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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

White Guilt: Book Review


Review by Glenn Robinson

White Guilt
has mostly good reviews on Amazon.

It's worth the read. However, many chapters in the middle re-explain and re-define white guilt again and again, which he describes as: a vacuum of moral authority.

I especially like the refreshing honesty where he describes how both Black and White people have done a disservice to their own people and to one another. The summary on the cover is too strong though. I wouldn't say that "The promise of the Civil Rights Era has been destroyed." I would say that the promise of the Civil Rights Era has been delayed.

My interpretation of Steele's work here is that some Black people have used the Black Power movement as a rallying cry in order to gain more successions. However with use of guns prominent in their campaign they could not recruit as many people as needed because people are frightened of violent campaigns. And the government became overly defensive - and actually abusive, and oppressive toward their campaign.

Guilt ridden White people are trying to be helpful by throwing money at African Americans - which, Steele says never solves the problem - and often makes the problem worse. Groups must create their own solutions. And he says that White people are disrespecting African Americans by not seeing them -  meaning not seeing them as fellow human beings and not seeing them as fully capable, just as fully capable as anyone else.

Steele says that Blacks are no longer oppressed. Here I disagree. To be fair to Steele, his book was published way back in 2006 and it was six years later (2012) before Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow was published. Alexander explains how the war on drugs disproportionately locks up Black and Hispanic people. And it was just last year (2011) where the NY Times reported on a suit brought against the New York Police Department for racial profiling in their stop and frisk practice where "black and Hispanic people generally represent more than 85 percent of those stopped by the police, though their combined populations make up a small share of the city’s racial composition."

This slicing apart of the two parent household creates financial difficulties in disproportionately Black and Hispanic families. Steele does acknowledge that single parent homes tend to have more financial problems and the children tend to not perform as well academically.