RACE TRADERS: Derrick Bell’s “Space Traders” Part 1

Breitbart.com has made headlines once again by revealing a video of Barack Obama at Harvard speaking in favor of the views of Derrick Bell, whose scholarship was influential in creating and promoting the field of Critical Race Theory.

Critical Race Theory, like any critical theory project, uses the tenets of Neo-Marxist thought to examine Race in a specific time and place, which for Bell’s purposes is contemporary American life.

Luckily for us, Professor Bell, took the time to pen a short story “Space Traders” which provides us with an allegorical version the his views of race relations, as seen through the lens of Critical Race Theory.  It is this view of society that the then editor of the Harvard Law Review was endorsing in the video.

The title “Space Traders” allows for an easy slippage into two other terms on which the allegory is based: “Race Traders” and “Race Traitors”. As this is a racial allegory the terms serve to define the two races as depicted within the movie.

“Race Traders” of course is a euphemism for “Slave Traders” and is the focus of the first part of the film. This segment of the movie focuses on the offer of the “aliens” who chose the face of Ronald Reagan to present the offer of an American utopia of no debt, unlimited clean free energy and a cleaned up environment to the America’s political representatives, in exchange for dark skinned blacks.  While the movie posits itself as happening post 1998, Bell uses contemporary Republican names from 1994 to smear the Republican party as racist slavers. It references both a “Vice President D’Amato” a reference to then siting New York Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato and a “Secretary of State Buchanan” an obvious reference to conservative commentator Pat Buchanan who had run for President in 1992 against George Bush, on a conservative platform that was often attacked as racist for his desire to secure the border and halt illegal immigration by the construction of a border fence.  It also mentions a “President Taylor” which is a probable reference to Congressional Representative Charles Taylor of North Carolina’s 11th district, who in his first term was a member of the “Gang of Seven” that exposed the House Banking Scandal as well as the House Post Office scandal, both of which showed the then Democratic leadership of the House as corrupt and helped to lead to the Republican Revolution of 1994.

The scene shifts from the initial beach scene where the offer is made, to the bunker where President Taylor and his racist administration sit around a large circular table and discuss the offer.  The offer while initially referenced as “crazy” is quickly justified based on the economic benefits of the reduction of government programs such as welfare and food stamps. While the military objects based on a loss of manpower, their objections are quickly overcome by the promise of bigger weapons possible with the prospect of unlimited energy. Indeed, the trade is seen as a form of a “draft” of black America to provide for the future of the country via patriotic service. The elimination of the black electorate is also seen as a “benefit” by the administration. All the faces are making these arguments are white, with the exception of one, a “Professor Golightly” who appears to be an lifelong Republican economist who has argued against affirmative action and racial preferences.  Based on the depiction of the individual and the time period it is most likely a reference to the great Thomas Sowell. The Professor argues against the trade based on a moral objection to either banishment or annihilation, but no one ever argues for the inherent worth of the individual. Rather the only problem seen is one of spin control, and a whether the aliens can deliver on their promise. With proof of the ability to deliver the administration decides to set up a phone poll, (via MCI) to decide the fate of Black America.

This first segment serves as the depiction of the institutional racism that Derrick Bell believes exists at the heart of our country.  My next post will examine Bell’s depiction of  the response of the “Race Traitors” in black community and civil rights movement to the offer.

Part 1


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