White Guilt : How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era
In 1955 the killers of Emmett Till, a black Mississippi youth, were acquitted because they were white. Forty years later, despite the strong DNA evidence against him, accused murderer O. J. Simpson went free after his attorney portrayed him as a victim of racism. The age of white supremacy has given way to an age of white guilt--and neither has been good for African Americans.
Through articulate analysis and engrossing recollections, acclaimed race relations scholar Shelby Steele sounds a powerful call for a new culture of personal responsibility.
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)
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May 28, 2007
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