Shelby Steele, White Guilt, Harper Perennial (2006)
Millions of white Americans are befuddled by the Black Lives Matter movement. Racial equality was achieved in the 1960s they remind us and haven’t such programs as affirmative action on college campuses and diversity hiring at corporations brought Blacks to economic and social equality with Whites? Yes, there have been too many incidents of police brutality in confrontations with Blacks, but those incidents have been in decline. So, what gives?
One answer can be found by reading the writings of the leaders of the BLM movement. They rant and rave about America being a racist society that has changed little from the days of slavery. Another answer can be found in the writing, websites and talks of Black conservatives like Shelby Steele, Candace Owens, Larry Elder, and Michelle Malkin.
Steele’s thesis is that White racism was replaced by White Guilt––an attempt by Whites to disassociate themselves with the past by endorsing policies and programs based on guilt rather than necessity or logic. The downside of this practice is that it harmed the institutions––schools, colleges and even businesses. Instead of imparting the need to succeed based on merit and individual responsibility, Blacks are told they are entitled to success for White’s past racism simply because they are Black.
Steele’s spare writing style is filled with incidents that illustrate his arguments, incidents such as a confrontation he had with an architect of the Great Society Program and Maureen Dowd’s “vile” response to Clarence Thomas’ dissent in the University of Michigan affirmative action case. In each instance, the political posture of White Guilt takes precedence over seeing the other person as an individual apart from his/her race or judging the individual on community standards.
For those who are under the impression that the conflict between the races is artificial and can be ignored, Steele’s analysis exposes how Whites are also damaged by White Guilt often without seeing the damage they’re doing to Blacks. Racial conflict is one of the central issues of American society. Steele’s writings should be read widely.
The subtitle of White Guilt is “How Blacks and Whites together destroyed the promise of the Civil Rights Era.” His insights are needed in 2020 more than ever.