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Shelby,Steele. The Content of Our Character, A New Vision of Race in America, (HarperCollins Publishers,  New York:1990)

reviewed by:

Robert Huck
Kaiulani S. Lie
Heather D Wileaver
Dan Nemtusiak
Justin Almli
Melissa Lauren Taverna
"sarah a. gill-branion" <sagill@ilstu.edu>
"Jennifer Nichols" <jnichols@davesworld.net>
Nonito P Ong <npong@ilstu.edu>
Eddie O'kelley eokell@ilstu.edu
Tangela Williams
"sarah a. gill-branion" (comment on Williams' review)
Tangela Williams (reply

Steele, Shelby. A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America, (HarperCollins Publishers, Inc: 1998).

reviewed by:
Autumn Pemble <atpembl@ilstu.edu>




Date: Fri, 11 Feb 1994 13:47:24 -0600
From: Robert Huck <rohuck@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu>

Review of Shelby Steele, THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER
(Harper Collins, 1990)
Robert Huck
Illinois State University
 
 

There is a method to Dr. Klass' madness. Having just read Derrick Bell's AND WE ARE NOT SAVED, I began to think that most black Americans had lost hope for their futures. I strongly criticized Bell for his hopelessness and his caricature of whites as irredeemably racist. Shelby Steele's THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER, on the other hand, offers a solid foundation for reconciliation and trust between the races.

Using a mixture of personal experiences, psychotherapy (some of which admittedly relies on pretentious terminology) and genuine insight into white motives, Steele provides a middle-class black response to Bell's despair. Steele begins by discussing black and white motives since the Civil Rights movement began. The motives have been dominated by a desire to retain innocence. This desire for innocence is the crux of Steele's argument. I think the real trouble between the races in America is that the races are not just races but competing power groups . . . But the human animal almost never pursues power without first convincing himself that he is entitled to it. And this feeling of entitlement has its own precondition: to be entitled one must first believe in one's innocence, at least in the area where one wishes to be entitled. By innocence I mean a feeling of essential goodness in relation to others and, therefore, superiority to others. (4-5) According to Steele, prior to the Civil Rights movement, whites retained this innocence by claiming that blacks were an inferior race. The Civil Rights era turned this up-side-down. Blacks used their long history of oppression to claim innocence from whites. "Both races instinctively understand that to lose innocence is to lose power (in relation to each other). . . . Power defines their relations, and power requires innocence, which, in turn, requires racism and racial division" (6). After losing their claim to innocence, whites (particularly white liberals) had no choice but to feel guilty about racism and the condition of black Americans. Steele himself admits to taking advantage of white guilt in the late-60's. "Those were the days of flagellatory white guilt; it was such fun to pinion some professor or housewife or, (best of all, a large group of remorseful whites, with the knowledge of both their racism and their denial of it" (2-3). Steele describes the years following the Civil Rights Act as a struggle over innocence. Whites attempted to reclaim innocence by claiming to be "colorblind." Some, like Ronald Reagan, may have even believed it. "But again, for one man to be innocent, another man must be bad or guilty. Innocence imposes - demands - division and conflict . . . And this, I feel, led to the underside of Reagan's achievement" (10). Black Americans, on the other hand, attempted to hold on to innocence using two different strategies: bargaining or challenging. Steele's discussion of bargainers is one of the few flaws in his argument. His description of Bill Cosby as the classic bargainer borders on the flippant. He says the Cosby Show is "a blackface version of the American dream. . . . Racial controversy is all but banished from the show. The Huxtable family never discusses affirmative action" (11). He goes on to say, If anything, the success of this handsome, affluent black family points to the fair-mindedness of whites who, out of their essential goodness, changed society so that black families like the Huxtables could succeed. Whites can watch 'The Cosby Show' and feel complimented on a job well done. (11)

Steele's comments on Cosby constitute either back-handed compliments or unbelievable naivete on the part of the author. I am not sure which is the case. I am not sure which is worse. If they are back-handed compliments, Steele devotes the rest of his book to duplicating Cosby's achievements. If they represent naivete, Steele should visit a few of my relatives in St. Louis and rediscover just how prevalent racism still is. I am not trying to be as pessimistic as Derrick Bell, (I couldn't if I tried) however, I found Steele's almost pollyannic view of whites disturbing.

However critical Steele may be of Cosby, he saves his greatest invectives for the "challengers" in the black community. This, according to Steele, is the most serious impediment to black advancement and assimilation. Steele is particularly critical of blacks who reject middle-class values and idealize "black identity."

When a black is comfortable and successful in the mainstream, he or she shows that the external threat is not as serious as many blacks wish to think and, correspondingly, that inner doubt is a more powerful regressive force. The most dangerous threat to the black identity is not the racism of white society (this actually confirms the black identity), but the black who insists on his or her own individuality. (71-2)

To further defend blacks who, like himself, feel comfortable in the white-dominated middle-class, Steele continues,

Nowhere in the current black identity is there a strong theme of responsibility for our own fate, nor are there positive themes that define our character as a people or highlight our many strengths. (73) This really is the problem for black Americans. According to Steele, white racism doesn't really matter. Blacks can and do succeed without regard to white opinion. In short, blacks are their own worst enemy.

This is precisely why Steele is the bargainer he criticizes Cosby for being. Just as whites watch "The Cosby Show" and "feel complimented on a job well done", whites can read THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER and come away with the same feeling. I am not sure how healthy that is. Clearly it is more constructive and has more potential than Bell's despair, however, it makes it too easy for whites to forget just how evil racism really is.

Last summer I had the dubious distinction of working for my brother-in-law's father, Al. Al owns a small company that makes test equipment for seed companies. Al's shop consists of Al, his wife and one employee named Chuck. During my two weeks of hell in Al's shop, I was exposed to an insessant stream of racial jokes and epithets. I hadn't heard the word "nigger" that much since I last saw "Blazing Saddles." I dread the day that Al and Chuck get ahold of Steele's book. Steele's Cosby-like bargaining can be constructive in the right hands. If, however, it is used by whites who never felt white guilt, it can be a dangerous form of expiation.


Date: Fri, 10 Feb 1995 15:27:04 -0600
Subject: Review: The Content of Our Character (Lie)
 

Review of Shelby Steele, THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER (St. Martin's, 1990)

                            Reviewed by:
                         Kaiulani S. Lie
                     Illinois State University
                         February 10, 1995

                      The Unending Problem

     Looking at the history of the United States, one thing that has yet to be forgotten is the racism that occurred and is still occurring. But, is this the reason why the status of blacks keeps on slipping farther and farther away from the status of whites? This is the major theme addressed by Shelby Steele in his book, "The Content of Our Character". Steele does not deny that racism and discrimination still exist in this country, but he does not think that it is as much of a hindrance to black progress as they make it out to be.

     Steele believes that the memory of past injustices that the blacks had to go through are so ingrained in their head that they are not trying as hard as they could to seize all of the new and expanded opportunities before them. The ideal that whites are superior to blacks lingers in black's minds, although everyone should know that this is not true. Steele thinks that blacks have become afraid to advance too far, afraid that if they do not reach a certain goal it will prove that whites are better that them. So, they cling to their race rather that their identity to escape from this self-doubt. Some play the role of the victim, blaming whites for constantly trying to 'suppress' their people even though they are given many more opportunities than they had in the past.

 Even though their may be no evidence that a certain occurrence or event happens because of 'racism'. A classic example of this is given by Steele. His black friend got a job selling insurance, and for a while was doing rather poorly at it. His friend thought that he was not doing good because people would not want to buy insurance from a black man. However, when other blacks were hired to sell insurance and did good, his friend realized that it was not his race that was determining his sales. His friend tried working harder, and his sales improved. Steele wants blacks to get out of that victim mind set and open their eyes to the opportunities before them, to develop their race so that they can be equal with whites.

  Steele believes that the use of race in our society is a play for power and Whites try to make themselves out to be racially 'innocent' from the horrid ways blacks were treated in the past. This is especially true during the civil rights movement of the 60s, when the unethical nature of slavery and discrimination was first brought to the forefront. In order for whites to become 'innocent', they try to make amends for a history that is shameful to them and their race.

They show racial preference by implementing affirmative action programs, by given black college students separate dorms, their own black student unions; which will allow them to be rid of their guilt easily. However, Steele has great contempt for these kind of programs because they do not help blacks develop their skills or improve their status. It is just a selfish act by whites to rid themselves of their guilt. What these actions really accomplish, especially affirmative action, is to make blacks feel like they can not do things by themselves; That they are inferior and need whites to hold their hand and lift them up. It reinforces their fear of white supremacy.

     On the flip side of this quest for racial power, blacks use their race as a kind of playing card. They try to make whites feel guilty for the past, atrocities against their race. One example of this is Steele's friend talking a white guy into giving the poor old black bathroom attendant twenty dollars for giving him a towel. He just kept telling the white guy about the suffering his dad had to go through and made the man feel guilty enough to give a huge tip to the black bathroom attendant, as a gesture to try and make up for the treatment of the black race. Making whites feel guilty is supposed to make blacks feel innocent, or at least better than whites, and therefore giving them power. Steele believes that the only thing that whites owe us are equal opportunities to achieve and excel in society.

     Besides looking at the psychological aspects of the racial problems of the United States, he approaches it from a historical viewpoint. More specifically, he looks at the black civil rights movement and how the motivation behind it has changed. When it first began , the goal of the black rights movement was to gain equal opportunities for blacks. As the movement gained more opportunities and rights for their race, blacks began to feel the self-doubt about their race that I mentioned above. This is when blacks began to use racism and discrimination as an excuse for the failures of blacks. This is when some blacks began to use the color of their skin to make whites feel guilty In Steele's eyes the movement went from trying to gain equal opportunities to gaining racial preference for blacks.

     Although there are other issues that Steel addresses in his book, I feel that the above are the major points he is trying to make. I see where he is coming from but I have a hard time accepting all that he is saying. Although he declares that he believes racism and discrimination are a problem fro blacks, it does not come out strong enough in his book. It seems like he believes blacks are more to blame for their own problems than racism or discrimination. It seems to me that his middle class background is tainting the way he is seeing the situation of his race. While I believe some , and I stress some, blacks may not be taking the opportunities before them, I believe that history plays a large part in the present social status of blacks.

     If a black person grows up in a central city neighborhood, how is he or she supposed to have the same opportunities that any other person their age will have? The school system in some of the central cities are not doing a good job educating the children in their districts. Their parents may not be able to be around because they have to work two jobs to support their family. How are children born into this situation, no matter what race, supposed to get out of it? Unfortunately blacks are(more often than whites) put in this predicament.

     When slavery was present and even after it was abolished, blacks were not able to become as well educated as whites. They could not get as well paying jobs as whites. Then, all of a sudden, when they are given their rights they are supposed to have the same opportunities as whites just because they are given their rights. The past will not allow them though. Racism is not something that can go away just like that. It will, and has already, taken many years for blacks to gain the freedom and opportunities they have today.       I believe that racial preferences are necessary until blacks really have the same opportunities as whites. Right now, I do not believe that they do. Steele seems almost blind to this fact. He does not realize that if one starts out disadvantaged, it is extremely hard to pull oneself up. Steele, himself, did not have to worry about this. His father had obtained a higher status for him and his family. He did not have to go through some of the experiences blacks go through today. He had opportunities presented to him. He grew up with middle class values. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this, I grew up the same way. However, I feel that Steele is essentially seeing it from a subjective viewpoint. His middle class values tell him that people are responsible for what they make of their lives, that they can change their status and make opportunities for themselves. This is the ideology that he is using to look at the status of blacks today. But, when has he ever had to work two jobs just to earn enough to pay the bills? When has he ever had to worry about where his familyĠs next meal iscoming from? It has been said that you should not judge another man until you have walked a mile in their shoes. I do not think that Steel even has a remote concept of what some blacks today go through. I think he should stand back and look, really look, at how blacks are doing today before he judges them.

Regardless of how Steele views the problem, I agree with what he is advocating: that we look beyond the color of our skin and given people equal opportunities to get ahead. 


Date: Sat, 11 Feb 1995 14:07:52 -0600

Subject: The Content of our Character (Heather Wileaver)

Review of Shelby Steele, THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER (St. Martin's, 1990)

                            Reviewed by:
                         Heather D Wileaver
                     Illinois State University
                         February 9, 1995
 

    Innocence, according to Shelby Steele, equals power. The less you are to blame for your situation, the more power you will have. This, among other reasons, is why blacks continue to cling to their victimization. To be a victim, to be innocent, is to be powerful. Black oppression has not only given blacks power, but has also engrained in their minds a sense of inferiority. They have been told for so long that they are failures that they are now afraid to even try. Steele says that blacks use racism as a crutch.

He recalls an instance where a black insurance salesman blamed his lack of success on his color. White people, he claimed, would not buy insurance from a black man. However, when two new black people joined the office they did twice as much business as he did. It was not his race or racism that kept him from succeeding. It could have been that he did not try as hard as the others, or perhaps he went into a situation believing that he would fail and gave up before he even tried. Whatever the real reason, he found it easier to say he was not doing well because of his race. Rather than take a hard look at himself and discover the real reason for his lack of success, he fell back on his race and blamed it. Steele does not deny that racism exists. He says that racism is not the obstacle blacks make it to be. However, he does say that blacks must stop letting themselves fall back on racism and discrimination as excuses not to try or to quit. He calls for blacks to overcome the insecurities that have been brought about by racism ans strive to get ahead. "Hard work, education, individual initiative, stable family life, and property ownership" are the values blacks must embrace, as other ethnic groups have, to get ahead in America.

