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Volume 75, Number 2

May 2000

Derrick Bell’s Toolkit—Fit to Dismantle That Famous House

Richard Delgado

Derrick Bell Lecture

Does United States antidiscrimination law embrace a black/white binary paradigm of race in which other, nonblack minority groups must compare their treatment to that of African Americans in order to gain redress? In this Derrick Bell Lecture, Professor Richard Delgado argues that it does, and that other minorities also fall from time to time into the trap of exceptionalism, placing their own experiences at the center of discussion. Taking as his text a recent chronicle by Derrick Bell, Bluebeard’s Castle, Professor Delgado argues that narrow binary thinking—regardless of the group that engages in it—weakens solidarity, reduces opportunities for coalition, deprives one group of the benefits of the others’ experiences, makes one overly dependent on the approval of the white establishment; and sets one up for ultimate disappointment. The black/white binary, in short is bad for blacks, just as her foolish fixation on the gloomy noble of operatic fame finally doomed Judith, the heroine of Bluebeard’s Castle.