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Shelby Steele (born 1946, Chicago) is an American author, columnist, documentary film maker, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, specialising in the study of race relations, multiculturalism and affirmative action. He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah, an M.A. in sociology from Southern Illinois University, and a B.A. in political science from Coe College.

In 1990, Steele received the National Book Critics Circle Award in the general non-fiction category for his book The Content of Our Character.[1]

He won an Emmy and a Writers Guild Award for his 1991 documentary film with Seven Days in Bensonhurst.[2]

His twin brother is Claude Steele.

Political opinions Edit

Steele is a self-described Black conservative.[3] He opposes movements such as affirmative action, which he considers to be unsuccessful liberal campaigns to promote equal opportunity for African-Americans. He contends that blacks have been "twice betrayed": first, by slavery and oppression, and second, by group preferences mandated by the government that cause blacks to lose their self-esteem.[4]

The great ingenuity of interventions like affirmative action has not been that they give Americans a way to identify with the struggle of blacks, but that they give them a way to identify with racial virtuousness quite apart from blacks.[4]

Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest hindrance for black Americans. In his view, white Americans see blacks as victims to ease their guilty conscience, while blacks attempt to turn their status as victims into a kind of currency with no purchasing power. Therefore, he claims, blacks must stop "buying into this zero-sum game" by adopting a "culture of excellence and achievement" without relying on "set-asides and entitlements."[4]

Barack ObamaEdit

Steele has written a short book which contains Steele's analysis of Barack Obama's character as a child born to a mixed couple who then has to grow as a black man.[5] Steele then concludes that Barack Obama is a "bound man" to his "black identity." Steele gives this description of his conclusion:

"There is a price to be paid even for fellow-traveling with a racial identity as politicized and demanding as today’s black identity. This identity wants to take over a greater proportion of the self than other racial identities do. It wants to have its collective truth-its defining ideas of grievance and protest-become personal truth.... These are the identity pressures that Barack Obama lives within. He is vulnerable to them because he has hungered for a transparent black identity much of his life. He needs to 'be black.' And this hunger—no matter how understandable it may be—means that he is not in a position to reject the political liberalism inherent in his racial identity. For Obama liberalism is blackness."

Don Wycliff, editor of the Chicago Tribune, reviewed Steele's book[6] and disagreed with his analysis of Obama noting that:

"[as] I read his essay, I found myself thinking that Steele was trapped in a time warp, that his knowledge of the currents of thought and attitude among black people stopped sometime around 1990. Less charitably, I found myself thinking that the egregious Al Sharpton is not the only one with an investment in a static view of American race relations....It apparently never occurs to Steele that for a man a generation younger than himself the terms of blackness might be different, that the “totalitarian” demands he [Steele] encountered in the ’60s might no longer prevail, that Barack Obama’s mixed-race experience might actually be different than Shelby Steele’s."[6]

Works Edit

Non-fiction Edit

  • Steele, Shelby (1991-09-01). The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, Harper Perennial.
  • Steele, Shelby (1999-11-01). A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America, Harper Perennial.
  • Steele, Shelby (2006-05-02). White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, HarperCollins.
  • Steele, Shelby (2007-12-04). A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win, HarperCollins.

Documentary films Edit



References Edit

  1. "Past winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award. National Book Critics Circle. URL accessed on 2007-01-21.
  2. Brief information about Shelby Steele. PBS. URL accessed on 2007-01-21.
  3. Steele, Shelby (1991-09-01). The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, Harper Perennial.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Steele, Shelby (2006-05-02). White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, HarperCollins.
  5. SHELBY STEELE, The Obama Bargain, The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 Don Wycliff, Time Warp: A review of "A Bound Man", Commonweal, March 14, 2008 / Volume CXXXV, Number 5

External links Edit

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