He describes some blacks as whining race-holders who complain of discrimination to maintain a victim status. As a victim, blacks are not to blame for their condition. It is Reagan's fault that black male college enrollment declined after he cut scholarship money. How, Steele asks, do they explain the slight increase in female enrollment? Instead of taking respondsiblity for their condition, blacks fall back on their victimization to keep from trying; to keep from having to face failure. It is not whites' fault that blacks are not succeeding, it is their own. Steele writes "the quality of your life will reflect the quality of your effort." Blacks should only ask that the rules be fair and, Steele says, from this fairness blacks will retain their personal responsiblity and thus gain power. Blacks, Steele says, should work to achieve power through their triumphs, not from being a victim. Oppression, Steele says, has led blacks /to be racially vulnerable. It has led to an inferiority anxiety.

Steele recalls an instance when he lashed out at a white woman who constantly corrected his grammer. In order to deny his racial shame and the fact that he felt inferior, he turned it around and accused the woman of being a racist who humiliated him in order to make herself feel better. In reality she was only trying to better his English so that he could do more than "sweat his life away in a mill somewhere." However, because of the vulnerablilty he felt he turned his shame and feelings of inadequacy into feelings of anger toward this woman. Vulnerability, Steele says, makes blacks afraid of critical voices. Instead of trying to deny these voices, blacks should seek out all the critical voices they can in order to overcome their impulse to deny and recompose positive criticism. Steele is opposed to affirmative action, much to the anger of many blacks, not because it hurts whites, but because it hurts blacks. Steele says instead of developing programs that simply open the door to blacks, programs must be developed which help blacks get to the door. Programs need to be established that help blacks engage in the values that will help them succeed, such as staying in school or working hard. Values which many would refer to as white middle class values, although they work for everyone, not just whites.

Blacks need to be reassured that they are not inferior and thus can do just as well, if not better, than anyone else. He admits that it will probably take quite a bit more effort for blacks than it does whites, but none the less these values will help blacks attain success. Steele encourages blacks to embrace middle class values, however he does caution that even though these values and way of life will help you get ahead, blacks must brace themselves for the criticism that they will receive from other blacks. Expect to be accused, as Steele was, of betraying your race by blacks who continue to cling to their victim status and continue to fall behind. These blacks feel that by entering the middle class, you lose your blackness. Steele writes that many blacks feel it is impossible to retain your blackness when you become middle class.

I found that I agreed with the majority of Steele's ideas, however halfway through the book he seems to contradict himself. The first half of the book was written to appease whites. He seemed to take the blame away from whites and place it more on the shoulders of blacks. The first half of the book encourages black power and taking respondsiblity for one's life. He promotes a 'don't wait for someone else to do it for you, do it on your own' philosophy. However, in the next breath he calls for programs to help blacks achieve success. Suddenly blacks can't do it on their own, they need programs and the help of whites to be successful. Wasn't he just arguing that blacks feel inferior because thay have always relied on whites to get ahead? Won't blacks still feel as if they are inferior, and without special programs they can't get ahead? I agree with Steele that people should be hired because of their abilities and not their race. I also agree that if blacks embrace middle class values they will be more likely to succeed.


Date: Mon, 13 Feb 1995 16:28:56 -0600
Subject: Review of THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER (Dan Nemtusiak)

       Shelby Steele, THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER
                              By Dan Nemtusiak
                              dpnemtu@ilstu.edu
                            Illinois State University
 

  In reading "The Content of Our Character", I found that the issue of racism has become very prominent in today's society. I have always viewed racism as the acts of discrimination and social separation, yet this book by Shelby Steele focuses on another side of racism, that being emotional and psychological.

  I have lived all my life in a middle-class, predominantly white neighborhood and have not experienced racism personally or in within my family. I am, however, well aware of the racial problems that society faces. Steele has written a very informative and eye-opening book that gave me many insights into racism. Three issues were brought up continually by Steele. Those issues were "the power of innocence", the psychological effects of racism on blacks, and "integration shock".

  The first issue is what Steele calls "the power of innocence". Steele describes this as follows: If one race (either black or white) can convince society that they are innocent and the victim, they place the guilt on the other race. This innocence can then be used to cause guilt which ultimately leads to power. According to Steele, whites refuse to accept this guilt and many argue that it was not them who caused racism it was their parents and grandparents. This placing the blame on the actions of people in the past is a way of accepting innocence for people in the present and suggesting that whites are the victims of an angered black race. Steele admits that many blacks use guilt against whites as a means of power, but he pleads that it is wrong for any black person to engage in such actions because it is doing the same thing that whites have done in the past, use race to gain power.

  Martin Luther King used the philosophy of equality to try to end racism but Steele believes that the reason why there has not been another King is that it has become to necessary for the black person to become a "bargainer" with society to gain both financially and socially. The "bargainer" is the person who grants white society their innocence in exchange for a more prosperous life. The opposite of a "bargainer" is what Steele calls the "challenger". This is the person who refuses to grant innocence to the white race until it can be proven. It is obvious that becoming a bargainer would be much easier and more convenient than taking on the controversial, lonely position of challenger, but in doing so, he/she gives society the false assumption that everything is all right and that racism does not exist anymore.

  Another issue that Steele mentions is the fact that many blacks are caught in the trap of feeling inadequate or unequal due to the racial past that society has lived. He describes what he calls the "anti-self" in which blacks fail due to the emotional and psychological feeling that they are inferior and unequal. Surprisingly, Steele argues that one reason why these feelings occur is due to affirmative action programs. These programs place labels on its recipients which all to often creates an unwanted feeling of being "special". Special not in the sense of being highly regarded or valued, but the complete opposite. Special in the sense of being different or not regular and that without the assistance of these programs they would surely fail in society. Steele believes that instead of relying on affirmative action programs, personal responsibility should be emphasized.

He describes this responsibility as the "brick and mortar of power". With individuality comes opportunity and equality.

  Even when blacks become successful, Steele explains that "integration shock" occurs. This is the concept that with more success comes the chance for more self doubt to occur. The more a person tries, the greater the possibility of failure and the more a person begins to doubt his/her own abilities. When that particular person is labeled as a minority or disadvantaged, it only enhances the false image that this person needs help on order to succeed. It is also argued that with success comes the loss of black culture and history. Steele opens his book describing a successful black family living in a middle-class suburb in which their daughter must attend an almost all white school. The father says that his ambition might cause his daughter to "lose touch with her blackness".

  The previous phrase "integration shock" is what I would use to describe my feelings toward racism today. I think that this shock is one of the main problems that faces society today. I agree with Steele that many whites refuse to believe that they are guilty of benefiting from racism, but I think that many problems of the past have slowly been solved, but not all.

Early forms of racism placed a heavy emphasis on the separation of whites and blacks. When blacks were finally able to advance beyond the limits that whites placed on them, the shock of having the only "black family" in the neighborhood, or the only "black kid in class" became such a problem that anger, frustration, and resentment were the initial emotions that both whites and blacks felt toward each other. Whites angry at blacks for moving in, and blacks angry at whites for feeling that way.

  If society is able to create equality among races, then more and more whites and blacks will come into contact with one another and the less an issue it will be. What I am trying to say is the more white and black children are brought up together, either in schools or in neighborhoods, the less likely a conflict will occur. The black family moving into the middle-class neighborhood will not be such the center of attraction anymore, simply another family moving in with something to contribute to the area.
However, forcing city officials to build low income housing is not the solution. This goes along with what Steele states about programs placing labels and false assumptions on the recipients. Low income housing gives local residents the impression that crime, gangs, and drugs will soon follow. These problems have become so serious over the last ten years that they should never be considered problems for whites or blacks but problems of society.

  Shelby Steele has many points that I agree with, but he does not seem to offer solutions to the current racial problems and conditions that exist.
He only seems to explain why the current attempts do not work. If not affirmative action, then what? The suggestion of individuality is promising, but not all persons are "good". Many people lack the good to make efforts that will benefit everyone. What do we do with the many that exist that are unwilling to change?



Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 13:11:50 -0600
From: Justin Michael Almli <jmalmli@RS6000.CMP.ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Review of: Content of our Character; Steele, Shelby

Content of our Character; Shelby Steele Review by: Justin Almli
 

        Racism today is offered as the greatest barrier to black progress, and blacks themselves are still to be seen primarily as racial victims. "Content of our character", deals with this view in a rational conservative way. Shelby Steele believes in three major areas which effects todays black population. These issues are raised through guilt and innocence, barganing and challenging, and race holding.

        To begin with, guilt and innocence is primarily seen as the relationship between blacks and whites. For example, Steele states that, "races are not just races but competing power groups." Innocence is gives a race power. Most blacks see themselves as presumably innocent due to their past oppression. On the other hand, white society has had the power to enforce its presumption of innocence. Racial innocence in a sense brings power to a race. Guilt can be used against a race to bring power. According to Steele, this is how blacks have gained their power since the inception of civil rights. I find Steele's theory of guilt and innocence as insightful. It puts classification on an intangible problem.

It is also a building block to some sort of understanding between blacks and whites. If both races can somehow maneuver themselves to be seen as equally innocent. Then their might be hope for us. That would be great, but for now we are still struggling.

        If guilt and innocence is the struggle between whites and blacks. Then how do blacks deal with the white presumption of innocence? This is dealt with through challenging and barganing. Barganing says, I belive your innocence, and have faith you will prove it. While challenging says, if you are innocent then prove it. The most visible black bargainer today is Bill Cosby. Steele thinks barganing is the right way, because it is the power of absolution. It also enhances white innocence by saying that the issue of race is not a problem for blacks that it once was. In a sentence, blacks should make white feel comfortable so that racial tension will be relieved. I particularly do not agree with this for one main reason. No race should have to please any one race just to promote racial harmony. In my view those thoughts are racist. If a white conservative would have expressed that view, he would have been deemed a bigot. On the other hand, challenging is another way for blacks to deal with white innocence. Challenging authority is necessary sometimes, but it tends to make people uneasy and nervous. Steele thinks that most blacks today switch between challenging and barganing. This in turn tends to baffle whites, according to Steele. The most visible character of a "switcher" is Jesse Jackson. All in all, Steele thinks that barganing is the better way, because it is more the individuals suit. He thinks that his race's advancements will come through the efforts of it's individuals.

        Next, Steele points out an almost psychological view to a big problem of today's blacks. The term he uses is race holding. He defines a holding as any self descripion that serves to justify or camouflage a person's fears, weaknesses, and inadequacies. Race holding is a defense for blacks against integration shock. Since for so long blacks have been treated as inferior, even given special programs, the damage to self-esteem is great. Race holding is a way for blacks to protect their esteem and inadequacies. Self fulfilling prophecy is what race holding is trying to combat, since so many blacks have internalized the message that they are inferior. This is why blacks have such a high dropout rate at integrated universitys. Steele's theory of race holding is unique. It gives an answer to the disproportionate dropout rates between integrated schools and all black schools. This theory can be seen as controversial since it does try to explain all black people's feelings.

        On a final note, Steele offers some very rational views to the problem of racism. I agree with half of his book, and the other half is too much of an outreach. I belive, along with steele, that the black race will make its advancements through it's individuals. I do not think that they have to make the white race "happy" in doing so. Individualism is what are country is set up for. You are expected to get your education and make a life for yourself. To pull the black race out of poverty, the children of today and tomorrow must realize this. With today's programs, even though steele thinks their demoralizing, blacks should have the incentive to advance themselves. The fear of racism can be enough to deter any person from trying. No program is perfect or will ever be perfect. These programs must stay in effect. Without these programs, like affirmative action, many minorities can feel like their effort is for no use. What we need from both blacks and whites is just a little effort.



Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 16:16:33 -0600
From: Melissa Lauren Taverna <mltaver@RS6000.CMP.ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Review; The Content of Our Character, (Taverna)

Review of The Content of Our Character-Shelby Steele Date: February 24, 1998

 
        There is no question that conflict still exists between Black Americans and White Americans, but why have racial differences continued to linger ominously around us? Shelby Steele attempts to answer this question in his book. He feels that "the real trouble between the races in America is that the races are not just races but competing power groups." We have been conditioned to look at a person's skin color instead of the actual person behind the skin. Steele focuses on the idea of innocence, meaning a feeling of superiority over others, race-holding, and affirmative action. He feels that each of these have only heightened racial differences and tensions among Blacks and Whites.

        According to Steele, the struggle between the races is really a struggle for innocence. The innocence that a person attains is a feeling of being better than everyone else. Once a person is innocent, he or she can go after power. It is suggested that a loss of innocence can come from guilt, and Whites have never been able to avoid feeling guilty about Black's past suffering. An example of innocence and guiltlessness is President Reagan's claim that he was "color-blind." Steele agrees with Reagan's views, but feels that his claim of innocence and guiltlessness were seen as threatening to Blacks. As mentioned, innnocence leads to power.

        The idea of racial innocence can present potential problems for Black Americans. They have had to find ways to deal with a White person's innocence. "They have bargained with it, granting White society its innocence in exchange for entry into the mainstream, or they have challenged it, holding that innocence hostage until their demand for entry was met." Steele names Bill Cosby as an example of a bargainer. The Cosby Show was the portrait of the perfect family. They never discussed racial issues. This show allowed Whites to keep their racial innocence and guiltlessness. Because the Huxtable family was successful, Whites felt that racial problems were not an issue anymore, and Blacks really had no animosity towards Whites. "Whites can watch 'The Cosby Show' and feel complimented on a job well done."

