Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Shelby Steele on White Guilt

Longtime readers know that I greatly respect the thinking and writing of Shelby Steele, whom George Will has labeled "America’s clearest thinker about America’s most difficult problem."

Steele was recently interviewed by American Enterprise. Here are some quotes from the interview--but I encourage you to read the whole thing in order to see the context and the fuller expression of these ideas and arguments:

". . . the goodwill of America finally did do to us what slavery and segregation failed to do. It destroyed our family, destroyed our character, and now black America is in a struggle."

"I think affirmative action is the worst cruelty blacks have endured since slavery."

"Political correctness is an outgrowth of white guilt. It’s a way for guilty-feeling whites to constantly indicate that they’re not racist, not colonialists, not imperialists, not warmongers, and so on."

"White guilt, which I think defines liberalism, is a response to the stigma that white Americans bear for practicing racism for four centuries. Whites live with this constant pressure of having to demonstrate to the world that they’re not bigots, and this manifests itself in many facets of American life."

"I’ll give you my bottom line: We’ve done worse in freedom than we did in segregation. It’s abominable that we made more advances between 1945 and 1965 than we have since, but it’s the truth."

"No one wants to say the problem with black America is a lack of responsibility for ourselves. If you say that and you’re white, you’re going to be called a racist. If you say that and you’re black, you’re going to be called an Uncle Tom. But that’s the truth."

Steele's new book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, is due out in May.

Update: Here's the full interview. I apologize for neglecting to link to this earlier. Those who had a negative response to Steele's quotes will want to see the fuller context and argumentation.