The Space Traders
Published in 1992, its subject is the arrival of extraterrestrials that offer the United States a wide range of benefits such as gold, clean nuclear power and other technological advances, in exchange for one thing: handing over all black people in the U.S. to the aliens. The story posits that the people and political establishment of the U.S. are willing to make this deal, passing a referendum to enable it.
The story takes place over seventeen days and follows a prominent black, conservative, economics professor, Gleason Golightly, who is asked by the President to join his cabinet's discussion of the trade. He is adamantly against the trade, but the completely white cabinet believes the trade will fix the United State's environmental and economic problems. At one point, the leaders of a few fortune 500 companies meet with the President to persuade him against taking the trade, because black people make up so much of the workforce. Later, Golightly attends a meeting of black community members. The leader preaches to them that if they pose the trade as a win for black people, then the white people will not want them to leave. Golightly finds this ridiculous, and tries to tell them that it will not work. At the end, Golightly thinks that he will be able to escape the country with his family before the trade, but a member of the cabinet stops his car before he can leave. Golightly reflects on the fact that no matter his economic or political standing, he is still black.
"The Space Traders" was adapted for television in 1994 by director Reginald Hudlin and writer Trey Ellis. It aired on HBO as the leading segment of Cosmic Slop, a three-part television anthology focusing on minority-centric science fiction. In 2000, it was reprinted in the first volume of Dark Matter.
In the run-up to the 2012 U.S. presidential election, the story became a vehicle for political controversy. A review of the TV adaptation on the far-right news site Breitbart.com argued that it "captures the stupidity, paranoia, and shameless race-hustling of the people that [U.S. president and presidential candidate Barack] Obama embraces". In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf replied, arguing that the story's critics "would do well to acknowledge that for many decades of American history, including years during Professor Bell's life, a majority of Americans would have voted in favor of trading blacks for fantastic wealth, unlimited energy, and an end to pollutants."
- Cosmic Slop (1994) entry on IMDB.com
- Schlichter, Kurt (8 March 2012). "Derrick Bell's 'Space Traders' - The Review". Breitbart.com. Retrieved 17 December 2016. Originally titled "Derrick Bell’s 'Space Traders' Review: Racist Paranoia ... and George Clinton's Disembodied Head".
- Friedersdorf, Conor (8 March 2012). "The Sci-Fi Story That Offends Oversensitive White Conservatives". The Atlantic. Retrieved 17 March 2012.