Faces at the Bottom of the Well
The Permanence of Racism
Derrick Bell, Michelle Alexander
The classic work on American racism and the struggle for racial justice
In Faces at the Bottom of the Well, civil rights activist and legal scholar Derrick Bell uses allegory and historical example to argue that racism is an integral and permanent part of American society. African American struggles for equality are doomed to fail so long as the majority of whites do not see their own well-being threatened by the status quo. Bell calls on African Americans to face up to this unhappy truth and abandon a misplaced faith in inevitable progress. Only then will blacks, and those whites who join with them, be in a position to create viable strategies to alleviate the burdens of racism. "Freed of the stifling rigidity of relying unthinkingly on the slogan 'we shall overcome,'" he writes, "we are impelled both to live each day more fully and to examine critically the actual effectiveness of traditional civil rights remedies."