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White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era

a book by Shelby Steele

(our site's book review)

The Age of White Supremacy Has Given Way to an Age of White Guilt—and Both Hurt Blacks

The Amazon blurb says that "Not unlike some of Ralph Ellison’s or Richard Wright’s best work. White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, a serious meditation on vital issues, deserves a wide readership.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer

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.

Affirmative action got blacks into elite colleges via liberal do-gooder policies, but they often flunked out because grading systems were not set up to reflect affirmative action
Affirmative action got blacks into elite colleges via liberal do-gooder policies, but they often flunked out because grading systems were not set up to reflect affirmative action

Through articulate analysis and engrossing recollections, acclaimed race relations scholar Shelby Steele sounds a powerful call for a new culture of personal responsibility.

Shelby Steele (born January 1, 1946) is an African-American conservative author, columnist, documentary film maker, and a Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action. In 1990, he received the National Book Critics Circle Award in the general nonfiction category for his book The Content of Our Character. Steele received a B.A. in political science from Coe College, an M.A. in sociology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah.


Blacks Have Been Twice Betrayed: First by Slavery and Then by Convincing Them They Are Victims

Steele is a black conservative. He opposes policies such as affirmative action, which he considers to be unsuccessful liberal campaigns to promote equal opportunity for African Americans. He contends that blacks have been "twice betrayed:" first by slavery and oppression and then by group preferences mandated by the government, which discourage self-agency and personal responsibility in blacks.

Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest hindrance for black Americans. In his view, blacks should adopt a 'culture of excellence and achievement' without relying on 'set-asides and entitlements'
Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest hindrance for black Americans. In his view, blacks should adopt a 'culture of excellence and achievement' without relying on 'set-asides and entitlements'

Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest hindrance for black Americans. In his view, white Americans see blacks as victims to ease their guilty conscience, and blacks attempt to turn their status as victims into a kind of currency that will purchase nothing of real or lasting value. Therefore, he claims, blacks must stop "buying into this zero-sum game" by adopting a "culture of excellence and achievement" without relying on "set-asides and entitlements."

“For those who do not already know, this elegant essay will show why Shelby Steele is America’s clearest thinker about America’s most difficult problem. Braiding family memories with an acute understanding of national policies, he demonstrates what went wrong when whites for their reasons, and blacks for theirs, embraced the idea that white guilt explains blacks’ problems and can be the basis of policies for ameliorating them.” (Newsweek)

Steele demonstrates what went wrong when whites for their reasons, and blacks for theirs, embraced the idea that white guilt explains blacks’ problems and can be the basis of policies for ameliorating them; this White has a great guilt load
Steele demonstrates what went wrong when whites for their reasons, and blacks for theirs, embraced the idea that white guilt explains blacks’ problems and can be the basis of policies for ameliorating them; this White has a great guilt load

White Liberal Hypocrites Have Transformed the Once Promising Post-Civil Rghts Era into a Period of Cultural Decadence

“With his characteristic honesty, clarity and hard-won wisdom, Shelby Steele exposes the social hypocrisies and racial lies that transformed the once promising post-civil rights era into a period of cultural decadence and mediocrity. We owe Citizen Steele our thanks. On questions of race in America—white guilt, black opportunism—he is our twenty-first century Socrates: the powerful, lucid and elegant voice of a refreshingly independent thinker who desires only to see us liberated from sophistry and self-destructive illusions.” (Charles Johnson, author of MIDDLE PASSAGE, National Book Award winner)

On questions of race in America—white guilt, black opportunism—Steele is our twenty-first century Socrates
On questions of race in America—white guilt, black opportunism—Steele is our twenty-first century Socrates

“There is no writer who deserves black America’s allegiance more than Shelby Steele... Steele’s writing is a marvel.” (John McWhorter, National Review)

“Breathtakingly insightful . . . Anyone concerned with the endless standoff that is black-white relations in this country has a duty to read Shelby Steele’s brief, brilliant new book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (Leaders marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial) - NARA - 542010
The Civil Rights Era

“Prophet or polemicist, Steele is a graceful and often compelling literary stylist . . . The effect is not unlike some of Ralph Ellison’s or Richard Wright’s best work. White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, a serious meditation on vital issues, deserves a wide readership.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Piercing and personal... White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era is a brilliant little essay, deserving of a large and appreciative audience.” (Washington Times)

America’s historically most contentious topic is the fight between blacks and whites
America’s historically most contentious topic is the fight between blacks and whites

As Delightful a Read As One Can Find on a Book Devoted to America’s Historically Most Contentious Topic: Blacks vs. Whites

“As delightful a read as one can find on a book devoted to America’s historically most contentious topic. It is a true gift to find a work that combines a light tone and sharp anecdotes to make the reader repeatedly say, ‘Of course!’” (New York Post)

“Thought provoking.” (Library Journal)

“Steele has given eloquent voice to painful truths that are almost always left unspoken in the nation’s circumscribed public discourse on race.” (New York Times)

“A hard, critical look at affirmative action, self-serving white liberals and self-victimizing black leaders. . . . 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.'” (Publishers Weekly)

Liberals have taken Jesus off the cross and have put ALL blacks on the cross in his place and have told the evil white males: You see what you've DONE?, but their guilt trip only works on the least intelligent liberal fools
Liberals have taken Jesus off the cross and have put ALL blacks on the cross in his place and have told the evil white males: You see what you've DONE?, but their guilt trip only works on the least intelligent liberal fools

