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White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era Paperback – May 29, 2007
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The result of all this may be no less than the destruction of American strength, an end to the valued status of "personal responsibility, hard work, individual initiative, delayed gratification, commitment to excellence, competition by merit, the honor in achievement" (p. 109), and, with it, an end to American greatness. We need a national dialogue on how we can reverse it - Barack, are you ready? In the meantime, all Americans should read this book.
Steele describes how guilt-motivated bad behavior on the part of white people has enabled anger-motivated bad behavior by black militants (e.g. Al Sharpton), to the point that the "conversation on race" that everyone talks about is difficult-to-impossible. Black or white, if you say the wrong thing, you're in big trouble.
I hope a lot of people read this book. It might help.
Here are some other books that might also help:
Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America
Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors
With the completion of Dr. Steele's "White Guilt," a trilogy of trilogies has now been completed, providing an authentic as well as comprehensive overview of historical events that have given shape to our common racial experience.(1) This third(3rd) volume of Dr. Steele's racial trilogy is just magnificent in its first person narrative which invokes a Jeffersonian liberalism to synthesize the religio-political values which emerged in the public square during the crucible of the 60's.
In particular, his development of the Eisenhower-Clinton Paradox provides a rhetorical-historical bridge which helps the reader to appreciate the extent to which pervasive cultural changes have transpired from the "age of racism" to the "age of white guilt". In a uniquely and classic Steelean analysis, he explores the existential absurdity, characteristic of the 60's counter-culture movement, by which American culture was "renormed around social morality". Dr. Steele provides anecdotal examples of white guilt as he has encountered it and a political analysis of the residual effects of post-marxism to this day.(2)
In like manner as Steele, Dr. John McWhorter has also recently described what this reviewer has come to think of as a post-marxist "theater of the absurd" wherein politically-theatrical gestures remain poignantly, existentially absurd with the adoption of therapeutically alienating, religio-political roles for casting members of the Black Left in particular; within this theatrical backdrop, an observer may better appreciate the role of how "new black double consciousness" continues to be able to elicit misplaced white guilt.(3)
And so, with this very brief overview in mind while also having an appreciation of the benefits of constructive criticism like that found in Dr. Sowell's periodic "random thoughts" essays, this reviewer would now like to share the following opinions in that spirit:
* The loss of moral authority did not specifically bring the counterculture into existence but rather that the radical left merely used the vacuum to manifest more publicly given that a "Fifth Column" was already in existence. WG, p.83
* Diversity of opinions within both the Black Right and Black Left have elicited and contributed to a "white dissociated man". Borrowing from Dr. McWhorter, why is it that black leftists often become angry when they simply get what they've been advocating for in the first place? For example, continually presenting oneself as a representative of a community whereby race is emphasized at the expense of individuality most often elicits that same perception and response on the part others. WG, p. 26(self-imposed brotherhood/sisterhood); WG, pps. 127-130 & p. 136*(archetypal anger)
* When individuals habitually use a "community card", more often than not, this encourages a kind of "cult of separatism" with an over-emphasis upon a "black politburo" consensus; and so, Dr. Steele's description and use of "white blindness" as well as "white guilt" seems to partially disregard or to take into account that whites from both the political right and left have genuinely striven to assist in this society's overall racial uplift project; that is, very genuinely so and in such a manner that attempting to regain moral authority lost as well as striving to avoid the stigma of being pronounced a racist should not be regarded as a "totalism" to borrow from Dr. Steele's, "A Dream Deferred"--the motives of whites are mixed/many and should not be solely limited to self-interests. And yet ironically, within this socio-political theatre, blacks have seemingly continued to strive after and desire a greater appreciation from whites of their "individuality" in pursuit of self-interest while simultaneously and continuing to also don a community-imposed "atavistic" group destiny. WG, p. 26, chapters 19-21, WG pps. 149-150(post-Sambo-ized dissociation)
* Perhaps President Bush's minority appointments are the result of both "dissociation" as well as a great deal of personal association thereby aiding in the overcoming of "therapeutic alienation" in the workplace. WG, p. 178
* Whereas the Black Left blames the white community for current educational underachievement and statistical disparity due to the residual effects of racism while also holding whites responsible for black uplift, Dr. Steele appears to identify white guilt as the culprit while holding the black community, nonetheless, responsible for achievement. With some contrast, Dr. Sowell's recent book, "Black Rednecks", makes abundantly clear that excellent black schools such as Dunbar and others had already been established by 1899. (4)
* While experiencing the "rage of invisibility" with an architect of the Great Society, it's also important to note, respectfully, that Dr. Steele himself had participated in two(2) Great Society programs along with both black as well as white architectural leftists with all the best intentions; even a cursory review of the impact of such institutions like the OFCCP and EEOC makes this observation abundantly clear.
1.) Thomas Sowell: Race & Culture, Cultures & Conquests, Black Rednecks & White Liberals; Shelby Steele: The Content of Our Character, A Dream Deferred, White Guilt; John McWhorter: Losing the Race, Authentically Black, Winning the Race.
2.) White Guilt, pps. 9, 15, 32-33, 48, 68.
3.) White Guilt, p. 44 & McWhorter's Authentically Black, chapter 1.
4.) Black Rednecks, Chapter 5, "Black Education: Achievements, Myths, and Tragedies'