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Shelby Steele on Mark Levin: White Guilt – Black Dysphoria, the innocence of America’s left

Written By | Sep 3, 2018
Shelby Steele, Mark Levin, Black Dysphoria, Karen Hagstedt Cacy

Shelby Steele, on the Mark Levin Show screen shot

COLORADO SPRINGS:   Whether one is Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green or ‘Other,’ today’s political landscape boils down to its lowest unfortunate common denominator: “Leftists, stupid; conservatives, racist.” An African-American scholar, the Shelby Steele interview on the Mark Levin, Life, Liberty and Levin show analyzed the roots of that statement. White Guilt vs. Black Dysphoria.

And in so doing provided Americans on all sides with a substantive perspective that is fresh, astounding, non-accusatory, and understandable.

Steele’s explanation was couched in the American experience.

White guilt is black power

Who in his right mind wants to be called a racist, a bigot, or a “deplorable?” And how on earth would anyone support a political party that embraces such people? Steele’s argument passes step by step through our history, European culture, and America’s sword of Damocles, “Slavery,” and its disconnect with Americans’ desire to be seen as “good guys.”

Recall an early television detective show that proclaimed its protagonist a seeker of “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Little, save the march of time and escalating rhetoric, has changed since then. Steele walks us through it all:

Shelby Steele: “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country

Steele’s latest book provides an exegesis of his argument: He traces the post-1960s divisions between the Right and the

Shelby Steele, White Guilt, Black Dysphoria,

Shelby Steele: Shame

Left. He reviews how today we are hopelessly polarized with the political Right and Left hardening into rigid and deeply antagonistic camps, preventing any sort of progress.

Explaining the black football players’ refusal to stand for the national anthem, he reminds us that protest finally won blacks’ freedom and expanded democracy. And that protest, therefore, is a part of black identity, even a test of black authenticity. Of being ‘down for the cause.’

But here, Steele breaks ground with current-day complainers by saying that oppression of blacks today is over. Protests in the days of Martin Luther King dealt with real struggles, real and endemic racism, while today, with few exceptions, oppression of blacks is over.

In the “Era of Maxine (Waters),” there’s nothing behind the protests.

But, racism is real

Steele agrees that racism is as endemic to the human condition as is stupidity. However, he believes protest has become obsolete. Blacks are free now, oppression is largely over. Yet, many blacks, following nearly three and a half centuries of slavery, are having trouble in dealing with the reality of liberty.

Freedom is a burden, putting us in a position of being much more responsible for our own individual outcomes. He ends with, “Our problem is not racism, but freedom.”

Steele cites Ralph Ellison, author of the now-fifty-year old book, “Forgotten Man,” when he said,

“(the problem,) like ours, was not actually one of creating the uncreated conscience of his race, but of creating the uncreated features of his face. Our task is that of the making of ourselves as individuals. The conscience of a race is the gift of its individuals who see, evaluate, record… We create the race by creating ourselves and then to our great astonishment we will have created something far more important: We will have created a culture. Why waste time creating a conscience for something that doesn’t exist? For, you see, blood and skin do not think!”

What about social justice and equality? According to Steele, blacks have it today. The problem is to be able to absorb it. To accept the mantle of being grounded in individual responsibility ala Ellison’s long-ago advice.

What about white guilt?

Today’s “group-think” insisting on white guilt feeds many of today’s black population with retroactive thinking, of a need for justice and reparations, and of a rejection of their own present-day freedom and liberty. Whites fear being seen as racists or bigots. Steele says that today everything is touched by this anxiety by whites about U.S. history. They do not want to be disarmed of their moral authority, so many whites want others to know “I am innocent.”

This white guilt is black power. For anyone not still agonizing over the past, White Guilt disarms them of moral authority. Non-agonizers, those without white guilt, become morally compromised. Gradually, and regrettably, the left has fallen to this seductive argument. Whites being vulnerable to the charge of racism, has morphed into the power of the American left. It is the susceptibility on which clever leftists play to get their way and to secure more power.

Says, Hillary Clinton, of Democrat Innocence:

Those people (the opposition party and anyone not engaging in white guilt,) are “The Deplorables.” She calls Republicans racists and bigots. And by so doing, she imparted to her leftist supporters,

“I am innocent. Vote for me to prove your own innocence.”

She thought of herself and of her followers as decent and ‘civilized,’ whereas the others are contemptible and uncivilized.

Even, today Democrats are not free of making such harsh accusations and judgments. Why is that? It is not, according to Steele, because Democrats are stupid or evil. There is a far simpler, more understandable reason for their pushing of the racist spiel: It is that liberalism is the pursuit of innocence. They are innocent of the ugliness of the American past. Innocence is the reason why those of like minds should be able to do whatever they want, having as they do, the top moral authority of the land. And while Democrats are free to feel well about their own selves vis-à-vis the deplorable opposition, those in political power are free to exploit all sectors of America without stopping for the law. After all, they, and they alone have the moral high ground. Because they, and only they, are innocent of America’s past.

Good Americans fold under pressure of being called ‘racists’

We see that reasonable people, good people often fold up whenever ‘racism’ emerges. Often that leads to the lowering of university standards, and of endorsing the removal of European culture from college campuses.

Steele: “But what are you doing? You think that makes you ‘innocent?’ It really makes you stupid and destructive. Blacks need to understand the magnificent evolution of western civilization. Is it just about a bunch of white guys? Blacks are Western people. Many have been in America from the very start of the country. Black culture has evolved in the West. A denial of black liberty by relying on the past, denies the future.

Shelby Steele and discrimination

Steele recalls numerous incidents of racism directed at him and his family over the years. He understands blacks’ distrust of white America. The result of years of oppression have created bad faith. Blacks for a long time were victims of American hypocrisy. It’s easy for blacks to still repeat, “We are not free.” Through such obsession with the past, recompense is still in demand in the creation of micro-aggressions, safe spaces, and political correct unfree speech.

Keeping bad faith is cunning. It’s a rejection of all things white. In walk liberals as grand enablers, who facilitate that psychology. By saying freedom doesn’t exist, they proclaim their own white innocence.

White innocence no excuse

Shelby Steele has laid bare the folds of American history and today’s politics. We must reform the complexities at play today to reflect the realities of black hesitancy. A hesitancy fed by whites who remain vulnerable to their own terror of being seen as racist. The American left must stop their enabling of this mythology, and allow everyone the freedom to be themselves, unbound by the enervating shackles of history. They must stop the injustice of insisting on American guilt to the detriment of those still attempting to break free and live their own truths.

Shelby Steele concludes;

“The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We, blacks are today a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.”


Shelby Steele is a black American conservative author, columnist and a Robert J. Oster Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He specializes in race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action. In 1990, he received the National Book Critics Circle Award in the general nonfiction category for his book “The Content of Our Character.”

Karen Hagestad Cacy

Karen Hagestad Cacy, of Colorado Springs, is a former Washington speechwriter and transportation lobbyist. Raised in Portland, Oregon, she holds a BA degree in Russian and Middle East Studies from Portland State University (and American University in Cairo.) Her four novels are available on She is also the author of two plays.