Thursday, June 01, 2006

George Will on Shelby Steele's "White Guilt"

George Will's column in this week's Newsweek looks at Shelby Steele's new book, "White Guilt." Steele, according to Will, is one of America's most important writers today, rightly pointing out the essential destructiveness of "white compassion" and the perversities of the black cult of victimology:
The dehumanizing denial that blacks have sovereignty over their lives became national policy in 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson said: "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others'." This, Steele writes, enunciated a new social morality: No black problem could be defined as largely a black responsibility. If you were black, you could not be expected to carry responsibilities equal to others'.

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.
For the multicultural left, this is not a popular interpretation of the black predicament in the country today. The white guilt syndrome has been particularly devastating in the area of black educational attainment, notes Steele, where progressive pedagogy has hindered the development of personal responsibility in learning.

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