Derrick Bell’s Narratives as Parables


What does the literary character of Derrick Bell’s fictional narratives tell us about how they should be interpreted? In his chronicle, The Space Traders, for instance, Bell relates the tale of alien visitors to the United States who promise the country wealth if it will trade the nation’s blacks. The country votes decisively for the trade. In The Racial Preference Licensing Act, Bell recounts the decision by a fictional President to permit employers and property owners to buy a license that would allow them to discriminate on the basis of color and race. License fees would be used to support businesses, homeowners, and students in the black community. What are these stories trying to tell us? How are they trying to move us? Should they be read literally, as though the country would indeed vote in favor of the aliens’ trade? Would the establishment of a racial preferencing license, in fact, more efficaciously resolve racial unrest? What does the status of these stories as “fictions” indicate about their claims, if any, to truth? How do they move readers to open themselves to the racial change these narratives seek?

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