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

Shelby Steele, Author
Shelby Steele, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (181p) ISBN 978-0-06-057862-6
Paperback - 181 pages - 978-0-06-057863-3
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-06-147695-2
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 208 pages - 978-0-06-147698-3
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-06-147700-3
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-06-186846-7
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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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