Shelby Steele

Feel Good Idealism Leaving People Worse Off

If the Left has only hate to offer, what should conservatives offer in response? Is the need for liberalism becoming obsolete? Does America not give itself enough credit for its moral evolution? Are school choice programs giving Republicans an advantage in governors’ races in states like Florida and Arizona? Author and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Shelby Steele joins Dan and Amy to discuss.

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“White Guilt”

Compare the attention paid with respect to the police-involved shooting in Sacramento and the over 700 black men killed this year on the south and west sides of Chicago. Why the emphasis on one and not the other? Does victimization now translate to power in our society? Is the progressive left advocating for people to rely on victimhood rather than their own competency? Author and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Shelby Steele joins Dan and Amy to discuss. 

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Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. Coming to you live from SVM in Arlington Heights, part of our AM560/Signature Bank Business Tour. And you know, we talked to our friends Diamond and Silk earlier in the show, Amy, and... Jacobson: I'm still upset with our conversation, because I'm upset what's happening to them...Facebook's deemed them "unsafe" and yanked them! Proft: Not near as upset as they are, which is great that they're fighting back. But remember Candace Owens, Red Pill Black? Jacobson: Oh yeahyeahyeah! Proft: We've had her on the show before. She was on with John Stossel recently, and she had some good things to say, as you know, again, people that are speaking out and fighting back and providing a different perspective that goes against the....caricature that DC Press Corps wants to make of the black community and the orthodoxy of opinion, political opinion within the black community. But here's something she said that I had trouble with, and this is a problem, kind of, with the young and the old, no matter what demographic you're discussing. Candace Owens, talking about the black conservatives who preceded her. Owens (from tape): I think why some of these black conservatives have not been successful in the past is because they cared too much about what people thought. We're doing it differently, we are talking a lot of trash, we are very sassy. Owens (clearly different clip): The African-American community is clearly suffering from a poor memory. Owens (first clip): We want people to know, you can feel free to call me an "Uncle Tom", you can feel free to call me an "Auntie Tom", it does not affect me. And you wanna know why? Because I actually read the book, and Uncle Tom was the hero. Proft: ...yeah, I like the fearlessness, and the sassiness, as she describes it, but the idea that the likes of Walter Williams, and Thomas Sowell, and Bob Woodson, and Shelby Steele were too concerned about what people thought about them, that's why they were, quote-unquote, "unsuccessful"? In point of fact, I'd suggest that Candace Owens read some of the OTHER books, about what those black conservatives did, inju...during Jim Crow, through the Civil Rights era, and for the last 50 years in fighting this fight and providing the intellectual firepower for...not just black conservatives, but for conservatism generally. It's annoying to me when people who just got on the scene think they have a thought that nobody else has ever thought, they're doing something that nobody else has ever done. As Truman said, "There's nothing new in this world, just the history we don't know," and you're more effective if you recognize that. So, a little lesson to some of our allies that maybe are sometimes as impetuous as they are sassy. And with that, it's a perfect transition to one of those forefathers that I just mentioned. He is Shelby Steele, he is the author of numerous books and often talked about on our show. And the latest book is "Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized our Country", and Shelby Steele who now, because you know we talked to Eli Steele, his son (Jacobson: Oh yeah, that's right!), "How Jack Became Black" his new documentary, now instead of calling Eli Steele "the son of Shelby Steele", we call Shelby Steele "the father of Eli Steele", right Shelby? Steele: That's right *chuckling*, that's absolutely right. Proft: Well, thank you so much for joining us, I know you're a native South sider, and you've addressed the issue of violence in black neighborhoods and urban centers generally and Chicago specifically, and did so recently on Laura Ingraham's show, and so I suppose we should start there, because of course violence still afflicts the neighborhood you grew up in, the region you grew up in, the South side of Chicago, and the West side, just Chicago generally, and, how you compare that to the attention paid to, for example, that police-involved shooting in Sacramento a couple of weeks ago. Steele: Well, what's interesting is that these shootings...Trayvon Martin I guess was one of the first, and Michael Brown, and there are many others at this point, and they're all...there's this sudden explosion in the culture, "what does this mean?", and there's this sort of angst that comes out...while the statistics say that in 2016, 762 black...largely black boys were killed, murdered, JUST on the South side of Chicago. Well, to pay atten...there's nothing WRONG with paying attention to Trayvon Martin, or any of these other incidents, and they SHOULD be examined for what they represent, what caused them, so forth. But the issue is of what...violence inside the black community is so much more profound, and so much more devastating. It's just taking away a generation of young people, and destroying them. And so, you know, this is...what the point, I think, is...why does this happen? Why the emphasis on one and not on the other? Well, the ones...when you're talking about Trayvon Martin, you're scratching the ground looking for a case to build around his victimization, his racial victimization, because victimization has become power in American life. "That I'm a victim is my power in this society, it's what I can claim and gain attention and all sorts of perks and preferences and so forth! It's my power. I have faith, literally have FAITH, not in myself, but in my victimization." And so when we look out at the world, we duplicate that some. "A white policeman shooting a black? That's my victimization, that's my power, I like that! I'm gonna be excited, I'm gonna be on TV, I'm gonna rally! But