        Blacks have also acquired racial innocence. The source of their innocence is the victimization that they endured for so long. Steele believes that this is a major setback for Blacks because the only power they have is a victim's power. This power is not beneficial in the long run because it may help Blacks as a whole, but it does not help them personally. Blacks feel that taking responsibility to better themselves is giving in to White power.

        Race-holding is another reason for the tension between Blacks and Whites. Race-holding is when a person blames racism for his or her problems instead of realizing that the problem may be with him or herself. A Black person may feel vulnerable in an environment with many White people, and will use his or her race as a shield to keep from looking at his or her own shortcomings.

        Steele is convinced that race-holding is one of the most harmful forces in a Black person's life. He defines a holding as "any self-description that serves to justify or camouflage a person's fears, weaknesses, and inadequacies." Holdings develop to defend ourselves against any threats to our self-esteem. Steele believes that Blacks use holdings to ignore any individual responsibility. They believe that they are inferior to Whites, so they use this as an excuse for not trying to achieve success in anything they do.

        Race-holding has brought tension between Blacks and Whites because Blacks are using holdings to avoid responsibility, and this is when Whites mistake fear for laziness. Blacks need to take the energy that they have to work towards group achievements, and use it for personal achievement.
"Whites must guarantee a free and fair society. But Blacks must be responsible for actualizing their own lives."

        Affirmative Action programs have been detrimental to Black Americans. Steele claims that these programs have only increased tensions and differences between Blacks and Whites. They have only made Blacks doubt their capabilities instead of helping them gain self-esteen. By giving Blacks preferential treatment, we are, in a sense, saying that Blacks are inferior to Whites. This is implying that Blacks need help to be as successful or more so that Whites.

        Affirmative Action programs not only enhance a Black American's self-doubt, but they also make them use their own victimization as a source of power. Steele argues that this only says that Blacks can gain power in their past suffering, but not in their present abilities. The same people and institutions that are giving Blacks preferential treatment are also the oppressors. Preferential treatment rewards Black Americans for not trying to achieve individual success.

        Racial preferences also work against Blacks because they feel that special treatment is something that White Americans owe them. Steele explains that repayiing Blacks for all of the past injustices is virtually impossible. Affirmative action programs are telling Blacks that Whites can pay them back, but instead they are only telling Blacks that they can not do things for themselves. Steele feels that all preferential treatment programs should be eradicated. We need to focus on the educational and economic development of disadvantaged people, and we need to do away with all discrimination. Preference programs were not the right way to achieve these goals. "What was wrong was that both races focused more on the goals of these mandates than on the means to the goals." Blacks need to take responsibility for their own progress in education and in the workplace.

        Shelby Steele's book presents us with many issues that the feels have been problematic to Blacks. He does a good job of highlighting many of the ways in which Blacks continue to be oppressed, and the reasons for it. I felt that he made some very strong arguments in his discussion about Affirmative Action. I agree that it has only hindered the development of Black Americans.

        An aspect of Steele's book that I had a hard time agreeing with is his idea that Blacks need to bargain with White society for acceptance into the mainstream. He says that challenging works best for groups, but bargaining is best for the individual. Later on he says that Blacks must confront their self-doubt. If a Black person bargains, they are in effect going along with whatever a White person will give to them. This is not going to help them feel positive about their abilities. I think Blacks must challenge a White person's innocence. Achieving somethingg that is challenging will increase a person's self-esteem and this will lead to decreased self-doubt.

        There are many ideas that Steele presents that can be beneficial to Black American's development, and that can help reduce their self-doubt. As previously mentioned, Affirmative Action programs do not achieve these goals. Steele poses his idea for social policies that help educational and economic development, and do away with racial and gender discrimination. He says that this can be done through monitoring and sanctions. I do not feel that this is realistic. There is no way to ever judge whether a person is discriminating or not. There is no easy solution, but it is obvious that preference programs are only enhancing the problems. The only way to do away with these problems is for Blacks to take responsibility for their own development. We also need to ensure that people are hired based on their abilities and not their skin color.

        Overall, Steele's book does a good job of raising important concerns about race relations in America today. It makes you wonder if anything has really changed. Steele opens our eyes to racial tensions and how we still have a long way to go before we can say that everyone is treated equally, and everyone feels that they are equal. Decreasing Black's self-doubt and increasing their self-esteem will help Whites see them on the basis of their character and not their skin color.



Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 13:13:02 -0600
From: "sarah a. gill-branion" <sagill@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Content of Our Character (Sarah A. Gill-Branion)
 

Review of Shelby Steele, THE CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER: A New Vision of Race in America (Harper Collins, 1991)

Reviewed by: Sarah A. Gill-Branion, Illinois State University February 10, 1999

To some, Steele is a turncoat; to others he is shrewd. Whether he is one or the other is of no significance at this point because the book is a tool for any individual seeking to gain knowledge. Imparted to his readers are his insights into integration, self-esteem, inferiority, victimization, guilt, innocence, and his call-to-action.

Steele argues for integration. The opposite of which is separatism. Separatism hinders Black Americans´ (not referring to South Americans or Canadians) progress toward the goal of success. Granted, measurements of personal success are subjective. But, the crux of Steele´s argument rests on whether or not the opportunity to make/spend/invest capital exists for Black Americans. His key idea on integration involves the Black preoccupation with the “enemy-memory” of White supremacist power. Steele believes and I quote,
 

“I believe that one of the greatest problems Black Americans currently face-one
of the greatest barriers to our development in society-is that our memory of oppression has such power, magnitude, depth, and nuance that it constantly drains our best resources into more defense than is strictly necessary…the look is backward rather than forward, outward rather than inward, so that the possibilities for development-education, economic initiative, job training…are only seen out of the corner of the backward-looking eye.”


Has Black America developed an invisible nemesis of White power? Dr. Steele´s push for integration twists and turns readers through an analytical realm of psychology. Using themes on one´s anti-self, (the defeating train of thought tied to one´s self-esteem), he establishes firm statements on preferences.

Specifically, Affirmative Action preferences. His attacks against preferences suggest how those who benefit from them are cheating themselves in the long run out of developing real skills and aptitudes. One firm statement explains how Affirmative Action quotas validate feelings of inferiority, “…lowering of normal standards…puts Blacks at war with expanded…debilitating doubt…that becomes an unrecognizable preoccupation…with their ability to perform.” On the contrary, what about the people (implying that this is not a rare instance) who get hired to fill quotas and transcend the demands of the jobs, or curricula (as mentioned in class)? Harm is not being done to them because of preferences.

A second assertion elucidates that Affirmative Action preferences invite Blacksto capitalize on their own prior victimization as a source of authority and privilege. (pp. 118) He is saying that to advocate partiality is to assign oneself to the role of the victim, like implied inferiority, which exonerates preferences. (pp.118) Steele challenges Black people to delineate between actual victimization, and identification with the victim´s status. I agree with Steele in that Blacks should not be dependent on white feelings of guilt, nor should they be put in the position of needing the mercy of White “charity.”
 

“White guilt is Black power,” Steele says, is not “real power” because putting another person down to make ones´ self feel better is wrong; a strong sentiment made in the past and continues today. For oppressed people, victimization quickly turns into innocence defined through social injustices, rather than individual accountability. Innocence, for Steele, means “a feeling of essential goodness in relation to others and, therefore, superiority to others.” For oppressing people, it turns into guilt and a need to be redeemed by the oppressed. Steele contends some Black people relish white guilt. It serves as a form of psychological payback with sometimes physical rewards (i.e.Entitlements), which he opposes. White need for redemption from Blacks stems from White knowledge of unjust acquisition of holdings (money, land, property, etc.). Defined by Robert Nozick´s Entitlement Theory; justice in original acquisition is how things not possessed are legitimately acquired; justice in transfer is how things are legitimately transferred to another person; justice in rectification is how patterns of past injustice in holdings should be rectified. Based on the methods White people acquired wealth, power and control throughout American history, there exists huge injustices in holdings.


Affirmative Action is the United States of America´s attempt at rectification to its minorities for hardships and sufferings endured for approximately 400 years. Without it, and a dependable merit system, Steele´s cherished integration would barely be a remote reality. For example, results of California´s elimination of Proposition 209 reveals the dramatic decline in the number of minority people (not just Black) being admitted into California universities.

I contend in order to have true rectification, Affirmative Action should have been implemented without the option to renege. Check it, in reality Affirmative Action is voluntarily instituted in most businesses and schools that want to help minorities. The judicial system allows Affirmative Action, it even allows penalties for those that participate, but Affirmative Action is not stated as a right of entitlement. If it is not morally permissible to renege on given rectification, then how can it be morally permissible to choose (vote) yea or nay on Affirmative Action?

The Content of Our Character took Shelby Steele years to write. Some chapters were taken from previously published works of his in the late 1980´s as articles in magazines such as Harper´s, Commentary, New York Times, and American Scholar. His vigor toward integration dates back to the Civil Right´s movement in the 1960´s, in which both of his parents were actively involved.

When asked by C-span journalist Brian Lamb, during an interview for his new book, “A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America” in 1998, how his parents would react, if they were to come back alive, to his opposition to issues such as Affirmative Action, Steele chuckled, “without seeing the evolution, I am sure they would be shocked.” Why would they and others be shocked? Maybe because it is comparatively illogical to be for integration and simultaneously be opposed to Affirmative Action that works toward the goal of integration. (I use the word comparatively because integration and Affirmative Action are not interchangeable. In theory, the results of Affirmative Action yield integration.)

Steele is living proof that this is possible. He contends that Affirmative Action harms Blacks in the long term because it does not guarantee one´s skills and aptitudes will be developed (among other previously mentioned things) in order to keep the position one was given. Although this is one important consideration to the argument, it alone does not provide ample justification for Steele to argue for integration while arguing against Affirmative Action.

I, too, argue for integration, and argue against Affirmative Action. I believe Affirmative Action works. I cannot deny the facts. I do not believe Affirmative Action is adequate, though. I contend a more idealistic form of justice in rectification is needed, one I call, “true rectification." True rectification would first be the act of White North Americans returning all ownership of the ill-acquired land. Second the act of reimbursement of resources including people who were used as a resource of labor. To cite one example, many able bodied males fell cripple and/or died before their primes as a direct result of plowing fields as oxen do (some as late as 1980´s)!! Third, the act of reimbursement of capital, including innovations/inventions lost and/or stolen with the implementation of the slave trades--loss of human capital. I speculate several original ideas never got a chance to flourish--minds were wasted.

Fourth, the act of relinquishing power to the indigenous people from whom it was stolen (Native North Americans, Native Africans, Native Pacific Islanders, to name a few). But an absolute such as these are impossible now days, and are not corollaries of integration. For instance, it would be nearly impossible to displace so many Americans without killing and/or exiling them. Compromise, I charge, is a corollary of integration. Affirmative Action, for example, is not an adequate compromise, in my opinion). What is an adequate compromise? Well, to start, interracial and interfaith marriages are two examples. As far as adequate employment, wealth, and power compromises, I personally have not conferred with enough people to find any without undermining America´s capitalist society.

Finally, in his call-to-action, Steele urges Black people to hold themselves as well as White people accountable for injustices, their misconceptions, their failures, and their successes. The Content of Our Character is a book about introspection. Obstacles get in the way not just for Blacks, but for everyone; from personality conflicts, financial instabilities, emotional instabilities, and plain old fear. These things are real for all humans, at times.

 


"sarah a. gill-branion" <sagill@ilstu.edu>



Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 04:28:45 -0600
Subject: The Content of Our Character (Nichols)
To: POS334-L@H-NET.MSU.EDU
 

From: "Jennifer Nichols" <jnichols@davesworld.net>

Subject: The Content of Our Character (Nichols)

Steele, Shelby. The Content of Our Character. (Harper Perennial, New York: 1990)
Reviewed by: J. Nichols jnichols@davesworld.net

Unenlightened, I would sit in a church, once a week, being molded into a good Catholic child. About half way through the mass, I would hear the priest give the homily. I remember one priest in particular, Father Dietzen, who might possibly be giving a "speech" on the hows and whys of giving 10 % of your salary to the church, to God. He would reference over 200 passages in the Bible where over 30 to 40 men made valuable and viable claims to the 10% theory/"law." He would reiterate this point in innumerous different ways, over and over, into our heads. He was following the principle where if you repeat something over and over in your mind for at least 20 minutes, you will believe it to be true and will subconsciously remember it forever. For one believing in this doctrine, believing that giving to the church is good, shouldn't stating the obvious only once be necessary? The only reason for repeating would be to convert the non-believers, to bring others to your way of thinking. Or maybe it would be to bring yourself to believe a way of thought that you feel is the way you should believe but are having trouble believing.

Shelby Steele is a black Father Dietzen. We are not trying to teach our children the subject of math with the book The Content of Our Character.There is no need for the rote drilling procedures of remembering that 2x2=4. Like the priest, I was immediately taken by Steele's Homily, but after hearing the same thought in 87 different ways or passages, if you will, I became quite bored. Just as I used to fall asleep in church, I was somehow transported to feeling that the author here should be Jim Sleeper based on name alone. Is Mr. Steele trying to convert the non-believers with this account of his many thoughts and feelings or is he trying to convince himself? Does he want our minds to subconsciously remember the innocence versus guilt theory, or is he trying to prove it to himself? And what, you may ask, is he trying to convince himself and all of his readers of?

The main premise of Shelby Steele's book is found on page 15 in the middle of the page. It states that:

"If conditions have worsened for most of us [blacks] as racism receded, then much of the problem must be of our own making. To admit this fully would cause us to lose the innocence we derive from our victimization. And we would jeopardize the entitlement we've always had to challenge society. We are in the off and self-defeating position in which taking responsibility for bettering ourselves feels like a surrender to white power."

