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Update on that Wikipedia 'Critical Race Theory' entry editing war; Update update: Now Bell's widow weighs in


We’ve touched on this subject already, here, but The Daily Caller brings us up to date with comments from one of the Uber-editors at Wikipedia:

An editing war ensued almost immediately between pro- and anti-O’Brien partisans, alternatively removing and reinstating references to white supremacy from the Critical Race Theory article.

The article’s current lockdown, instituted by the same Wikipedia editor who froze it over the weekend — until “the media attention cools down,” he said — will last one week.

Daily Caller blogger Jim Treacher mentioned the online battle of definitions, which caught the attention of Wikipedia’s editors as well.

“Given the flurry of reverts by and of anons yesterday I’m semi-protecting the article for a week,” wrote a Wikipedia editor named WGFinley, referring to nameless amateur editors who had been making and un-making various edits in quick succession.
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“It seems at least one of the anons was trying to make meaningful contributions but given the blatant vandalism I’ve decided to semi-protect the article. If anyone disagrees feel free to chime in.”

Such a lock, Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson Matthew Roth told TheDC, is not uncommon when an article becomes the center of a political debate. The popular online encyclopedia is a project of the Foundation.

“That is often an approach when topical media reports turn an article into a contentious editing space,” Roth said in an email. ”In this case, he reverted to the form the article was in before the CNN story.”

That definition did, in fact, mention “white supremacy” in two specific places.


Yesterday, Soledad O’Brien asked that people stop tweeting her about the issue, which led to an outpouring of tweets.

Jim Treacher tweeted this screen shot from an article written by the expert O’Brien had on her show, Dorothy Brown, to ‘debunk’ the idea that Critical Race Theory had nothing to do with imputations of white supremacy:!/jtLOL/status/179242806479552512

ATTN @Soledad_OBrien: on Twitpic

That’s from an article authored by . . . Dorothy Brown.!/_____00_______/status/179427744466214912>!/ericboehlertmm/status/179220602559803392!/twiggyoh/status/179226670107082752

Update to the update: Janet Dewart Bell responded to the uproar on The Ed Show:

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite:

The late Professor Derrick Bell, who was the first black tenured professor at Harvard Law School, has become collateral damage in a failed conservative attempt to discredit President Obama. Smeared by conservative websites, and figures like Sarah Palin, as “radical” and “racist,” and unable to speak in his own defense, Prof. Bell’s legacy now rests with those who knew him. On Monday night’s The Ed Show, the late professor’s widow Janet Dewart Bell responded to these attacks on her deceased husband.

The conservative family of Big sites have lately devoted themselves to smearing the late Professor Derrick Bell as a “radical” who committed the unspeakable outrage of hugging our future president, releasing the “incriminating” footage of then-Harvard Law Review President Barack Obama introducing Prof. Bell at a pro-diversity protest. Although the “Hug Scandal” has gotten very little traction in the mainstream media, the smears against Prof. Bell have mounted. Rather than explore the ways in which Prof. Bell’s work has been twisted and smeared, Host Ed Schultz‘s interview with Prof. Bell’s widow focused on the vicious attacks on his character.

Ed opened the segment with one such smear, a clip of Game Changer Sarah Palin calling Prof. Bell a “radical college racist professor” on the Hannity show (Palin went on to call Professor Bell a “racist” again, seconds later). Here’s what Palin said to Sean Hannity about Professor Bell:
He then asked Ms. Dewart Bell for her reaction to these attacks.

“I am angry and I’m sad,” she replied. “I’m sad they could be so dishonest. And it’s just really part of that radical right wing and the right wing media’s patterns of distortion and misinformation.”

To her credit, though, Ms. Dewart Bell also saw an opportunity in the glare of attention. “I’m smiling because I want to lift up the memory of Derrick Bell,” she daid. “Derrick Bell left a great legacy, not just to me and our family, but my husband was — if he were here today, he would be standing up for Sandra Fluke. You know, Gloria Steinem once named him an honorary woman, because he was a feminist before feminism was cool.”

“That is the Derrick Bell that I know,” she continued, the freshness of her loss (Prof. Bell died in October) evident in her choice of tenses. “He’s a man of courage, of conviction. And he was always standing up for justice. It didn’t matter who it was. He accepted people as they were.”

Of Sarah Palin’s attack, Ms. Dewart Bell said ” It’s outrageous. It’s an outrage,” adding that while this thing is to be expected from the ranks of right-wing provocateurs like Palin, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly, she asked “Where are the good people who are going to speak up on the right side, you know? There should be some moderate right people or moderate Republicans who speak up and say, ‘This is not right.’”

She also pointed out that her late husband was beloved by students of every race and background, and that he was a war veteran who had earned the right to stand up for his beliefs. “Derrick thought that the ideals of fair play, social justice, equality, opportunity, those are things that should be shared.”


Our first reactions are these: 1) Derrick Bell himself wrote an introduction to Dorothy Brown’s book, in which the thrust of Critical Race Theory is said to be directed against white supremacy as it informs the law; 2) if Mrs. Bell now seeks to reject that idea, then why did she not reject it at leisure during the time she could have gone on record as stating that that was a fundamental misreading on the part of Dorothy Brown?

Is it, or is it not true that one of the tenets of at least some of the proponents of Critical Race Theory is that people of color are best tutored by people of their own ‘race,’ a dubious social construction in and of itself? If some of them did or do indeed hold that belief, then why within the academic movement have they not been denounced as heretics?

It appears what’s at issue here regarding Sarah Palin’s comments is whether or not the charge of racism can at all be wielded by white people towards racial minorities. Does calling someone else a racist, when that person is a person of color, automatically make the utterer racist? If so, haven’t we arrived at an ‘essentialist’ argument that’s really not very far removed from the Sun People nonsense? Social identity either is or isn’t a matter predominantly of values. There’s a lot of slippage between skin color and values and beliefs. One cannot say that there’s a white style of cognition or a black style of cognition without falling into the essentialist trap, but that’s exactly what epithets like ‘Oreo’ or ‘coconut’ are all about. At root, they are a way of policing folks’ interiority so that it matches their externality, and if that is not racist, what is?


Whether Derrick Bell’s theory is racist is neither proved nor disproved by his popularity with students of whatever skin color. Some of my best friends are people of color? That’s an argument mocked by liberals all the time, but they don’t see it when it’s uttered by a black woman. Is it any wonder that Americans are increasingly sick of this obsession with race?

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