Shame : How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country
Overview - The United States today is hopelessly polarized; the political Right and Left have hardened into rigid and deeply antagonistic camps, preventing any sort of progress. Amid the bickering and inertia, the promise of the 1960s--when we came together as a nation to fight for equality and universal justice--remains unfulfilled. Read more...
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More About Shame by Shelby Steele
The United States today is hopelessly polarized; the political Right and Left have hardened into rigid and deeply antagonistic camps, preventing any sort of progress. Amid the bickering and inertia, the promise of the 1960s--when we came together as a nation to fight for equality and universal justice--remains unfulfilled.
As Shelby Steele reveals in Shame
, the roots of this impasse can be traced back to that decade of protest, when in the act of uncovering and dismantling our national hypocrisies--racism, sexism, militarism--liberals internalized the idea that there was something inauthentic, if not evil, in the America character. Since then, liberalism has been wholly concerned with redeeming modern American from the sins of the past, and has derived its political legitimacy from the premise of a morally bankrupt America. The result has been a half-century of well-intentioned but ineffective social programs, such as Affirmative Action. Steele reveals that not only have these programs failed, but they have in almost every case actively harmed America's minorities and poor. Ultimately, Steele argues, post-60s liberalism has utterly failed to achieve its stated aim: true equality. Liberals, intending to atone for our past sins, have ironically perpetuated the exploitation of this country's least fortunate citizens.
It therefore falls to the Right to defend the American dream. Only by reviving our founding principles of individual freedom and merit-based competition can the fraught legacy of American history be redeemed, and only through freedom can we ever hope to reach equality.
Approaching political polarization from a wholly new perspective, Steele offers a rigorous critique of the failures of liberalism and a cogent argument for the relevance and power of conservatism.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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Steele (White Guilt), a leading intellectual and senior scholar at the Hoover Institution, inquires into white guilt and liberal dogma, challenging ideas that he finds pervasive on the left. A fixation on the “struggle for white redemption,” Steele argues, warps clear thinking. Moreover, he finds that too many white liberals perceive deferential shame as the antidote to historical evils, as though shame is morally necessary to absolve the nation’s racial sins. Dissociating the nation from its history has thus become a preeminent institutional mission—a mistaken one, in Steele’s opinion. He vividly recounts his encounter with an unyielding white “commitment to black victimization” while participating in a panel discussion at the Aspen Institute. He also remembers the surprise he felt as a young African-American man, watching William F. Buckley debate James Baldwin on Firing Line, to discover he agreed more with Buckley than Baldwin. Yet Steele also finds that many white people fail to appreciate the effect of four centuries of oppression on African-Americans. Steele concludes that economic success for African-Americans must be rooted in self-help and freedom from self-pity, though he unfortunately minimizes the continued economic inequalities standing in the way. Nonetheless, this timely critique warrants attention from anyone troubled by the persistence of racial discord in American life, from Selma to Ferguson. Agent: Carol Mann, Carol Mann Agency. (Mar.)