This begins the whole theory of who has the innocence and who has the guilt. Those with the innocence hold the power. Steele continuously states that white people hold the power. White people, by remaining silent when a black person speaks up, shouts, attempts to throw blame, hold onto their power and remain in the drivers seat. Steele covers an example of this issue on page four in the second paragraph. I agree with what he is saying, but then one must apply it to anyone who reads this book. Is he stating that white people, in reading this book and agreeing with its principles in silence, are showing a claim to power? I think not. I believe that anyone, especially white people, who read this book, are attempting in some small way to gain more knowledge about racial issues and to enlighten themselves.

Shelby Steele has many enlightening ideas; most consisting of common sense doctrines that wake up the minds that may already believe and unknowingly adhere to his train of thought. He insists upon people being treated as individuals and not generalized into "unfair" categories that demean and degrade different races as a whole. These statements often get caught behind a fence that causes their constant repetition, but are eye opening to say the least for the possibly unenlightened. He shows this parallelism often such as the examples of the dinner guest and the couple in Silicon Valley.

Steele believes that our innocence always inflates us and deflates those we seek power over. He elaborates on this issue on page five when describing the term entitlement. Innocence is equated with entitlement in a way that I feel far stretches the true meaning of the word. I believe that innocence is associated to entitlement only during confrontational situations. He also states on page six that "power defines their [blacks and whites] relations, and power requires innocence, which, in turn, requires racism and racial division." In trying to interpret this phrase, I believe that Steele is attempting to explain that there must be an equal division of power. I interpret this as a misconstruity of terms, of which there are several in this book. I wanted to be there to ask Mr. Steele how power requires innocence, as I do not feel he elaborated on this theory well enough in the book for me to understand.

I cannot help but feel that Shelby Steele is falling to a role of the self-fulfilling prophecy of what others make of him. He complains of how more blacks need to better themselves and move into the middle class tax bracket, yet states that others view him as selfish and inauthentic (page 22) because of his status in this income level. Is he trying to better his race or is he subconsciously trying to bring those in the lower bracket of his race to an inauthentic level?

This type of confusion in Steele's thoughts confuses me throughout the book. He seems to flip back and forth in his feelings about his race and how society can improve in its racial harmony. On page 20, I could not help but want to shout out "Coulda, shoulda, woulda!" Is his guilt from that night promoting his writings today? Is this book somehow convincing him that he did talk to the dinner guests that night? Is this speaking through the chapters of the book somehow absolving Steele from the guilt? And what is this guilt stemming from anyway? Steele often touches on his college days of when he was radical and liberal. He never really focuses on his views, thoughts, and actions during those times in order to give the reader a clear picture of his background. Most importantly, Steele never discusses how, when, and why his conservative transformation came about. This is imperative as one's knowledge, images, and emotions regarding the past have an impact on future actions. With the redundancy of his beliefs in the flip flop world of views, a background such as this may aid in the readers' understanding of how to achieve racial harmony. Steele, with fear, seems to be running from his problems, making justifications for his past through his current writings. I want to change, he seems to be screaming, yet I will accuse the white students on my campus with the color of my skin by asking them what they think of the black leadership on campus. This parallels with the bad attitude he held at a party of late, an attitude he is sorely regretful of now. This attitude at the party, an out of character rant, seems to foretell the content of Steele's character; a split personality working to come into the light of one side of the spectrum. Just admit that you are confused like the rest of us Mr. Steele!

I was quite disappointed in Shelby Steele's comments about his friend who, at the top of his class, did not want to do anything more with his life than fish and relax. Steele's comments were of disappointment, stating that this friend was a waste, as he did not live up to what Steele felt were his potentials. At least this man was happy with his life and content with his character. Steele's writings seem to show discontentment and disapproval at the way his own life has turned out.

Page 43, last paragraph, shows a very unenlightened and ethnocentric view.  Steele does not cover how other cultures perceive the events of the 1960's or the events of today. It is appropriate to speak of a single culture rather than celebrated distinct cultures when the writer does not make broad generalizations about the one culture. Steele seems to be only speaking from his own experience rather than that of an enlightened person when he states that "black skin has more dehumanizing stereotypes associated with it than any other skin color in America, if not the world." What a pompous generalization! I do not see mascots running around at half time sporting black skin, big gold chains, and an Afro wig! Even Aunt Jemima and Little Black Sambo are a part of history, but not the red man who has been so trophied in our nation's capital under the title of the Washington Redskins, not to mention all of the other dehumanizing cities that bring stereotypes to mind in the lives that encounter the world of sports everyday.

Steele does a good job at fashioning the political and economic pressures that influence the knowledge and cultural values of our society. He states that in order to get ahead, get to that middle class status, people must work on themselves. I believe that Steele feels black people are much better off today, but he is still looking toward a future, without affirmative action and all the ills of society that tend to "keep blacks down." These political and economic forces affect the ideas disseminated to society, ideologically managing how blacks and whites interact, according to Joel Spring, author of The American School. This difference in perspectives result in major misunderstandings and a cultural war that continues to the present. The answers to Steele's questions and the readers' questions upon completion of this book may never be answered. The racism that continues today may never be resolved. We do, however, see a trend in multiculturalism that has brought about a number of books on race issues, such as Steele's The Content of Our Character. With the growing desire to read books of this nature, our society shows a step in the right direction.

--

J. Nichols
Illinois State University
Race, Ethnicity, and Social Inequality
POS334 Dr. Gary Klass
Spring 1999
jnichols@davesworld.net

;)--



Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 12:26:36 -0600
To: POS334-L@H-NET.MSU.EDU
From: Nonito P Ong <npong@ilstu.edu>

Steele, Shelby. The Content of Our Character. (Harper Perennial, New York: 1990)
From: Will Ong : : : :
 

Shelby Steele's book "Content of Our Character", deals with the race problem in America from a conservative African-American middle class point of view. Racism is still a problem in our country today, and the purpose of this book is to show that racism isn't the main problem for African-Americans, but the belief that it exists. Shelby Steele does a good job of revealing things that most people would not notice concerning race. After reading this book and hearing what points Steele brings up on racial issues, I thought to myself " you know what, I never really noticed that before, but I do see that all the time". He gives solutions and reasons why racism, race relations, and the current standing of African-Americans is are they are at. He has a unique point of view because he is African-American middle class. However, despite the valid points and issues that are brought up in the book, there are many flaws. I felt one of his biggest flaws were oversimplification of a point. Steele is very critical of his race, but there is reason why. I may not agree completely with the author, but I do understand why he feels this way.

Innocence and guilt are a major point in this book. What Steele is saying that Innocence and guilt can be used as power. If used in the wrong way, this power can have consequences. He feels that sometimes Blacks take advantage of Whites feeling guilty of past white racism by using it to their advantage. For example, the bathroom incident (153) where of one Steele's friends talks another white into giving old black man a big tip by talking about the past sufferings blacks had to go through. Steele thinks that many blacks take the role of being a victim too far. He believes that blacks have heard so many times that they will fail in life and that they will actual take those words seriously. He also adds on that because of that failure thing drilled in their head, blacks don't try as hard as they should. If one race claims itself to be innocent, then it is a gain in power. This way, the race who claims to be innocent can't be called racist or accused of anything horrible.

One of the strengths of this book are the dealing with issues of race. The best chapter in the book which shows this is chapter 8. This chapter is called "The re-coloring of Campus Life" which deals with racial problems on college campuses . It is also the best chapter because most of the people who read this book and review are in college. I like the fact the he shows that there are race problems on College Universities. It's about time someone said it. On (146) Steele insists that black students are not doing themselves any good by having separate dorms, unions, dances, and graduations. He feels that is a step in the wrong direction because this just makes things even more segregated. I agreed with him until about two weeks ago. After hearing some of my African-American classmates explain to everyone in my Political Science class what a Black Student Union is and what it's purpose is, I now have a completely different view of the BSU.

For the record, the Black Student Union at Illinois State University here welcomes all races, which I didn't know. That's something that a lot of people don't know. I know that a lot of minority clubs and fraternities have this image of allowing just on race. I feel that these organizations should make it clear that all are welcome because I bet there a lot of people who just don't know about the all races policy, like myself before.
Another thing I never noticed is that whites students don't have white student unions. After reading and discussing this book, I realize that if there was a white student union, It would be considered racist. I think what Steele fails to mention and realize is that the reason for these organizations is not to segregate themselves, but as something of a group where you go to. On page (53) the author also mentions that blacks students are more comfortable around other blacks students. On a predominantly white campus, I can understand why minorities have these organizations. On page 128, Steele gives many example of how racism existed and still exists on college campuses from University of Michigan to University of Massachusetts. I'll take it even a step further by saying racism in college is reality on a lot more colleges than people think.

Steele discusses stereotypes of black Students on (135) with a African-American student at UCLA. There was a situations where 50 black students came into the lecture hall class late and revived every negative stereotype of blacks. This made the black student very upset. Because other what other students of the same race as him did, now he would be seen the same the same way. Not just blacks, but ALL other minorities are guilty of this crime. In every race, there are a group of people who act out every stereotype that particular race is supposed to have. Then you have those in every race who aren't what TV and the media portray them to be.

Steele brings up points to the reader that many readers would never notice. Now, the examples I am about to give are ones I don't necessarily agree with or disagree with. Steele talks about "objective correlative" on (153). This is just where an event or memory in the present triggers a past event or memory. An example of Correlation is when Steele was in line at a newstand at the airport. The lady working the counter had a southern accent. That accent alone on the women's voice brought back memories of the South to Steele. If someone a retired person who was in the army hears a balloon pop, it could remind him of a battle he was in with many gunshots. We all correlate something. The point here is that we all associate one event with another or one object with another. We do this all the time, but we just don't notice. Then there's the fear of failure for black students. If a white student fails, it is not considered a failure for the whole race. However if a black student fails, it is seen a failure of the whole race. I agree with this observation. Double standards stink.

Chapters 5 and seven dealt with white guilt and affirmative action. These chapters were the most confusing. Steele lost me right away in chapter 7 when he talks about the peter principle and the faustian bargain. When I saw these words, I knew right away that this would be a confusing chapter.

Steele should not assume that everyone knows what these words mean. Affirmative Action is a very complex issue itself. If someone is going to write about it, at least make effort to simply something like this. When Steele makes a point about something, he makes sure the reader knows exactly what he is talking about. In Chapter 7 you can tell the author is against Affirmative Action because it does more harm than good for blacks.

He feels that giving blacks special treatment is just another way saying your not capable of being as successful as whites. He also thinks that Affirmative Action is not doing what it is supposed to be doing which is encourage diversity. Now, it's being used increase racial parity. Steele was upset about the Penn State Program that pays 500 hundred dollars to blacks if they raise their grade from a C- to a C+. This is just another way to imply inferiority to blacks.

Shelby Steele feels the way he does for many reasons. He grew up in the middle class. He is right when saying things like we should work for what we want, everyone has a chance, stuff like that. What he fails to mention is that growing up in bad neighborhood is tough. What is expected for blacks growing up in the lower-class can't be the same expectations for blacks in the middle-class. When Steele talks about Blacks not doing as well in school and standardized tests, he does not mention the factors that inner-city students face. The lack of resources at school, fear of walking to school, or not having faculty that cares can lead to the results Steele is referring to. Steele is very critical of his race because he has seen success, and he only wants the best for his people. From what the author provided in the book of his background, I came to the conclusion that he just hasn't experienced all the other problems lower-class blacks face. Yes he may have experienced the racism part, but from what was said in the book, he never grew up in a poor neighborhood. Any child, regardless of race, can be the smartest person in the world and the hardest worker.

However, none of that matters unless he or she has support from a family and a safe learning environment.



Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 23:58:36 -0800
To: POS334-L@H-NET.MSU.EDU
From: Autumn Pemble <atpembl@ilstu.edu>

Steele, Shelby. A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America, (HarperCollins Publishers, Inc: 1998).
Reviewed by: Autumn Pemble
 

What is today's society like in terms of racial equalities and inequalities? Does Shelby Steele's A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America help one unmask the dark side of racial issues?

Shelbly Steele's A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America confronts many issues regarding race while incorporating thoughts of iconography, affirmative action, multiculturalism, diversity, afro-centrism, group preferences, and victimization. This book is divided into four essays: (1) The Loneliness of the Black Conservative, (2) Wresting With Stigma, (3) Liberal Bias and the Zone of Decency, And (4) The New Sovereignty. These four essays emphasis on main theme; Whites are capable of accomplishing more and feeling better about themselves by victimizing blacks through guilt which may be deliberately of in deliberately achieved. These four essays explore the penalties, fears, and creations of what Shelby Steele calls the second betrayal of black freedom in America-redemption.

The Loneliness of the Black Conservative:

In this essay, Steele examines the challenges, stereotypes, and beliefs of the black conservative. According to Steele, black conservatives are criticized a lot. Liberals tend to view them as traitors and say they have no love for their race. Steele maintains that these are just myths. Steele wants what is best for his race and by being a conservative he believes he is helping what he considers a crisis. For Steele, the concept of victimization paves the way for his ideas.

