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White Guilt [Kindle Edition]

Shelby Steele
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In 1955 the murderers of Emmett Till, a black Mississippi youth, were acquitted of their crime, undoubtedly because they were white. Forty years later, O. J. Simpson, whom many thought would be charged with murder by virtue of the DNA evidence against him, went free after his attorney portrayed him as a victim of racism. Clearly, a sea change had taken place in American culture, but how had it happened? In this important new work, distinguished race relations scholar Shelby Steele argues that the age of white supremacy has given way to an age of white guilt -- and neither has been good for African Americans.

As the civil rights victories of the 1960s dealt a blow to racial discrimination, American institutions started acknowledging their injustices, and white Americans -- who held the power in those institutions -- began to lose their moral authority. Since then, our governments and universities, eager to reclaim legitimacy and avoid charges of racism, have made a show of taking responsibility for the problems of black Americans. In doing so, Steele asserts, they have only further exploited blacks, viewing them always as victims, never as equals. This phenomenon, which he calls white guilt, is a way for whites to keep up appearances, to feel righteous, and to acquire an easy moral authority -- all without addressing the real underlying problems of African Americans. Steele argues that calls for diversity and programs of affirmative action serve only to stigmatize minorities, portraying them not as capable individuals but as people defined by their membership in a group for which exceptions must be made.

Through his articulate analysis and engrossing recollections of the last half-century of American race relations, Steele calls for a new culture of personal responsibility, a commitment to principles that can fill the moral void created by white guilt. White leaders must stop using minorities as a means to establish their moral authority -- and black leaders must stop indulging them. As White Guilt eloquently concludes, the alternative is a dangerous ethical relativism that extends beyond race relations into all parts of American life.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Speaking the language of moralism, individual freedom and responsibility, contrarian cultural critic Steele builds on ideas he earlier articulated in his National Book Critics Circle Award–winner The Content of Our Character (1990). Today's problem, Steele forcefully argues, is not black oppression, but white guilt, a loose term that encompasses both an attempt by whites to regain the moral authority they lost after the Civil Rights Movement, and black contempt toward "Uncle Tom" complicity with white hegemony, resulting in a shirking of personal accountability. Steele makes a passionate case against the "Faustian bargain" he perceives on the left: "we'll throw you a bone like affirmative action if you'll just let us reduce you to your race so we can take moral authority for 'helping' you." But progressive readers will object to his assertion that systemic racism is a thing of the past—and to his praise of the Bush administration's philosophy on poverty, education and race. Though Steele takes a hard, critical look at affirmative action, self-serving white liberals and self-victimizing black leaders, he stops short of offering real-world solutions. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Steele asserts that the primary focus of the civil-rights era was a legitimate quest to remove racial barriers. In the shift to the black-power era, Steele sees a paradigm shift, away from racial uplift and agency, where blacks assume responsibility for themselves, to a "race is destiny" mode. As the counterculture merged with the civil-rights movement, America was exposed for its racial hypocrisy and, consequently, lost its moral authority. Here, "white guilt" became the moral framework for America. Steele argues that liberal whites embraced guilt for two reasons: to avoid being seen as racists and to embrace a vantage point where they could mete out benefits to disadvantaged blacks through programs such as affirmative action. Steele believes blacks made a deal with the devil by exchanging responsibility and control over their destiny for handouts. He sees a deficiency in black middle-class educational achievement, further raising questions about claims of lack of equal opportunity. Despite these omissions, the cultural analysis of America's loss of moral authority for its exposed racism has resonance today. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 343 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000VYX8XG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,237 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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243 of 258 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Racism old and new. May 12, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book attracted my interest because I've experienced first hand some of the "white guilt" motivated attempts to fix racial inequality.

I attended a middle school during the 1970's right at the start of forced bussing to acheive racial desegregation. Some brilliant social engineers thought that if they bussed black children many miles from home whether they wanted to be bussed or not, dumped them at schools in white neighborhoods, and then eliminated grades and went lax on discipline, then that would solve some problem of inequality between black and white students.

Well, what it accomplished for me was a shock when I arrived at high-school and discovered that not only were letter grades the norm (I hadn't seen them for three years) but they accumulated into this dreadful number called a "GPA" which had a profound impact on this concept known as your "future"! In other words, baby sitting was over and now I actually had to work or face the consequences!

