Shelby Steele Understands Current Racial Issues

He spoke to the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

If you haven’t read Shelby Steele you’re doing yourself an intellectual disservice. Along with Thomas Sowell, he is perhaps our best analyst on the racial strife afflicting America today. It’s a problem borne more of leftist agitation and Democrat political calculation than of any real social, economic, or political slights to black Americans. Steele points that out on Monday in the Wall Street Journal.

“Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina gave a remarkable speech at this year’s Republican National Convention. Yes, here was a black man at a GOP event, so there was a whiff of identity politics. When we see color these days, we expect ideology to follow. But Mr. Scott’s charisma that night was simply that he spoke as a person, not a spokesperson for his color. Burgess Owens, Herschel Walker, Daniel Cameron and several others did the same. It was a parade of individuals. And in their speeches the human being stepped out from behind the identity, telling personal stories that reached for human connections with the American people—this rather than the usual posturing for leverage with tales of grievance. So they were all fresh and compelling.”

And that is essentially the difference between leftist and conservative views on race. The Left only sees color, hence their inherent racism. We see individuals.

“Even today, almost 60 years beyond the Civil Rights Act, groups like Black Lives Matter, along with a vast grievance industry, use America’s insecure moral authority around race as an opportunity to assert themselves. Doesn’t BLM dwell in a space made for it by America’s racial self-doubt? In the culture, whites and American institutions are effectively mandated by this confession to prove their innocence of racism as a condition of moral legitimacy. Blacks, in turn, are mandated to honor their new freedom by developing into educational and economic parity with whites. If whites achieve racial innocence and blacks develop into parity with whites, then America will have overcome its original sin. Democracy will have become manifest.”

Exactly, a grievance industry invented to distract from the horrible results leftism and the Democrats have achieved for black Americans.

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“This was America’s post-confession bargain between the races—innocence on the white hand, development on the black. It defined the old order with which those convention speakers seemed to break. But there is a problem with these mandates: To achieve their ends, they both need blacks to be victims. Whites need blacks they can save to prove their innocence of racism. Blacks must put themselves forward as victims the better to make their case for entitlements. Yet there is an elephant in the room. It is simply that we blacks aren’t much victimized any more. Today we are free to build a life that won’t be stunted by racial persecution. Today we are far more likely to encounter racial preferences than racial discrimination. Moreover, we live in a society that generally shows us goodwill—a society that has isolated racism as its most unforgivable sin.”

It’s the most pernicious and addictive drug leftism and the Democrats push, the panacea of victimization. It has destroyed many minority families, crippled the work ethic, and made many Americans focus on past slights not on future opportunities. It has hurt black Americans gravely. And if terrorist groups like Black Lives Matter continue to have influence in the black community, it will continue to injure them only to the benefit of the Left and the Democrat Party.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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