He believes that blacks are being victimized in a subtle way. For example, he sees white redemption as making blacks helpless. He maintains that whites need to redeem themselves for their past treatment of blacks by implementing policies that allow blacks to make it just because of their skin color. Welfare and affirmative action programs are just a small proportion of the advantages that blacks can have due to their skin color. He argues that these policies are causing a downfall to the black community. Loss of responsibilities, intelligence, and achievements are occurring because blacks know whites will let them slide to where they want to be. This downfall that the blacks are experiencing are helping the whites have the upper hand in different situations. Proposals on racial matters are supposed to fight racial inequalities, but the reformations are actually inhibiting racial equalities from taken place and not fixing the root of the problem. Steele speaks of victimization throughout the book. The inequalities between blacks and whites is due to this victimization and continues to occur. In the 1960's victimization became so powerful that it determined the fate of black people. Victimization began as a structural function, therefore only structural remedies will be able to fix the problem. What separates the black conservative from the liberalist is the idea of racial victimization being perceived as a totalism. According to Steele, victimization should not be viewed in this manner. When blacks do not succeed our society tends to look at the racial circumstances that contributed to their downfall. Instead, people need to make blacks work harder and increase better educators to help them with their problems. Racial inequality may be too often used as the excuse as to why blacks are not performing as well as whites or other groups. I agree with Steele that racial inequalities may not always be the problem. However, I do not know if it should be ignored because some problems may be contributed to these injustices. Also, Steele is against segregation. He thinks that liberals endorsed it, white redemption, and preferential treatments that keep blacks from earning success. According to Steele, conservatism liberates him from white redemption. I feel that Steele has made some strong arguments. However, accusing all liberals to believe in certain ideas is wrong. These generalizations were not supported well throughout the book. Although, certain thoughts may be thought of as liberal features may not be. For example, Steele has said that all liberals supported segregation when I think this would be untrue.

Redemption is the root of the race problem in America. He feels that goals of "diversity" and "multiculturalism" are being undercut because of redemption. These goals are being interrupted by quotas and other such elements to simply make things more accessible to blacks and other minorities. Therefore, democracy is being challenged because people are given privileges due to their skin color and people are not being able to represent themselves because another is defining the problem for them.

Wrestling With Stigma

According to Steele, how we go about solving race-related problems is shaped by the stigmatization of whites, not the actual needs of blacks. Whites are stigmatized as being racists. Racial shame is associated with whites. Since whites are stigmatized as racists, blacks can manipulate them. Thus, blacks gain power by the stigma. Likewise, blacks have been stigmatized as inferior to whites. Therefore, whites may gain power off of that. Because of the stigma associated with whites, our nation's concepts like advancement by merit and an emphasis on individual rights are disregarded. Affirmative action programs and group preferences are changing the whole democracy in America. Our so called reforms have left the black race unchallenged and less motivated to achieve what the white man as the ability to achieve. "Iconography" is created when racial reform only exists for what it depicts, not for what it actually does. Once one is stigmatized, he or she try to reform his or herself by changing their appearances. When this occurs "stigma fighting" is encountered. Because of the stigma, blacks are inferior, slavery and segregation took place in the past. Now "culture preferences" are resulting because of the white stigma as racists. Accordingly, democracy is fading due to theses stigmas and guilt trips.

Liberal Bias and the Zone of Decency

This essay looks at the effects of "group preferences" and exhibits a decency scale that should be followed in our society. Instead of looking to master diversity problems, schools are allowing groups of people in because their races are underrepresented. This raises many issues. Merit is a long standing principle of the American Dream and I, agreeing with Steele, would have to wonder if allowing people to have an education based on skin color only is appropriate. I would have to say no. However, I do feel like, because I am white, blacks are entitled to certain preferences. This Steele would label as "white redemption." I can see Steele's argument that group preferences undermine the abilities of blacks. Yet, I feel they are owed. Steele comments that whites enter the zone of decency by supporting preferences. But in the long run these preferences are inhibiting blacks from advancement and achievement. Therefore, blacks are indirectly victimized by whites.

The New Sovereignty

Due to the civil rights movement, the color of skin could not keep one from entering a certain facility, receiving an equal education, and eating at a particular diner. By the late 1970s, the color of your skin could actually get you into a specific school and guarantee you certain grants and scholarships. Steele acknowledges that college campuses are separated in many ways. They have separate "ethnic" themes, policies, studies, and lounges. Women even have their own organizations and studies. Steele maintains that people should be responsible for themselves and subsequently have their own power. Blacks are not the only ones to suffer from redemptive actions. Other groups like women, Hispanics, and Asians are also being effected. The new sovereignty that is taking place is bringing a power that continues to victimize others.

In conclusion, Steele offers many suggestions to help race-related issues. He is a firm believer in integration. He believes that all people should have the same rights and opportunities. He feels that stigmas should not make us afraid of what is right and impartial and democratic. America symbolizes meritocracy and achievements from those who perform the best. "So what happens today when a white American leader, even of the stature and popular appeal of Ronald Reagan, questions affirmative action on grounds of principle? The Reagan administration, famous for its disbelief in racial preferences, refused to challenge these policies because even this extremely popular president lacked the moral authority as a white to enforce the nation's very best principles-advancement by merit, a single standard of excellence, individual rather than group rights, and the rest (p. 123)."




Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 05:03:20 -0600
Subject: The Content of Our Character (OKelley)

Shelby,Steele. The Content of Our Character, A New Vision of Race in America, (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, New York:1990)

Reviewed by: Eddie O'kelley eokell@ilstu.edu
 

There is no greater topic in America today that causes sides to be drawn and tension raised than the discussion of racism. According to Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary, racism is defined as (1) the notion that ones own ethnic stock is superior. (2) Prejudice or discrimination based on racism. This is the subject that Shelby Steele discusses in his book, "The Content of Our Character," A New Vision of Race in America.

Shelby Steele looks at race in America from a curious and divergent perspective, a view in which he says, "has (also) been a joy to learn what he thinks." Steele suggests that "Innocence is Power" by this he means a feeling of superiority to each other. This is done, he explains, by having each race play the "race card" suggesting they are innocent and are the victim and the other race is responsible for the current situation in America concerning race relations.

The opposite of innocence is guilt, which is then placed on the other race that then can lead to power. Steele feels that whites don't accept this guilt trip that places the blame of blacks being behind socially and economically in today's society on them instead of the actions of their grandparents. Rather they acknowledge the facts of the past, however refuse to accept the blame for the current situation of race in America. A feeling of it's not my fault for what my ancestors did in the past. Steele contends that by passing the buck to the past there then is a feeling of innocence that is felt by the whites of today and that they are now the victims of blacks who are angry about their current situation in our society.

This innocent/guilt relationship is then used to give each race a belief of entitlement in which they can then go after the power that they each feel they rightfully deserve. Shelby Steele sums this up best by saying, " The real problem between races in America is that the races are not just races but competing power groups." This is the first point he stresses in his book.

In exchange for entry into the mainstream Shelby feels that blacks have use two forms of acceptance. One being that of the "bargainer" and that of the other end of the spectrum the "challenger." The bargainer is an individual that has the belief that whites are innocent and good-minded and have the faith that they will prove it to them. A challenger on the other hand believes that if whites are innocent and good-minded, then prove it. One of the biggest "bargainer" Steele says is Bill Cosby, who gives us a version of the African-American dream. This in turn gives whites the ability to witness what some might feel they have accomplished, in showing how a black family can succeed in today's society if you follow the rules. Whites appreciate this and let Cosby into their world only if he does not agitate their innocence. This in turn causes a feeling of a job well done.

Another major point he raises is race-holding, which he feels is one of the most important reasons why blacks have not stepped up to the plate to hit that home run. He explains race-holding as, "a holding as any self description that serves to justify or camouflage a person's fears, weaknesses, and inadequacies." He says blacks use race as a crutch from personal failure, rather than looking at their self for their own weaknesses. He says, this is especially done when blacks enter an environment that they are uncomfortable with such as schools. Steele says that on the first day of the semester, he noticed that he can walk into his classrooms and be sure that the black students on the last day of the semester, a large number of them will be at the bottom of his class way behind any white students of equal or even less ability. This he claims isn't because they are inferior, but rather they use these holdings to ignore individual responsibility and to keep from facing failure while protecting their own self-esteem from being further damaged. Instead of taking the victim role blacks need to face their insecurities and adapt, improvise and overcome their fears.

There are blacks that are successful and have overcome these obstacles such as Mr.Steele himself. However, according to Steele this is few and when these obstacles are overcome, Shelby feels that blacks receive more self doubt from their own "anti-self" which gives the impression of a greater ability to fail. The reasoning behind this that Shelby gives us is that blacks are surprised once they enter into what we will call white America.
This sense of shock is what Shelby calls "Integrated Shock." Steele believes that integrated shock is what gives blacks an inaccurate view of themselves once they are successful. This view is one that says, in order for you to make it, you need help to become successful. Once a black becomes successful he then starts to believe that he is not in touch with his culture anymore. This is supported by what other blacks think and says about the so-called successful blacks that do not give back or are living high on the hog.

There are a few more issues that he discusses in the latter chapters in his book however, I tend to get the same messages as I did in his earlier chapters. Shelby seems to put a spin on the late chapters in his book in which he keeps rewinding as if he has no other direction to go but back again. He was very clear at expressing his views on racism in America today as he sees it. He was convincing and did a superb job in the first half of his book at helping the reader understand his message. Although I found myself going to my dictionary a few times, he caught my attention with his personal stories. Some of his stories reminded me of my Uncle telling his stories of his past, which I am always eager to listen to. I liked how he opened up my mind to a different view of how to look at racism in America. This was his intent for his book he thoughtfully titled it this way and accomplished his goal.

However, though I did not agree with some of the things he said in his interpretation of how race should be viewed. I was displeased at how someone with good intentions and ability such as his could be so blind coming from a background such as his. How could someone with his stature believe that and I quote, "somewhere inside every black is a certain awe at the power and achievement of the white race."? I ask Mr. Steele himself is he in awe of what the white race has done? If so, does he have an ideal of what accomplishments and achievement the black race has done?

Mr. Steele has lost touch in what it is to be black in the disadvantage groups of America today. To live in the inner city ghetto's of the 1990's is different than when he came up. He never had to look over his back wondering if there is going to be a drive by. He never had to think about knowing where his next meal was coming from or if his children are coming home or have they found a better life in the gangs that manifest outside his public housing doors. He never had to wonder about the bars that are on high rises that are intended to keep the tenants safe from outsiders, and then you occasionally wondering if the bars are to keep you locked in, and the outsiders safe from you. No, Mr. Steele has probably had some hard times like all of us but the level for which he speaks is one of a middle class up bringing, and there are great distinctions between his disadvantage up bringing back in the day and those who are disadvantage today.

His thoughts on how blacks need to achieve success today might be good to hear, however many of the disadvantage did not chose to be in their situations in the first place. They are trapped, locked down by a system that from the time they are born have so many shortcomings that getting up and out is nearly impossible. The cards are stacked against them. Our system gives benefits to be poor and in so doing if you try to get out you lose these life's little essentials.

Overall, I respect his opinion and beliefs. I am not convinced though that he really understands what it truly means to be a disadvantage black in America, coming from the ground up like his parents had to. Fortunatly for Mr. Steele they did have this insight so he would be blessed into a higher status than they, this is what he should write about for his next book.

I would really enjoy to reading about how his parents made a better life for him. To me this would be a story in which I believe might help Mr.
Steele see more than just a view on racism from a middle class background.
Also Mr. Steele might then learn of some solutions to the issues he is raising. Who know maybe Mr.Steele might be able to then help others learn how to judge people based on the content of their character.



Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 15:42:25 -0600
Subject: The Content of Our Character (Williams)

Shelby Steele The Content of Our Character (St. Martin's Press, 1990) Reviewed
by Tangela Williams
 

Whites knew slavery, beating and depriving blacks of all equal rights were wrong. They were aware of the harm they caused to the men, women and children of color; whether it was torture, killing or simply degrading them. Yet, only an elite few acted out against these unjust acts. Most whites did not feel guilty then and some still today wish to participate in some form of racism. So has our past given us a reason to make whites feel guilty? According to Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character, blacks are playing on white's guilt because of past racism. Steele insist blacks are clinging to their past as an excuse for not becoming prominent individuals. In his book, he writes about how blacks use excuses for their failures in society and how blacks blame white society for not succeeding in America. He believes blacks are clinging to their race and using past racism as a bargaining technique to advance in the mainstream. He also addressed the issue that blacks can blame the white man for not succeeding but if a white man fails he is responsible for his own actions. Steele devotes a majority of his book explaining how blacks simply feel inferior to whites, because whites have always had the upper hand in society and for so long blacks were not able to participate in achieving the "American Dream". He states,

                "Seeing for innocence pressures blacks to focus on racism and to neglect the individual initiative that would deliver them from proverty - the only thing that finally delivers anyone from proverty. With our eyes on innocence we see racism every where and miss out on oppunity even as we stumble over it." (16)

I personally disagree; I am not interested in making anyone feel guilty for something that was not done to me directly, therefore my focus is not towards being innocent. And neither do I concentrate on racism, but racism still exists so I deal with racism when I have to. Steele noted trying to advocate black power and things of that sort could hinder your chances to advance because you are subjecting yourself to feelings of inferiority and vulnerability. I have always thought the nature of black power or any of the organizations affiliated with blackness was intended to prevent discrimination and educate. Taking into account, that being black is one thing you do not have to publicize. So our (all human descendent) main concentration should be praising God and being successful, for then we would realize no man, woman or child is superior to the other. I believe we are all made in Gods image, therefore we may hold higher position than another person may but there is no superior human being. So if I feel this way, does this mean others also would agree? And maybe the problem actually lies within the profound racism Steele chose to ignore.

