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Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence Of Racism Paperback – October 6, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination. Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bell, in the news because he is on leave from Harvard Law School to protest its never having hired a tenured black woman, has written a provocative and creative book that nicely follows his And We Are Not Saved ( LJ 8/87). His "interweaving of fact and fiction" and an "unorthodox form" make for stimulating reading and clarify for white readers the obstacles continually faced by black Americans and the miseries they endlessly endure. No other book features, as does this one, a Racial Preference Licensing Act, Racial Data Storms, Afroatlantica Emigration, Space Traders (guess who they are coming to take away?), the Anne Frank Committee, and White Citizens for Black Survival. Bell's thoughts about Minister Louis Farrakhan and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are a contribution to the public dialog on those figures. An especially important and relevant publication for public and academic libraries.
- Katherine Dahl, Western Illinois Univ., Macomb
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (October 6, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465068146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465068142
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard Harrold on June 4, 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book really challenges cherished beliefs about social justice issues, particularly the value of full integration. Bell makes a persuasive argument to allow segregation and even some forms of discrimination as long as such actions are heavily taxed and that money diverted into social justice, such as education and economic programs. The proposal struck me as a form of carbon tax for racism.

It's hard to disagree with Bell's assessment that racism is a fixed characteristic in American society. This book has certainly broadened my perspective as I continue to struggle for social justice.
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It is a great book set up in short stories written by a brilliant mind covering a multiplicity of Black people/issues. I love the way Derrick Bell teaches life's lessons from the African American world view.
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I bought this after The Space Traders was adapted for the HBO film Cosmic Slop. It was a piece of fiction that got under my skin and stayed there. The book still retains its power to shock and make you think after all these years. Even Bell himself didn't agree with the conclusions of the characters in some of the scenarios but they certainly have the power to offend, provoke and make you think about how much and how little has changed.

It sad that the faux controversy about the book and Dr. Bell's work has brought out the typical responses. It's quite telling that in our "post-racial" society Dr. Bell's work still has sting.
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This is a monumental work which laid the foundation for what is now known as Critical Race Studies". Not very often does a scholar get to found a school of thought. Derrick Bell did this with this book and "And We Are Still Not Saved".
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I reread this short story to remember why D. Bell is one of our icons of the 'Struggle" and understanding why Ferguson Mo..is a focal point for us now.
This story reminds me that we are worthy of much more than what we have experienced. We need in 2014 to bring our education, money and fortitude to another level. It's time to change the strategy of our lives in America. We have options.
I speak of one particular story 'Space Traders'...its just a valuable read to remind one of why the "Black Experience' is just that, lessons of where we have been, how we came to be, how we are viewed and respected for our contributions and deciding where we are going.
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Format: Paperback
Anyone interested in racial matters in America over the past few decades must read both Orlando Patterson (especially The Ordeal of Integration, not his magnum opus, the very dense Slavery and Social Death, more historical and less contemporary in its focus)and Derrick Bell. They approach the subject from very different angles: Patterson largely ststistically (although he is creative in his us of statistics)and Bell--- here and in his other books--- imaginatively and (were the word not so likely to be misleading) fictionally, by way of allegory. His allegories are apt, clear, quite brilliant, cogent,readable, very much to the point, and--- I think--- definitive. I know of no other writers or analysts who approach their subject similarly, and, while I can understand traditionalists finding his angle of approach odd, I can not see any reader of this book leaving it less than stimulated, provoked, and, ultimately, persuaded. Race is a subject much written about, and often not clear-headedly. Read Derrick Bell (and, I would suggest, Orlanda Patterson) for the antidote.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The writings of Derrick Bell clearly show the man was a white (and Jew) hating racist – quite similar to Obama’s preacher Reverend Wright (telling a congregation of uneducated blacks that white people created the aids virus to exterminate blacks and that America deserved the 9/11 attack).

A white person of Bell’s intellect and temperament, filled with so much rage, would have been rejected as a junior high school social studies teacher. His message has done tremendous damage to race relations and misled African Americans on what is needed to improve their lives.
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So truthful in what it exposes, it left me with chills. It is a great companion piece to Tom Burrell's Brainwashed to see how racism in America has been woven into the very fabric of our lives.
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