Melissa Harris-Perry deconstructed quite nicely just what is behind the recent attacks by the right instigated by the Breitbart lackeys over President Obama hugging the late Prof. Derrick Bell. Sadly, it's the 1940's all over again, indeed, because that is where it looks like they're trying to take us back to.
If what's left of Breitbart's site and Hannity and the rest of them want to try to convince anyone besides the racists in the Republican base that were already running around with pictures of the president as a witch doctor with a bone in his nose that this is proof that he's somehow a "radical", they're going to have to do better than this. It's nice to see someone like Perry taking the time to explain some of the man's actual history and what he stood for to try to counter the hyperbolic attacks on him coming from the right.
Rough transcript to follow from this Saturday's show on MSNBC:
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, a manufactured controversy erupted around an extraordinary legal scholar, who used self-sacrifice as an agenda change of his own. This week, this twenty two year old video surfaced of then student Barack Obama at a protest rally, introducing Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell. Now Prof. Bell spent his career questioning and critiquing the institutional racism that infects America's legal structures.
This week, conservative media outlets offered up the video as proof by association that President Obama is adhering to a radical, anti-American agenda. Derrick Bell died in October of last year, so he's not here to correct the lies circulating about him. Thankfully, he left behind a rich legacy of legal activism and scholarship that speaks for itself.
Who is Derrick Bell? He was a man who possessed the courage of his convictions. In 1959 while working in the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice, Bell was told to let go of his NAACP membership, because it posed a conflict of interest. He chose to keep his NAACP membership and let go of the Justice Department instead.
Bell led with the same integrity three decades later when confronted with the lack of diversity on the faculty of Harvard Law School where he was a professor at the time. At the rally shown in the video, after a rousing introduction from Barack Obama, Bell spoke about his decision to sacrifice his salary and take an unpaid leave of absence to protest the school's failure to offer a woman of color a tenured track position.
Now surely, a man who used his position of privilege and security within the academy to bring attention to the issues of diversity affecting people other than himself, is worthy at least of a hand shake, a pat on the back, or... or this; President Obama's public display of affection and appreciation for a man he so clearly respected and admired.
But it's this moment that the President's critics have seized upon as a smoking gun? President Obama, tried and convicted in the court of conservative public opinion for the unforgivable offense of hugging a black man.
It's starting to feel like the 1940's around here, because that was when Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady, was roundly and regularly criticized for the same crime or public proximity to black people. These photos of Eleanor Roosevelt, validating by her mere presence the idea of social equality for black Americans led some to call for her to be tried for treason and deported.
And now we are apt to see this photo, not as two legal scholars embracing in solidarity against injustice, but as a seditious traitor embracing a radical idea. Seven decades have passed between that moment and this, but so little distance traveled in our assertion that social equality is somehow anti-American.