Yes, my heart aches terribly when I think of the things my ancestors were denied. Affirmative Action or any other program that is designed to be beneficial to blacks can not justify the pain and suffering blacks have experienced. Considering we are still battling racial issues, there is a necessity for these programs whether someone feels guilty about them or not. Steele argues programs such as affirmative action should not be in affect, because it is another weakening barrier that exposes blacks to vulnerability. However, he says there should be programs that will help blacks succeed, which I agree with. He also speaks on how Asian and blacks show a difference in values. He states how Asians were discriminated against but they came to this country with values that are well suited.

                "Nevertheless, our leadership, and black Americans in general, have woelly neglected the power and importance of these values. Still we must not be too hard on ourselves. New to freedom, it was hard to know the vulnerabilities it would trigger. "(69)

With that thought in mind, is Steele saying blacks do not have the proper morals and values? Steele generates very mixed messages throughout his book. One moment he is saying blacks need to stop waiting on whites to give them something, then near the end of his book he insists that there are programs to strengthen blacks morals and values so they can succeed. I am not sure whose values I am labeled under. In essence, I strive for excellence and take advantage of the opportunities that I am able to have because my ancestors died for them. So, no whites have not given blacks anything. We have worked and died for rights and everything else that was already ours. Despite all the odds of being stripped of our identity, walked over, oppressed, depressed, imprisoned and enslaved we still produced leaders such as Cleopatra, Malcolm X, Nefertiti, Dr. Martin L King Jr., Rebecca Lee, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Betty Shabazz, Dr. Lee Jones, Thurgood Marshall and Jessie Jackson. Therefore, my concern is not with Steele's misrepresentation of the black man but his ignorance about the lack of racism that exists. Racism is devastating and a power weapon, it can also deter one from reaching their goals. For example, let's say I was a president of a company and you had always dreamed of working for it, but I did not want blacks working for me. After seeing an ad in the paper for the position you wanted you stopped by my business acquiring about the job. I then took your resume and told you I would call if a position opened up, you stated you saw the help wanted ad and I said it was an error. So the following week, you saw the same ad and stopped by again, this time I had another lie to tell and this went on and on. Yes you could get another job, but because of my racism I have put a damper on one of your goals. Steele does not realize the strong affect racism has and if you are at the lower class trying to merge into the mainstream and everyone has a sad song for you, what are you to do? Steele urges,

                "Be both an individual and a responsible citizen, understand that the quality of your life will approximately reflect the quality of effort you put into it, know that individual responsibility is the basis of freedom, and that the limitations imposed by fate (whether fair or unfair) are no excuse for passivity. (99)"

I understand and truly agree with Steele but everyone in lower class status is not living in poverty because they choose to be. Regardless if you are black or white, it is much harder for you to get out the ghetto if you are already there. It is easy for someone coming from a middle class background either black or white to have that guidance already. It takes a village to raise a child and when your village is not prosperous the children in that village have no guidance to be prosperous. We must educate and try to elevate our children's conditions. We can not condemn our children for not knowing or not doing because we can only teach our child what we know. Therefore, if the parent does not now, how can we prevent the cycle from repeating itself? If we choose to criticize instead of putting an effort towards demonstrating change, what does that say about us? We must realize you can not judge a person's situation until you have walked in their shoes.

I must say I do agree with Steele to an extent, that there are some blacks (along with other races) that would rather do nothing or get assistance from the government etc. In addition, they may use race as an excuse, but it is not a black thing and nor do all blacks use this as an excuse. You have pitiful individuals in every race, even in the white race, so Steele should not have made such outlandish stereotypical statement. For example, Steele feels like blacks do not work to the best of their ability because of the inferiority complex. To confirm his argument he talked about a black man by the name of Henry, who was working on his P.H.D.. Henry did not want to be a doctor, he choose to do something else, something that he was actually over-certified for, and Steele said he was not doing his best. Did Steele ever once stop to think that maybe this is something Henry wanted to do best or that his goal would not be the same as Steele's? Steele then implies that blacks settle for less and Henry was an example of us doing so.

Steele observed the middle class black as being stuck between their race and their class. Steele concentrates on the middle class and the problems some of the middle class black faces from others blacks. Identity or class, to have one you have to give up the other according to Steele. He states,

                "Status was status apart from the means by which it was achieved, and along with it came certain power- the power to define the terms of access to that status, to say who was black and who was not. If a lower-class black said you were not really "black"-a sellout an Uncle Tom-the judgement was all more devastating because it carried the authority of his status. And this judgement soon enough came to be accepted by many whites as well."

Moreover, regardless how much money you make you are still black, money can not change that mere fact. For example, he said lower class blacks see middle class blacks as sell-outs. I think Steele's definition is a bit twisted, you are not a sell-out because you have succeeded but once you have succeeded do you lose yourself in excelling to someone else expectations. To my knowledge a sell-out is usually someone who doesn't acknowledge his/her own race, once they have gotten into the mainstream. Then they degrade or talk down about their race, because these will gain trust of those in their circle (middle class). Most blacks are proud to claim their black people who are doing something positive. It is those who become successful who want to claim all these other nationalities; Asian; black, white, or whatever suits them. You have a few ignorant people who choose to feel otherwise and speak in that manner.
Maybe it could be a feeling of betrayal they feel, not for someone of color succeeding, but for not giving back to the community.

Steele gives an example of the Cosby show to illustrate the blindness each race tries to demonstrate towards the other. He sees the Cosby show as being appeasing to whites, since the show does not concentrate on racial issues. The show is a form of blacks and whites bargaining, so everyone will be happy, right! He sees it as whites letting Cosby have his own show as long as he does things under their guidelines. He generates to his reader that a black family such as the Cosby's does not exist. He argues there's a large percent of blacks in the lower class level because they are waiting on white's assistance. I interpreted him implying that the Cosby show wasn't your typical black family and that Cosby and himself share a huge amount of similarities. But we see enough negative aspects of blacks living in ghettos, killing and gang banging on television. Therefore, the Cosby show gives a positive aspect of blacks in America. Is that so wrong? I really do not think most black would consider Cosby as a sell-out, considering he has done a tremendous amount for the African American community, but not only that, he works with the youth very closely. Yet for those who are still unsure what a sell-out is, I do not think a comedian (Sa'Mor) could have said it better about the most common form of your typical sell-out, she said,

                "Why is it my brothers that all through college when your financial aid ain't right and you have no money on your meal plan, you stick by a sister so she can feed you, why is it when you are hurting from football practice and you can not do your term paper, so your black girlfriend does it for you, so you want get kicked out of school, why is it your black girlfriend massage your mind and body when you are line (Greek), why is it your black sister you cry on when your mommy died, but as soon as you go professional football, or basketball, you have a white women on your arm, talking about black women are too aggressive, to money hungry, and too controlling, etc. Why is it my brother you forgot who nurtured you, feed you, read to you when you could not hold your book, took care of you when we could barely take care of ourselves. Dame right we are aggressive and controlling, because we have to deal with white women's jealousy, to white men's envy, to your black a$# ignorance, so if we can not stand up for ourselves, no one will. (Sa'Mor- comic view)"

The Content of Our Character written by Shelby Steele is an ongoing realm of how blacks feel inferior to whites and it stops us from achieving our highest potential. Pertaining to black college students; he states,

                "I think they choose to believe in their inferiority, not to fulfill society's prophesy about them, but for the confronts and rationalizations their racial "inferiority" affords them. They hold their race to evade individual responsibility. Their margin of choice scares them, as it does all people. They are naturally intimidated by that eternal tussle between the freedom to act and the responsibility we must take for our actions." (28)

Steele even argues how middle class blacks are looked at differently, how blacks use race as an excuse for not succeeding, and how blacks play on white's guilt. Steele's does not illustrate if he is doing anything to uplift the black race or solve the problems they are facing, nor does he offer any solutions, besides stating blacks must take responsibility for themselves. This book shows a form of hopelessness for black people, it is misleading to those who are already misinformed about blacks. There are a few issues that I agree with Steele on, but I find his stance contradicting at times. One moment he is stating blacks need to take control and then he is saying how we need programs to better ourselves. Steele is definitely right; blacks or anyone shouldn't wait for someone to give them anything. I guess I disagree with the way he presents his information, the stereotypical stance of it. He put blacks in categories, which implies if you are middle class you think and do things like this, if you are lower class you think and do things another way and because you are lower class you are not trying. I could have even been convinced if he used more phases such as, "some blacks", and "a few blacks", things on those lines. But instead I felt like he was being very general to describe blacks and their misfortunes and mistakes. Despite minor accusation, he brought up some very interesting issues and that's why he should have undergone a more personal evaluation, such as; realizing that sometimes it is more there that meets the eye. He could have talked with several people from both the lower and middle class level, asking them questions rather assuming how blacks felt or even how their families are constructed and how they felt about there current situation. He stressed individuality but he must not have took in consideration that maybe people did things because of their individual experience and beliefs.

We all are human therefore we are going to do what ever it takes for us to get ahead, blacks and whites. I do not think people try to use racial guilt from the past as a form of advancing as much as Steele tries to emphasize. I think blacks are concerned more with the racism they deal with on a day to day basis. Will racism ever end, who knows? Black are not the only group that are discriminated against, but we are one of the main groups that get misrepresented through media, books, and talk shows. But despite the profound racism that still exists, despite the number of blacks along with whites that are in ghettos or jail, blacks continue to produce prominent successful individuals. Yes, African Americans must work on their unity and must educate themselves; they must pull their brothers and sisters along the way in order to remain strong in numbers and effective in America. Our flaws should not be race affiliated, because they are human errors that we make as individuals, and therefore no one should label anyone's mistakes as a means of finding flaws in a particular race. Or even perceive the thought that a race feels inferior because of actions of a few people of that race.



Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 18:54:59 -0600

From: "sarah a. gill-branion" <sagill@ilstu.edu>

Subject: Re: The Content of Our Character (Williams)
To: POS334-L@H-NET.MSU.EDU

At 03:42 PM 2/19/99 -0600, you wrote:
>Shelby Steele The Content of Our Character (St. Martin's Press, 1990)
>Reviewed
>by Tangela Williams
>
>Whites knew slavery, beating and depriving blacks of all equal rights were
>wrong. They were aware of the harm they caused to the men, women and
>children of color; whether it was torture, killing or simply degrading
>them. Yet, only an elite few acted out against these unjust acts. Most
>whites did not feel guilty then and some still today wish to participate in
>some form of racism. So has our past given us a reason to make whites feel
>guilty? According to Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character, blacks
>are playing on white's guilt because of past racism. Steele insist blacks
>are clinging to their past as an excuse for not becoming prominent
>individuals. In his book, he writes about how blacks use excuses for their
>failures in society and how blacks blame white society for not succeeding
>in America. He believes blacks are clinging to their race and using past
>racism as a bargaining technique to advance in the mainstream. He also
>addressed the issue that blacks can blame the white man for not succeeding
>but if a white man fails he is responsible for his own actions. Steele
>devotes a majority of his book explaining how blacks simply feel inferior
>to whites, because whites have always had the upper hand in society and for
>so long blacks were not able to participate in achieving the "American
>Dream". He states,
>
> "Seeing for innocence pressures blacks to focus on racism
>and to neglect the individual initiative that would deliver them from
>proverty - the only thing that finally delivers anyone from proverty. With
>our eyes on innocence we see racism every where and miss out on oppunity
>even as we stumble over it." (16)
>
>I personally disagree; I am not interested in making anyone feel guilty for
>something that was not done to me directly, therefore my focus is not
>towards being innocent. And neither do I concentrate on racism, but racism
>still exists so I deal with racism when I have to. Steele noted trying to
>advocate black power and things of that sort could hinder your chances to
>advance because you are subjecting yourself to feelings of inferiority and
>vulnerability. I have always thought the nature of black power or any of
>the organizations affiliated with blackness was intended to prevent
>discrimination and educate. Taking into account, that being black is one
>thing you do not have to publicize. So our (all human descendent) main
>concentration should be praising God and being successful, for then we
>would realize no man, woman or child is superior to the other. I believe
>we are all made in Gods image, therefore we may hold higher position than
>another person may but there is no superior human being. So if I feel this
>way, does this mean others also would agree? And maybe the problem
>actually lies within the profound racism Steele chose to ignore.
>
>Yes, my heart aches terribly when I think of the things my ancestors were
>denied. Affirmative Action or any other program that is designed to be
>beneficial to blacks can not justify the pain and suffering blacks have
>experienced. Considering we are still battling racial issues, there is a
>necessity for these programs whether someone feels guilty about them or
>not. Steele argues programs such as affirmative action should not be in
>affect

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY AFFECT? AFFECT IS SYNONYMOUS WITH INFLUENCE. EFFECT IS SYNONYMOUS WITH RESULT.

, because it is another weakening barrier that exposes blacks to
>vulnerability. However, he says there should be programs that will help
>blacks succeed, which I agree with.

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT WOULD THESE PROGRAMS BE?

He also speaks on how Asian and blacks
>show a difference in values. He states how Asians were discriminated
>against but they came to this country with values that are well suited.
>
> "Nevertheless, our leadership, and black Americans in
>general, have woelly neglected the power and importance of these
>values. Still we must not be too hard on ourselves. New to freedom, it
>was hard to know the vulnerabilities it would trigger. "(69)
>
WHAT ARE THE VALUES THAT STEELE IS IMPLYING?

>With that thought in mind, is Steele saying blacks do not have the proper
>morals and values? Steele generates very mixed messages throughout his
>book. One moment he is saying blacks need to stop waiting on whites to give
>them something, then near the end of his book he insists that there are
>programs

SUCH AS????

to strengthen blacks morals and values so they can succeed. I am
>not sure whose values I am labeled under.