when we're just killing each other on the South side of Chicago, who cares?" Jacobson: Well, what was life like (Steele groans as the end of his previous statement)...well, Mr. Steele, what was life like growing up on the South side of Chicago? Steele: ...I never really saw a gun, a pistol, till I was probably 17, 18 years old. I don't mean that we didn't fight, we did a good deal...a good deal of that, there was a kind of a ritual we went through, but I think that boys, I think, universally go through, but there was...number one...there was also no breakdown in family. Every kid in my neighborhood was...except I remember there was one family where the husband had died. Other than that, everybody had a father! (Jacobson: Wow...) And everybody knew who that father was, and some were obviously better than others, but they were all fathers, and they were all upholding a certain view of life, and demanding that we be responsible, demanding that...despite the fact that we lived in segregation...that we make something of ourselves. And so many of us...we were all very poor, but many of my peers coming out of that community have done very well in life. One owned some department stores in Texas, another was the head of the FBI for the Western United States, another is a well-known biology professor at the University of Michigan. These are all people who came out of...came up off the South side, and they did very well for themselves, because they believed their life was in their own hands, and they weren't...they weren't trying to sell themselves to America as victims. They were trying to sell themselves as competent individuals. Proft: I want to...so a piece you wrote for the Wall Street Journal, which is recast in your book "Shame", your latest book, speaks of "The Culture of Deference", and I tagged it as one of the four key op-eds in the 2016 Election Cycle, this was in November of 2016 if I'm remembering correctly, you wrote this piece. And then I saw a talk you gave at the Heritage Foundation, where you talked about "Madame Bovary Liberalism". And I wonder if you could just connect the dots for us that the Madame Bovary Liberalism that led to this Culture of Def...of Deference that sort of afflicts us today, and victimization being a feature of it as you're describing. Steele: Mmhmm...it's early in the morning, but I'll go to work! Proft: Okay...sorry! Get the synapses firing! Steele: Yeah. Well, Madame Bovary was one of the first Modern characters, she was...the novel by Flaubert, "Madame Bovary", was one of the very first Modernist novels, by which is meant that she was a character that was focused on her own angst, and really couldn't see beyond herself. And she was a fundamentally selfish and empty woman, who'd...who lived in pursuit of one sort of illusion or dream after another. To me, American Liberalism in the last 50 years has BEEN Madame Bovary. It has sustained itself with one empty and failed illusion after another. I can remember from school busing, which completely wiped out the American Education system, to Affirmative Action, to every sort of...to war on poverty programs, and the Great Society programs. All of these dreams that are, that were...where we sort of bring all black people into some sort of parity with all other human beings. All of them ABSOLUTELY fail! Disastrously fail! Not only do they fail, but they have ruined many of the good things that were present...once present in black American life, this sort of self-reliance, this struggle against the odds and so forth. And it's instead encouraged this idea of dependency...and you know...manipulation, where you're constantly using racism as a charge to get whites in line, and go along with this program. The other side of this, of course, is whites, and I think, white guilt, and by white guilt I mean something very specific. White guilt is not REAL guilt! I don't get up this morning and feel guilty about the Eskimos. I'm not expecting white people to get up this morning and go "Oh my God, what about all the black people in America?" That's not the way that human beings and societies work. What we...what happens is...what has happened in America, is that this idea of victimi...of black victimization has become so powerful, that whites are now terrorized! And there's no other word for it, they are TERRORIZED at the prospect of being stereotyped or stigmatized as a racist. To have that happen to you is to be literally, completely, marginalized, and rendered impotent. And self-hate is the only sort of honorable response to that situation. So white guilt is, again, what sort of played into Madame Bovary's pathologies, and it made her Modern. But, because when are afraid of being stigmatized like that, you act guiltily, even when you do not feel genuine guilt. Most whites do not feel GENUINE guilt about black America. That would be a pretty sophisticated thing to feel! And so I don't think that's it, and on the other hand, I think whites are absolutely terrified of being seen as a racist and being stigmatized with old American sin. And therefore, most white Americans today act pros...act guiltily towards the black community, and always act anguished, and always trying to do something, and meddle, rather than saying the traditi...and here's the tragic reality nobody wants to face; yes, we were profoundly oppressed, it may have been the worst instance of human oppression in all of history...so we were oppressed...but now we're FREE. And we can...we do...we can do anything we want to do, including be the President! And so we somehow have to stop our reli...blacks, our reliance on our power of...that we have with white people, keeping them in fear of the stigma that we...that we wield against them. Because then you just get this symbiosis of white guilt on the one hand, black dependence on the other hand. And that's what, it seems to me, we're stuck in today, can't seem to get out of it. Proft: All right, that's pretty GOOD for this early in the morning, I'll tell you that, that's a...that's the kind of dissertation you get from Shelby Steele...by the way, "White Guilt", not just just a phrase, also the name of an excellent Shelby Steele book that I've mentioned often on this show as required reading. Shelby Steele, an author, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, a longtime academic. His latest book is "Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized our Country", you wanna pick that up as well. Shelby Steele, a real pleasure, thanks so much for taking the time to join us. Steele: Well, thank you so much for having me, appreciate it.

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