African-American conservative Steele (A Dream Deferred, 1998, etc.) charges guilty white liberals and their black enablers with unleashing a moral relativism that is corrupting America. (Kirkus Reviews)


Liberals and Their Identity Politics See Only Skin, Not Character, the Opposite of What Martin Luther King Advised

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" (Martin Luther King)

Steele also wrote The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race In America, which illuminates the origins of the current conflict in race relations--the increase in anger, mistrust, and even violence between black and whites. With candor and persuasive argument, he shows us how both black and white Americans have become trapped into seeing color before character, and how social policies designed to lessen racial inequities have instead increased them. The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race In America is neither "liberal" nor "conservative," but an honest, courageous look at America's most enduring and wrenching social dilemma. MLK pleaded with Americans to see character first, not skin color. But the liberal elites want us to ONLY see skin in their "woke" identity politics that are the opposite of MLK's plea. Liberal "woke" identity politics are an insult to Martin Luther King's memory.

MLK pleaded with Americans to see character first, not skin color. But the liberal elites want us to ONLY see skin in their
MLK pleaded with Americans to see character first, not skin color. But the liberal elites want us to ONLY see skin in their "woke" identity politics that are the opposite of MLK's plea

Steele also wrote A Dream Deferred, an honest, courageous look at the perplexing dilemma of race and democracy in the United States—and what we might do to resolve it.


The Pathetic Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Nonsense Was a Lie Contrived to Fit the Lying Liberal Narrative

What actually happened is that Michael Brown attacked officer Darren Wilson several times to the point that Wilson felt that he had no choice but to shoot him. The pathetic Hands Up, Don’t Shoot nonsense was a lie contrived to fit the lying liberal narrative
What actually happened is that Michael Brown attacked officer Darren Wilson several times to the point that Wilson felt that he had no choice but to shoot him. The pathetic Hands Up, Don’t Shoot nonsense was a lie contrived to fit the lying liberal narrative

"I’ve always been struck with Ferguson by the hardcore resistance to acknowledging the truth. So, there’s the original 'Hands Up, Don’t Shoot' story, and that was taken as having a certain meaning. And then it became unassailably clear that Michael Brown’s friend lied. What actually happened is that Michael Brown attacked Darren Wilson several times to the point that Wilson felt that he had no choice but to shoot him. That’s simply the truth. And yet there’s almost a religious approach to the whole thing, and not only among a few hardcore black protesters in Ferguson, but in general. The thinking person is not supposed to say outright that we were hoodwinked about that story, or that although Michael Brown’s death was a very sad thing, it’s not the story of Darren Wilson as this person driven by underlying racism to shoot a guy who’s standing there with his hands up. That simply didn’t happen.

"Again, the biggest mistake we made is to buy into the idea that our victimization by racism was our source of power rather than our self, our skills, our talents, our development. As victims, we had won a great civil rights movement. The downside is it seduced us. That victory was very seductive. It was racial justice and much needed, but it seduced us into adopting the framework of justice as our way ahead, our way out. And so we missed the fact that the real way out is development." (Source: Victimhood or Development?, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Shelby Steele and Eli Steele, Quillette)

Obozo would play the race card often in his eight years, since he could scream 'Racist' if anyone didn't crumple under his racebaiting stare
Obozo would play the race card often in his eight years, since he could scream 'Racist' if anyone didn't crumple under his racebaiting stare

The whole "Michael Brown the victim of racism" (he wasn't) and Hands Up, Don’t Shoot (no one said that—it's a lie) fraud was perpetrated by the media, the Race Grievance Industry (Al Sharpton and his co-conspirators), and by Obozo—the most racist president ever. Obozo would play the race card often in his eight years, since he could scream 'Racist' if anyone didn't crumple under his racebaiting stare.

Unfortunately, white's guilt-relieving measures were a mixed blessing that gave blacks more equality and rights while seriously diminishing black agency, black self esteem, black responsibility, and blacks being at cause in their lives; liberal whites turned blacks into their puppets so they could be used for political power
Unfortunately, white's guilt-relieving measures were a mixed blessing that gave blacks more equality and rights while seriously diminishing black agency, black self esteem, black responsibility, and blacks being at cause in their lives; liberal whites turned blacks into their puppets so they could be used for political power

Steele Says That Whites Have Become Much More Interested in Relieving White Guilt Than in Seeing to the Development of Black Americans

Steele says that whites have become much more interested in relieving white guilt than in seeing to the development of black Americans. Unfortunately, their guilt-relieving measures were a mixed blessing that gave blacks more equality and rights while seriously diminishing black agency, black self esteem, black responsibility, and blacks being at cause in their lives. It was truly a Faustian bargain. But the worst aspect of this so-called bargain was when it made all whites victimizers and all blacks victims. Just ask the elite liberals how much they have been able to leverage vast amounts of power and influence out of this victimology fraud. You might say that blacks have traded one kind of slavery for another, the first as kidnapped forced labor and the second as victims who keep wanting more racial justice, reparations, white apologies, and vengeance, no matter how much they receive. Liberals have taught them to be victims of whites who are addicted to their victimization and no amount of apologies and racial justice will satisfy them. Liberals pretend to "care" about blacks, and yet this victim trap is the worst thing they could have done to them!

Blacks in chains twice: Whites have put blacks onto the plantation as slaves, and more recently as victims with no responsibility for themselves
Blacks in chains twice: Whites have put blacks onto the plantation as slaves, and more recently as victims with no responsibility for themselves