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White Guilt


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About the Author

Shelby Steele is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University, and is a contributing editor at Harper's magazine. His many prizes and honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, an Emmy Award, a Writers Guild Award, and the National Humanities Medal.


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) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

White guilt isn't any better for blacks than white supremacy, argues Steele, who instead advocates a culture of personal responsibility. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Thought provoking."--Library Journal
"A hard, critical look at affirmative action, self-serving white liberals and self-victimizing black leaders."--Publishers Weekly
"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
"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."--Chicago Sun-Times
"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
"Piercing and personal... White Guilt is a brilliant little essay, deserving of a large and appreciative audience."--Washington Times
"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, a serious meditation on vital issues, deserves a wide readership."--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Psychologically brilliant. . . . An autobiographical meditation on why a significant portion of the black population hasn't been able to take advantage of the freedoms that belatedly came to it."--New York Sun
"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
"The cultural analysis of America's loss of moral authority for its exposed racism has resonance today."--Booklist
"There is no writer who deserves black America's allegiance more than Shelby Steele... Steele's writing is a marvel."--John McWhorter, National Review
"This is an essay. . . but it is no less valuable for that. . . . The struggle is far from resolved. And, as it continues, we are lucky to have Shelby Steele in it."--Weekly Standard
"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

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