Barak Obama speaks at a rally to promote diversity
Tags: discourse/language, knowledge, media, politics/election/voting, race/ethnicity, theory, derrick bell, critical race theory, fear, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: In the Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine, filmmaker Michael Moore highlights, among other things, the ways in which fear—and specifically white fear of black men—is manufactured through the American media (e.g., here). Moore places the history of American gun policy and gun violence within this context. This American tendency to invent fear using racial justifications is also a useful framework for contextualizing the "controversy" over the video footage released in March 2012 that depicted then-law student Barak Obama introducing law professor Derrick Bell at a rally to promote diversity among Harvard faculty (Professor Bell was the first tenured African-American Professor of Law at Harvard Law School). The conservative group Breitbart.com used the video as evidence of Obama's support of critical race theory (CRT), an intellectual project developed by Bell and others to illustrate the intersection of race, law, and power, and the ways in which American institutions are fundamentally organized by racialized power structures that disadvantage people of color. CRT is rooted in a tradition of social justice. While much buzz surrounded the story, this particular video clip is useful for highlighting how the racialized politics of fear gets used to shape American discourse and ideology (as well as discredit knowledge). Viewers can watch the invention of fear unfolding before their very eyes, bearing witness to the myriad of ways the more-or-less innocuous footage is described as a "bombshell," the likening of Bell to Rev. Jeremiah Wright (another black man who was successfully deemed radical and worthy of fear), and how Obama "forced" his students to read Bell at the University of Chicago. The racial politics of fear is explicitly evoked at the 6:27 minute mark. As the November elections draw near, viewers can be encouraged to look out for similar projects around the invention of fear unfold, particularly around Obama's race.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
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