But enough about me. I enjoyed this book and gave my rating for the following reasons:

1. It's short and to the point. The author tells us what we need to know and skillfully encapsulates pivotal events that occured during a short period of time and which lead us into the reality we face today. I love books like that.

2. The author establishes his credibility by weaving a narrative of his life with the development of his thesis. This isn't a book that was written by a person who just read a lot of books in order to write a book.

3. Accessable writing style. It's like the author is sitting across the table having coffee with you and telling you a story. Shelby Steele comes across as a man of unusual wisdom. It would be great to see him in person some day.

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178 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go out and buy it right Away. May 4, 2006
I read this book after reading his article in the Wall Street Journal. I enjoyed his idea of America fighting a minimilistic war so that we were not perceived as tyrannical or racist. This definately explains why we have not just "wiped out" the terrorist.

I felt that I had to read the book since I am from the Civil Rights Capitol of the country. Many of these issues are pertinent throughout the country and need to be studied. His issues are hard-hitting and uncomforting at times.

Dr. Steele explains that Americans do not take African Americans at face value, but as a means to an end. He says this because Liberals have used programs like affirmative action and welfare as a way to help blacks and look noble while doing it. Dr. Steele feels that these programs were started so the Whites did not look racist and tolerant of White Supremacy; however, under the surface he feels that the Black man is never able to advance after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He explains that many Great Society programs were created because Whites felt guilty for the wrongdoing of Blacks. He states the programs were a way to help Whites deal with their moral guilt. Dr. Steele does an excellent job stating the reasons that have caused racial segregation even in today's time. The book does not really offer ways to improve what is happening in America, yet it does bring the issues to the surface. He also throws in the term "New Man" that does an excellent job of explaining the ways of Liberal Democrats.

I got chills several times because someone other than Bill Cosby stated the obvious. This is not a book to better one race over the other, but a way to make America the great country that it is supposed to be. There need to be more Americans like Dr. Steele. If you do not want to read the whole book, then just read the last chapter because it is amazing and the best chapter of the book. This book has to be read because the content is so powerful.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars White Guilt: Today, Tomorrow, and Forever. June 25, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Shelby Steele, in his new book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, expounds upon the mindset of both groups while exploring our nation's obsession with race. He outlines the interplay between white guilt and black power along with the pernicious effects this dynamic has upon both populations. The author grew up in a time when discrimination was not a shadowy thing. He witnessed it firsthand at baseball practice, and in his father's having to deal with the customs of the southern towns they'd visit.

Throughout the text, Steele combines remembrance with observation as a means to elucidate interracial relations. He defines white guilt as being a complete vacuum of moral authority wherein a stigma is cast upon an entire group of people regardless of what they do or say. In the 1960s, it flourished in whites due to the very real historical wrongs of segregation and slavery. By the end of that decade, due to the growing passivity of whites, the black leadership no longer echoed Dr. King. They became radicalized, and there was no shortage of white politicians, intellectuals, and glitterati (recall Leonard Bernstein) ready to sprawl before their collective feet and regain their moral goodness. For many Caucasians, irrational hate for your own race and your ancestors has now become a mechanism for self-esteem and purity.

When aggression meets submission the result is slaughter, and that's exactly what has happened to the pride of white America over the course of the last four decades. Rage has become the preferred weapon for obtaining concessions from white politicians, and shame prevents rational minds from protesting these tactics.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Everything was going fine until...
White Guilt by Shelby Steele has to be one of the best, if not the best, books ever written about race issues in the United States since 1960. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Mr. 177
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Steele paints us all with the same brush. And yet we are a very diverse community.
Published 17 days ago by Julia L. Erickson
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written.
Brilliantly written....anyone who wants to know the why behind our PC society, needs to read this. Dr. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Russell Dolce
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it
simply a must read for anyone trying to make sense of the current state of our politics today. It is especially informative of race relations but it is comprehensive in it's... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Biagio P. Sabatino
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Straightforward perspective on how self-preserving responses to racism have undermined Black advancement. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nicholas B.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
the memory righter is pretty neat
Published 2 months ago by Anthony Price
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really makes you understand how we've arrived to our current state and the misguided motives of today's leaders.
Published 2 months ago by Michael James
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 3 months ago by Charlene J. Gregas
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Work!
Clearly, Shelby Steele is a most scholarly author. This book is very well written and quite illuminating. Read more
Published 6 months ago by BigMac
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Worth reading. Parts are a bit of a stretch, but the book makes one think.
Published 7 months ago by Richard D. Lambert
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