HOLD UP WAIT A MINUTE, YOU JUST SAID EARLIER YOU BELIEVE WE ALL "SHOULD BE PRAISING GOD AND CONCENTRATE ON BEING SUCCESSFUL." YOU ARE VERY CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE. WHY ARE YOU NOT CLEAR ON YOUR CHOSEN VALUES? DON'T YOUR BELIEFS AND VALUES GO HAND IN HAND? IT IS NOT LOGICAL TO SAY WHAT YOU BELIEVE AND THEN SAY YOU DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOUR BELIEFS
PUT (CATEGORIZE) YOU IDEA LOGICALLY.

SEPARATELY, WHAT IS SUCCESS TO YOU? IF IT IS GOD RELATED IN ANY WAY, THEN YOU HAVE BEEN CONCISE IN EXPRESSING YOUR BELIEFS AND VALUES.

In essence, I strive for
>excellence

IN WHAT?

and take advantage of the opportunities that I am able to have
>because my ancestors died for them. So, no whites have not given blacks
>anything. We have worked and died for rights and everything else that was
>already ours. Despite all the odds of being stripped of our identity,
>walked over, oppressed, depressed, imprisoned and enslaved we still
>produced leaders such as Cleopatra, Malcolm X, Nefertiti, Dr. Martin L King
>Jr., Rebecca Lee, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Betty
>Shabazz, Dr. Lee Jones, Thurgood Marshall and Jessie Jackson. Therefore,
>my concern is not with Steele's misrepresentation of the black man but his
>ignorance about the lack of racism that exists. Racism is devastating and a
>power weapon, it can also deter one from reaching their goals. For example,
>let's say I was a president of a company and you had always dreamed of
>working for it, but I did not want blacks working for me. After seeing an
>ad in the paper for the position you wanted you stopped by my business
>acquiring about the job. I then took your resume and told you I would call
>if a position opened up, you stated you saw the help wanted ad and I said
>it was an error. So the following week, you saw the same ad and stopped by
>again, this time I had another lie to tell and this went on and on. Yes
>you could get another job, but because of my racism I have put a damper on
>one of your goals. Steele does not realize the strong affect racism has
>and if you are at the lower class trying to merge into the mainstream and
>everyone has a sad song for you, what are you to do? Steele urges,
>
> "Be both an individual and a responsible citizen,
>understand that the quality of your life will approximately reflect the
>quality of effort you put into it, know that individual responsibility is
>the basis of freedom, and that the limitations imposed by fate (whether
>fair or unfair) are no excuse for passivity. (99)"
>
>I understand and truly agree with Steele but everyone in lower class status
>is not living in poverty because they choose to be. Regardless if you are
>black or white, it is much harder for you to get out the ghetto if you are
>already there. It is easy for someone coming from a middle class
>background either black or white to have that guidance already. It takes a
>village to raise a child and when your village is not prosperous the
>children in that village have no guidance to be prosperous. We must
>educate and try to elevate our children's conditions. We can not condemn
>our children for not knowing or not doing because we can only teach our
>child what we know. Therefore, if the parent does not now, how can we
>prevent the cycle from repeating itself? If we choose to criticize instead
>of putting an effort towards demonstrating change, what does that say about
>us? We must realize you can not judge a person's situation until you have
>walked in their shoes.
>
I READ THE FIRST REVIEW YOU SUBMITTED. THIS CORRECTED COPY IS GREAT!

>I must say I do agree with Steele to an extent, that there are some blacks
>(along with other races) that would rather do nothing or get assistance
>from the government etc. In addition, they may use race as an excuse, but
>it is not a black thing and nor do all blacks use this as an excuse. You
>have pitiful individuals in every race, even in the white race, so Steele
>should not have made such outlandish stereotypical statement. For example,
>Steele feels like blacks do not work to the best of their ability because
>of the inferiority complex. To confirm his argument he talked about a
>black man by the name of Henry, who was working on his P.H.D.. Henry did
>not want to be a doctor, he choose to do something else, something that he
>was actually over-certified for, and Steele said he was not doing his
>best. Did Steele ever once stop to think that maybe this is something
>Henry wanted to do best or that his goal would not be the same as
>Steele's? Steele then implies that blacks settle for less and Henry was an
>example of us doing so.
>
>Steele observed the middle class black as being stuck between their race
>and their class. Steele concentrates on the middle class and the problems
>some of the middle class black faces from others blacks. Identity or
>class, to have one you have to give up the other according to Steele. He
>states,
>
> "Status was status apart from the means by which it was
>achieved, and along with it came certain power- the power to define the
>terms of access to that status, to say who was black and who was not. If a
>lower-class black said you were not really "black"-a sellout an Uncle
>Tom-the judgement was all more devastating because it carried the authority
>of his status. And this judgement soon enough came to be accepted by many
>whites as well."
>
>Moreover, regardless how much money you make you are still black, money can
>not change that mere fact. For example, he said lower class blacks see
>middle class blacks as sell-outs. I think Steele's definition is a bit
>twisted, you are not a sell-out because you have succeeded but once you
>have succeeded do you lose yourself in excelling to someone else
>expectations. To my knowledge a sell-out is usually someone who doesn't
>acknowledge his/her own race, once they have gotten into the
>mainstream. Then they degrade or talk down about their race, because these
>will gain trust of those in their circle (middle class). Most blacks are
>proud to claim their black people who are doing something positive. It is
>those who become successful who want to claim all these other
>nationalities; Asian; black, white, or whatever suits them. You have a few
>ignorant people who choose to feel otherwise and speak in that manner.
>Maybe it could be a feeling of betrayal they feel, not for someone of color
>succeeding, but for not giving back to the community.
>
THIS PARAGRAPH IS WORLDS BETTER THAN THE FIRST ATTEMPT AT EXPRESSING THIS!!!!
HOWEVER THE PLACEMENT OF THE SENTENCE "...ignorant people choose to feel otherwise..." DOES NOT SUPPORT YOUR STATEMENT IN ITS CURRENT LOCATION. I THINK
WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO SAY WAS "Unfortunately,...ignorant people who choose to
feel this way..."

>Steele gives an example of the Cosby show to illustrate the blindness each
>race tries to demonstrate towards the other. He sees the Cosby show as
>being appeasing to whites, since the show does not concentrate on racial
>issues. The show is a form of blacks and whites bargaining, so everyone
>will be happy, right! He sees it as whites letting Cosby have his own show
>as long as he does things under their guidelines. He generates to his
>reader that a black family such as the Cosby's does not exist. He argues
>there's a large percent of blacks in the lower class level because they are
>waiting on white's assistance. I interpreted him implying that the Cosby
>show wasn't your typical black family and that Cosby and himself share a
>huge amount of similarities. But we see enough negative aspects of blacks
>living in ghettos, killing and gang banging on television. Therefore, the
>Cosby show gives a positive aspect of blacks in America. Is that so
>wrong? I really do not think most black would consider Cosby as a
>sell-out, considering he has done a tremendous amount for the African
>American community, but not only that, he works with the youth very
>closely. Yet for those who are still unsure what a sell-out is, I do not
>think a comedian (Sa'Mor) could have said it better about the most common
>form of your typical sell-out, she said,
>
> "Why is it my brothers that all through college when your
>financial aid ain't right and you have no money on your meal plan, you
>stick by a sister so she can feed you, why is it when you are hurting from
>football practice and you can not do your term paper, so your black
>girlfriend does it for you, so you want get kicked out of school, why is it
>your black girlfriend massage your mind and body when you are line (Greek),
>why is it your black sister you cry on when your mommy died, but as soon as
>you go professional football, or basketball, you have a white women on your
>arm, talking about black women are too aggressive, to money hungry, and too
>controlling, etc. Why is it my brother you forgot who nurtured you, feed
>you, read to you when you could not hold your book, took care of you when
>we could barely take care of ourselves. Dame right we are aggressive and
>controlling, because we have to deal with white women's jealousy, to white
>men's envy, to your black a$# ignorance, so if we can not stand up for
>ourselves, no one will. (Sa'Mor- comic view)"
>
YOU JUST HAD TO GET THAT IN THERE. YOU DID SO WELL DEFINING A SELLOUT EARLIER. WHY INCLUDE THE HATRED OF YOUR OWN MIXED SELF? YES, I AM ASSUMING YOU ARE MIXED BECAUSE YOU ARE LIGHT SKINNED. WHY DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF OUT TO BE THE SELLOUT (BY HATING YOUR WHITE HALF) YOU DEFINED SO CLEARLY EARLIER IN THIS REVIEW?
ANYWAY, USING STEREOTYPES OF THE "COMMON TYPICAL SELLOUT" IS INCONSISTENT WITH YOUR ARGUMENT "...so Steele should not have made such outlandish stereotypical statement..." AGAINST USING STEREOTYPES IN THE FIRST PLACE! YOU HAVE DAMAGED YOUR OWN CREDIBILITY NOW, AND JUSTIFIED STEELE'S POSITION.

>The Content of Our Character written by Shelby Steele is an ongoing realm
>of how blacks feel inferior to whites and it stops us from achieving our
>highest potential. Pertaining to black college students; he states,
>
> "I think they choose to believe in their inferiority, not
>to fulfill society's prophesy about them, but for the confronts and
>rationalizations their racial "inferiority" affords them. They hold their
>race to evade individual responsibility. Their margin of choice scares
>them, as it does all people. They are naturally intimidated by that eternal
>tussle between the freedom to act and the responsibility we must take for
>our actions." (28)
>
>Steele even argues how middle class blacks are looked at differently, how
>blacks use race as an excuse for not succeeding, and how blacks play on
>white's guilt. Steele's does not illustrate if he is doing anything to
>uplift the black race or solve the problems they are facing, nor does he
>offer any solutions, besides stating blacks must take responsibility for
>themselves. This book shows a form of hopelessness for black people, it is
>misleading to those who are already misinformed about blacks. There are a
>few issues that I agree with Steele on, but I find his stance contradicting
>at times. One moment he is stating blacks need to take control and then he
>is saying how we need programs to better ourselves. Steele is definitely
>right; blacks or anyone shouldn't wait for someone to give them
>anything. I guess I disagree with the way he presents his information, the
>stereotypical stance of it. He put blacks in categories, which implies if
>you are middle class you think and do things like this, if you are lower
>class you think and do things another way and because you are lower class
>you are not trying. I could have even been convinced if he used more phases
>such as, "some blacks", and "a few blacks", things on those lines. But
>instead I felt like he was being very general to describe blacks and their
>misfortunes and mistakes. Despite minor accusation, he brought up some very
>interesting issues and that's why he should have undergone a more personal
>evaluation, such as; realizing that sometimes it is more there that meets
>the eye. He could have talked with several people from both the lower and
>middle class level, asking them questions rather assuming how blacks felt
>or even how their families are constructed and how they felt about there
>current situation. He stressed individuality but he must not have took in
>consideration that maybe people did things because of their individual
>experience and beliefs.
>
>We all are human therefore we are going to do what ever it takes for us to
>get ahead, blacks and whites. I do not think people try to use racial
>guilt from the past as a form of advancing as much as Steele tries to
>emphasize. I think blacks are concerned more with the racism they deal
>with on a day to day basis.

CONCERNED WITH RACISM ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS MORE THAN WHAT? SUCCESS? THAT IS STEELE'S WHOLE POINT.

  Will racism ever end, who knows? Black are
>not the only group that are discriminated against, but we are one of the
>main groups that get misrepresented through media, books, and talk
>shows. But despite the profound racism that still exists, despite the
>number of blacks along with whites that are in ghettos or jail, blacks
>continue to produce prominent successful individuals. Yes, African
>Americans must work on their unity and must educate themselves; they must
>pull

AGAIN, STEELE'S POINT... THE PULLING INSTEAD OF INDIVIDUAL ACTION.

their brothers and sisters along the way in order to remain strong in
>numbers and effective in America. Our flaws should not be race affiliated,
>because they are human errors that we make as individuals, and therefore no
>one should label anyone's mistakes as a means of finding flaws in a
>particular race. Or even perceive the thought that a race feels inferior
>because of actions of a few people of that race.
>
I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU MEAN THIS IN YOUR HEART OF HEARTS BECAUSE YOU AGREE WITH "SA'MOR."
WE HAVE SPOKEN OUTSIDE OF CLASS. BASED ON OUR CONVERSATION, I THINK YOU KNOW WHERE I AM COMING FROM. I WELCOME ANOTHER DIALOGUE.
-SARAH



Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 21:25:50 -0600
From: Tangela Williams <trwilli@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Re: The Content of Our Character (Williams)

THANKS SARAH FOR YOUR INPUT! I ANSWERED ANY QUESTIONS YOU HAD BELOW, THANKS AGAIN....

