By Shelby Steele
HarperPerennial, 175 pp, 1990
I've heard a lot about this book, but
it first appeared while I was a senior in high school. Back then, I
wasn't much concerned with politics, so I missed it. Now, 11 years
later, I've finally read it.
It's quite good. Steele is bright and
perceptive. His thesis is this: While racial discrimination and, to a
lesser extent, white racism, still exist, they are no longer capable of
holding any black person back. Blacks now possess opportunity in this
country that they've never had before, and it's time to start seizing
it. No more excuses, no more blaming "society" for everything.
It's time to embrace the classic cultural values that lead to a happy
life - property ownership, hard work, personal responsibility,
education, stable family - and reject the self-defeating angst and anger
at some mostly fictional white bogeyman.
For the sake of brevity, I have
greatly simplified Steele's argument. He actually gets quite deep, to
the point that he sounds more like a shrink than an English professor.
His theories are controversial but powerfully reasoned and hard to
If you like ideas, and challenges to
the status quo, read it. If not, avoid it, because it will just make you