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Racism as 'The National Crucial Sin': Theology and Derrick Bell

Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Vol. 9, p. 269, 2004

U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research

54 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2009  

George H. Taylor

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Abstract

The Article probes a paradox that lies at the heart of the work of critical race scholar Derrick Bell. Bell claims on the one hand that racism is permanent, and yet on the other he argues that the fight against racism is both necessary and meaningful. Although Bell's thesis of racism's permanence has been criticized for rendering action for racial justice unavailing, the Article advances an understanding of Bell that supports and defends the integrity of his paradox. The Article draws upon the work of Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and Niebuhr's paradox that social action is both necessary and meaningful despite the inextricable presence of human sin. The argument is that the dynamics of the relation between sin and action may illuminate the dynamics of the relation between racism and action. One need not necessarily agree with Niebuhr's theology to find the lived experience he describes a potentially rich source of understanding for the paradox that Bell maintains.

Keywords: Derrick Bell, critical race theory, civil rights, racism, Reinhold Niebuhr, theology, social action, sin, action, racial discrimination

Suggested Citation

Taylor, George H., Racism as 'The National Crucial Sin': Theology and Derrick Bell. Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Vol. 9, p. 269, 2004; U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1360913

George H. Taylor (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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