Wednesday, May 31, 2006

George Will: White Guilt, Deciphered

This morning on WJR, Frank Beckman, prompted by George Will's review, interviewed Shelby Steele about his new book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. Near the end of the interview, Frank Beckman asked Mr. Steele his advice to Michigan blacks concerning Michigan's Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). The transcript isn't yet available, but Mr. Steele advised that blacks should vote in favor of the amendment.

Mr. Steele stated that as long as Affirmative Action is in place, all blacks share the stigma of having not succeeded on their own merits, but were promoted only because of Affirmative Action. Mr. Steele maintains as long as that policy is in place, blacks individual will never be viewed, or perhaps even know themselves, whether their accomplishments were real or artificial.

He also made a point that blacks can't blame racism or other external factors for the fact black children entering kindergarten are already two years behind white children. They don't know their colors, numbers, letters, nor have they been read to as much as white children. That poor start, Steele says, can not be blamed on anyone but black parents. Comments like those may relegate him to concert tours with Bill Cosby.

I'm not a regular reader of Newsweek, but it arrives at home with 12 other subscriptions courtesy of unused Delta Miles. George Will's article will appear in the June 5 issue. In online editions appearing early on MSNBC's website, George Will wrote:
So, being black conferred "an almost reckless moral authority," a "power of racial privilege." The "power to shame, silence and muscle concessions from the larger society" was black power. The demand for equal rights became a demand for "the redistribution of responsibility for black advancement from black to white America, from the 'victims' to the 'guilty'."

Hence the black militancy's proclaiming "black power" was really an exercise in the power of helplessness. It was an assertion of white power—white society's power to "take" (LBJ's telling word) blacks to social equality. Hence "black power" was actually a denial of the power of blacks to manage their own escape from an intractable inferiority.

"By the mid-sixties," Steele writes, "white guilt was eliciting an entirely new kind of black leadership, not selfless men like King who appealed to the nation's moral character but smaller men, bargainers, bluffers and haranguers—not moralists but specialists in moral indignation—who could set up a trade with white guilt."
George Will claims the book can be read in two hours. Bill Cosby believes too many blacks can't read it. Shelby Steele wants black parents to read it to their kids. Jesse Jackson wants whites to read it and give blacks credit for it.


  1. Shelby Steele recently wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal titled, "White Guilt and the Western Past," which explores how "white guilt" has governed our foreign policy since WWII. Instead of dealing with our enemies on a strictly military way, we've cast each of our post-WWII military actions as social programs, using the military only as a vehicle to establish camps from which we can administer to our enemy's social problems.

    It's an excellent (and free) primer to these ideas he discusses in White Guilt.

  2. "Mr. Steele stated that as long as Affirmative Action is in place, all blacks share the stigma of having not succeeded on their own merits ..."

    It's sad that this is the case, but even sadder is that too many do not mind the stigma. Too often people don't care how they get something, as long as they get it.

  3. Today's Detroit News carried a column from Thomas Sowell titled, Liberals try to rewrite disasters of the '60s.

    He pointed out how some positive trends that existed before the 60s became negative trends after the 60s, and how liberals try taking credit for remaining positive trends even though they'd started decades earlier.

    He also reminded readers the majority of Republicans were in favor of the civil rights act and not democrats.

  4. It is sad that in today's "black" dominated schools, to be smart, to be intelligent is not valued, it is shunned.

    In "white" dominated schools it still may not be reveered, but I also do not think that it is shunned. There is a "respect" for smarts and intelligence.

    It's location, location, location. The environment influences the child, a lot of black and a lot of white children do not grow in a healthy environments.

  5. I've recently read an editorial that examined the issue of "acting white" and argued that is not the case at all. Before posting this reply I looked around for it--I can't believe I would have lost it.

    There are plenty of other essays and books that have found that attitude prevalent and argue it's a disease inside too many black communities and keeps them from achieving academically.

    I'll keep looking.

  6. I found it! It's now a for-pay article of you look at the NYTimes, but google found it and I also wrote about back in March.