In his short story The Space Traders, Derrick Bell puts forward a very disconcerting argument about American society. In particular, he constructs a hypothetical situation in which American community is asked to hand over every black person living in the country in return for gold and technologies that can help the country overcome its economic and environmental problems.
To a great extent, this short story is a warning to American society since it urges people to remember that despite the absence of official racism, there is what one can call unofficial racism that can emerge at the time of crisis. Moreover, it shows that the protection of human rights requires political activism from every person.
People can debate whether the events described by the author seem plausible or not. In my view, some of the events do not appear very convincing. For instance, Derrick Bell mentions that the state enacted the Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the Constitution (Bell, 10). This law legitimized the deportation of black people.
I am not sure that the American public would have readily approved of such a law even despite the benefits that it could offer. The thing is that such a law would have deprived them of their civic or human rights. In such a way, they would have given a free hand to the state. It is rather unlikely that American people would consent to this legislative act.
Secondly, I think that African-American people would not give away their political rights virtually without any protest. I do admit that my arguments rely on highly optimistic views on American people and society in general. Almost every reader of The Space Traders cannot accept the scenario envisioned by Derrick Bell. In my opinion, the author’s evaluation of American society is too pessimistic.
This short story still poses many thought-provoking questions to the readers. For example, on the last day, black people are forced into the ships of aliens. This is how the author describes them, “Heads bowed, arms now linked by slender chains, black people left the New World as their forebears had arrived” (Bell, 13). In this way, he shows the cruel irony of fate toward African-American people.
The main question is whether the American community can ever allow such an outcome. Overall, Derrick Bell tells this narrative to emphasize the idea that racial prejudices still exist in modern society and one cannot turn a blind eye to them. This concealed racism is particularly clear in the governmental officials describes by the author.
For instance, the President felt hostile to minority groups only because they did not vote for “him or his party” (Bell, 2). Similarly, the members of his cabinet can find many excuses for the deportation of black people without actually considering the ethical aspects of this decision.
Secondly, Derrick Bell urges readers not to forget political activism can be suppressed by the state unless it is supported by people of various social, ethnic, or religious backgrounds. There were people, who objected to the decision of the government, but their attempts were not supported by others.
Thus, the readers can accept or reject the plausibility of The Space Traders. However, one cannot deny that this story is a powerful warning given to American people. The author urges the readers to lose themselves in the position of the main characters and decide how they would act under those circumstances. People also have to think of how to reduce the risk of a disaster depicted by Derrick Bell.
Bell, Derrick, 1992, The Space Traders. PDF file. 5 May 2008. <http://www4.ncsu.edu/~mseth2/com417s12/readings/BellSpaceTraders.pdf>