, religion, and “blackness” merge together to produce the equivalent of a cult.

And cults do real damage to people’s lives. Bell’s ideas have circulated into the culture and left scars. Here’s a question to ask the biracial members of Generations X and Y: growing up, did you experience more race-based harassment from whites for being half-black or from blacks for being half-white?


Critical race theorists like to claim that only white racism has any significance because only whites have power in America. Try telling that to someone who lives without power: a biracial child. How should they react to the story of Afrolantica? Will they get to go? And what might they think about their own parents upon reaching page 148 where Bell states, “white men do not find black women attractive or regard them as ‘women’ as they would white females”?

There are many more pleasant subjects I could spend the week blogging about other than Afrolantica. But this is personal. I’m not writing with any hope that beating the drum about Obama’s radical history will turn the outcome of the election. My objective is to begin a self-fulfilling prophecy of my own: 15 years from now, when I have children, they will not live in a political culture that protects and trains their tormentors. The anti-white and antisemitic racists will receive the same condemnation as the anti-black racists. (As opposed to their own MSNBC shows.)

For that day to come, the discussion of Critical Race Theory must continue. Stay tuned for Part 2: our first journey to Afrolantica…


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