March 13, 2012, 11:41 am
The re-release of videos showing Barack Obama as a Harvard Law School student in 1991 speaking at a rally in support of professor Derrick Bell has so far occasioned little more than a yawn from academe. The late Professor Bell (1930-2011) is a reasonably well-known figure among those of us who follow racial controversies in higher education, but he is far from a household name. Moreover, there is a triple discount available on this purchase. The precipitating event was (a) long ago; (b) involved intemperate declarations by a student; and (c) requires taking seriously racial bombast by a black professor. These provide a neat package of reasons to put the matter aside as a pseudo-controversy.
That may, however, prove to be a mistaken judgment. Bell could come into sharper focus for the general public in the days ahead, and we don’t know yet how deep or durable his influence on Obama…