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Wed Jun 15, 2022, 07:16 AM

Democracy in America is a rigged game

For six years, at the height of Southern leaders’ massive resistance to desegregation, Derrick Bell held one of the most harrowing jobs in the legal profession. From 1960 to 1966, as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Bell oversaw desegregation lawsuits in the South, trying to make real the integration promised by Brown v. Board of Education.

In the first decade after Brown, integration made little headway — by 1964, only 1 in 85 African American students in the South attended integrated schools. Often, Bell and his colleagues couldn’t even find a plaintiff willing to sue a segregated district, because Black families justifiably feared they’d be targeted by the Ku Klux Klan if their names appeared on a lawsuit. Black civil rights lawyers also risked their lives litigating cases. Once, while he was defending two criminal suspects in Tennessee, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was arrested on false charges and nearly lynched by a white mob.

Bell, who died in 2011, eventually left behind his career as a full-time civil rights lawyer. But the experience of watching the promise of equality beat down by violent white supremacists informed his work as a critical race scholar. “Racial equality is, in fact, not a realistic goal,” he wrote in 1992, warning that “by constantly aiming for a status that is unobtainable in a perilously racist America, black Americans face frustration and despair.”

Bell understood something profound about the United States: The American political system is a rigged game. It was originally meant to advantage enslavers and today benefits anti-egalitarian actors with little interest in true racial equality.


An interesting read, to say the least, especially for POC.

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