On Fri, 19 Feb 1999, sarah a. gill-branion wrote:

> At 03:42 PM 2/19/99 -0600, you wrote:

> >Shelby Steele The Content of Our Character (St. Martin's Press, 1990)
> >Reviewed
> >by Tangela Williams
> >
> >Whites knew slavery, beating and depriving blacks of all equal rights were
> >wrong. They were aware of the harm they caused to the men, women and
> >children of color; whether it was torture, killing or simply degrading
> >them. Yet, only an elite few acted out against these unjust acts. Most
> >whites did not feel guilty then and some still today wish to participate in
> >some form of racism. So has our past given us a reason to make whites feel
> >guilty? According to Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character, blacks
> >are playing on white's guilt because of past racism. Steele insist blacks
> >are clinging to their past as an excuse for not becoming prominent
> >individuals. In his book, he writes about how blacks use excuses for their
> >failures in society and how blacks blame white society for not succeeding
> >in America. He believes blacks are clinging to their race and using past
> >racism as a bargaining technique to advance in the mainstream. He also
> >addressed the issue that blacks can blame the white man for not succeeding
> >but if a white man fails he is responsible for his own actions. Steele
> >devotes a majority of his book explaining how blacks simply feel inferior
> >to whites, because whites have always had the upper hand in society and for
> >so long blacks were not able to participate in achieving the "American
> >Dream". He states,
> >
> > "Seeing for innocence pressures blacks to focus on racism
> >and to neglect the individual initiative that would deliver them from
> >proverty - the only thing that finally delivers anyone from proverty. With
> >our eyes on innocence we see racism every where and miss out on oppunity
> >even as we stumble over it." (16)
> >
> >I personally disagree; I am not interested in making anyone feel guilty for
> >something that was not done to me directly, therefore my focus is not
> >towards being innocent. And neither do I concentrate on racism, but racism
> >still exists so I deal with racism when I have to. Steele noted trying to
> >advocate black power and things of that sort could hinder your chances to
> >advance because you are subjecting yourself to feelings of inferiority and
> >vulnerability. I have always thought the nature of black power or any of
> >the organizations affiliated with blackness was intended to prevent
> >discrimination and educate. Taking into account, that being black is one
> >thing you do not have to publicize. So our (all human descendent) main
> >concentration should be praising God and being successful, for then we
> >would realize no man, woman or child is superior to the other. I believe
> >we are all made in Gods image, therefore we may hold higher position than
> >another person may but there is no superior human being. So if I feel this
> >way, does this mean others also would agree? And maybe the problem
> >actually lies within the profound racism Steele chose to ignore.
> >
> >Yes, my heart aches terribly when I think of the things my ancestors were
> >denied. Affirmative Action or any other program that is designed to be
> >beneficial to blacks can not justify the pain and suffering blacks have
> >experienced. Considering we are still battling racial issues, there is a
> >necessity for these programs whether someone feels guilty about them or
> >not. Steele argues programs such as affirmative action should not be in
> >affect
>
> WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY AFFECT? AFFECT IS SYNONYMOUS WITH INFLUENCE. EFFECT IS
> SYNONYMOUS WITH RESULT.

> !!!!YOU ARE CORRECT, I MADE A GRAMMAR ERROR.

> , because it is another weakening barrier that exposes blacks to
> >vulnerability. However, he says there should be programs that will help
> >blacks succeed, which I agree with.
>
> IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT WOULD THESE PROGRAMS BE?
>
> He also speaks on how Asian and blacks
> >show a difference in values. He states how Asians were discriminated
> >against but they came to this country with values that are well suited.
> >
> > "Nevertheless, our leadership, and black Americans in
> >general, have woelly neglected the power and importance of these
> >values. Still we must not be too hard on ourselves. New to freedom, it
> >was hard to know the vulnerabilities it would trigger. "(69)
> >
> WHAT ARE THE VALUES THAT STEELE IS IMPLYING?

  !!!!THAT IS THE SAME QUESTION I HAVE, I AM NOT QUITE SURE WHAT HE MEANS BY WELL SUITED VALUES, BUT EVIDENTLY HE DOES NOT FEEL BLACKS HAS THESE WELL SUITED VALUES, THAT IS WHY THE SENTENCE FOLLOW AS IT DOES.
 >
> >With that thought in mind, is Steele saying blacks do not have the proper
> >morals and values? Steele generates very mixed messages throughout his
> >book. One moment he is saying blacks need to stop waiting on whites to give
> >them something, then near the end of his book he insists that there are
> >programs
>
> SUCH AS????

  !!!!AT THIS TIME I DO NOT HAVE THE BOOK WITH ME, I AM CURRENTLY AT WORK AN CHECKED MY E-MAIL AND I SAW YOUR MESSAGE, SO I WAS VERY ANCIOUS TO REPLY, BUT I WILL DEFIANTLY GET BACK TO YOU....
  >
> to strengthen blacks morals and values so they can succeed. I am
> >not sure whose values I am labeled under.
>
> HOLD UP WAIT A MINUTE, YOU JUST SAID EARLIER YOU BELIEVE WE ALL "SHOULD BE
> PRAISING GOD AND CONCENTRATE ON BEING SUCCESSFUL."
> YOU ARE VERY CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE. WHY ARE YOU NOT CLEAR ON YOUR
> CHOSEN VALUES? DON'T YOUR BELIEFS AND VALUES GO HAND IN HAND? IT IS NOT
> LOGICAL TO SAY WHAT YOU BELIEVE AND THEN SAY YOU DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOUR
> BELIEFS
> PUT (CATEGORIZE) YOU IDEA LOGICALLY.
>
> SEPARATELY, WHAT IS SUCCESS TO YOU? IF IT IS GOD RELATED IN ANY WAY, THEN YOU
> HAVE BEEN CONCISE IN EXPRESSING YOUR BELIEFS AND VALUES.
>
  !!!!NOW YOU ARE MISTAKEN, BEING LABELLED IN A VERB CONTEXT MEAN TO AFFIX A LABEL TO. THEREFORE, I CAN LABEL SOMETHING AND BE INCORRECT. MY STATEMENT WAS PERTAINING TO STEELE'S DISTINCTION BETWEEN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND ASIAN VALUES. SOCIETY TENDS TO LABEL US REGARDLESS WHO WE ARE OR WHAT WE ARE DOING, AND I BELIEVE EXCACTLY WHAT I SAID HOWEVER WE ARE LABELLED FOR VARIOUS REASONS THAT IS WHY I SAID, "I AM NOT SURE WHOSE VALUES I AM LABELLED UNDER", MAYBE YOU ARE MISSING THAT WORD (LABELLED) BUT I COULD LABEL YOU BECAUSE OF A GESTURE OR ACTION YOU DID, BUT DOES THAT NECCESARY SAY THE LABEL I AFFIXED TO YOU WAS ACCURATE? SUCCESS IS PROSPERITY, WHETHER YOU WISH TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL IN BEING THE BEST MOTHER, FATHER, TEACHER, DOCTOR, GARBAGE MAN/WOMAN OR WHATEVER IT IS, THEN THAT IS SUCCESS, BUT I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU CAN HAVE SUCCESS WITHOUT GOD AND YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DISAGREE!!!!

 > In essence, I
strive for > >excellence > > IN WHAT?

   EXCELLENCE IN WHATEVER I CHOOSE TO DO, IF I AM GOING TO TUTOR CHILDREN, IF I CHOSE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT OF A COMPANY OR ANYTHING, I AM GOING TO PUT MY ALL INTO THAT AND WORK TOWARDS BEING EXCELLENT, I AM GOING TO PUSH MYSELF TO THE MAXIUM OF WHAT I HAVE ALREADY SET MY STANDARDS FOR. THAT IS WHY "I STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE" >
> and take advantage of the opportunities that I am able to have
> >because my ancestors died for them. So, no whites have not given blacks
> >anything. We have worked and died for rights and everything else that was
> >already ours. Despite all the odds of being stripped of our identity,
> >walked over, oppressed, depressed, imprisoned and enslaved we still
> >produced leaders such as Cleopatra, Malcolm X, Nefertiti, Dr. Martin L King
> >Jr., Rebecca Lee, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Betty
> >Shabazz, Dr. Lee Jones, Thurgood Marshall and Jessie Jackson. Therefore,
> >my concern is not with Steele's misrepresentation of the black man but his
> >ignorance about the lack of racism that exists. Racism is devastating and a
> >power weapon, it can also deter one from reaching their goals. For example,
> >let's say I was a president of a company and you had always dreamed of
> >working for it, but I did not want blacks working for me. After seeing an
> >ad in the paper for the position you wanted you stopped by my business
> >acquiring about the job. I then took your resume and told you I would call
> >if a position opened up, you stated you saw the help wanted ad and I said
> >it was an error. So the following week, you saw the same ad and stopped by
> >again, this time I had another lie to tell and this went on and on. Yes
> >you could get another job, but because of my racism I have put a damper on
> >one of your goals. Steele does not realize the strong affect racism has
> >and if you are at the lower class trying to merge into the mainstream and
> >everyone has a sad song for you, what are you to do? Steele urges,
> >
> > "Be both an individual and a responsible citizen,
> >understand that the quality of your life will approximately reflect the
> >quality of effort you put into it, know that individual responsibility is
> >the basis of freedom, and that the limitations imposed by fate (whether
> >fair or unfair) are no excuse for passivity. (99)"
> >
> >I understand and truly agree with Steele but everyone in lower class status
> >is not living in poverty because they choose to be. Regardless if you are
> >black or white, it is much harder for you to get out the ghetto if you are
> >already there. It is easy for someone coming from a middle class
> >background either black or white to have that guidance already. It takes a
> >village to raise a child and when your village is not prosperous the
> >children in that village have no guidance to be prosperous. We must
> >educate and try to elevate our children's conditions. We can not condemn
> >our children for not knowing or not doing because we can only teach our
> >child what we know. Therefore, if the parent does not now, how can we
> >prevent the cycle from repeating itself? If we choose to criticize instead
> >of putting an effort towards demonstrating change, what does that say about
> >us? We must realize you can not judge a person's situation until you have
> >walked in their shoes.
> >
> I READ THE FIRST REVIEW YOU SUBMITTED. THIS CORRECTED COPY IS GREAT!
>
> >I must say I do agree with Steele to an extent, that there are some blacks
> >(along with other races) that would rather do nothing or get assistance
> >from the government etc. In addition, they may use race as an excuse, but
> >it is not a black thing and nor do all blacks use this as an excuse. You
> >have pitiful individuals in every race, even in the white race, so Steele
> >should not have made such outlandish stereotypical statement. For example,
> >Steele feels like blacks do not work to the best of their ability because
> >of the inferiority complex. To confirm his argument he talked about a
> >black man by the name of Henry, who was working on his P.H.D.. Henry did
> >not want to be a doctor, he choose to do something else, something that he
> >was actually over-certified for, and Steele said he was not doing his
> >best. Did Steele ever once stop to think that maybe this is something
> >Henry wanted to do best or that his goal would not be the same as
> >Steele's? Steele then implies that blacks settle for less and Henry was an
> >example of us doing so.
> >
> >Steele observed the middle class black as being stuck between their race
> >and their class. Steele concentrates on the middle class and the problems
> >some of the middle class black faces from others blacks. Identity or
> >class, to have one you have to give up the other according to Steele. He
> >states,
> >
> > "Status was status apart from the means by which it was
> >achieved, and along with it came certain power- the power to define the
> >terms of access to that status, to say who was black and who was not. If a
> >lower-class black said you were not really "black"-a sellout an Uncle
> >Tom-the judgement was all more devastating because it carried the authority
> >of his status. And this judgement soon enough came to be accepted by many
> >whites as well."
> >
> >Moreover, regardless how much money you make you are still black, money can
> >not change that mere fact. For example, he said lower class blacks see
> >middle class blacks as sell-outs. I think Steele's definition is a bit
> >twisted, you are not a sell-out because you have succeeded but once you
> >have succeeded do you lose yourself in excelling to someone else
> >expectations. To my knowledge a sell-out is usually someone who doesn't
> >acknowledge his/her own race, once they have gotten into the
> >mainstream. Then they degrade or talk down about their race, because these
> >will gain trust of those in their circle (middle class). Most blacks are
> >proud to claim their black people who are doing something positive. It is
> >those who become successful who want to claim all these other
> >nationalities; Asian; black, white, or whatever suits them. You have a few
> >ignorant people who choose to feel otherwise and speak in that manner.
> >Maybe it could be a feeling of betrayal they feel, not for someone of color
> >succeeding, but for not giving back to the community.
> >
> THIS PARAGRAPH IS WORLDS BETTER THAN THE FIRST ATTEMPT AT EXPRESSING
> THIS!!!!

  !!!!THANKS A LOT.

> HOWEVER THE PLACEMENT OF THE SENTENCE "...ignorant people choose to feel
> otherwise..." DOES NOT SUPPORT YOUR STATEMENT IN ITS CURRENT LOCATION. I
> THINK
> WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO SAY WAS "Unfortunately,...ignorant people who
> choose to
> feel this way..."
>
> >Steele gives an example of the Cosby show to illustrate the blindness each
> >race tries to demonstrate towards the other. He sees the Cosby show as
> >being appeasing to whites, since the show does not concentrate on racial
> >issues. The show is a form of blacks and whites bargaining, so everyone
> >will be happy, right! He sees it as whites letting Cosby have his own show
> >as long as he does things under their guidelines. He generates to his
> >reader that a black family such as the Cosby's does not exist. He argues
> >there's a large percent of blacks in the lower class level because they are
> >waiting on white's assistance. I interpreted him implying that the Cosby
> >show wasn't your typical black family and that Cosby and himself share a
> >huge amount of similarities. But we see enough negative aspects of blacks
> >living in ghettos, killing and gang banging on television. Therefore, the
> >Cosby show gives a positive aspect of blacks in America. Is that so
> >wrong? I really do not think most black would consider Cosby as a
> >sell-out, considering he has done a tremendous amount for the African
> >American community, but not only that, he works with the youth very
> >closely. Yet for those who are still unsure what a sell-out is, I do not
> >think a comedian (Sa'Mor) could have said it better about the most common
> >form of your typical sell-out, she said,
> >
> > "Why is it my brothers that all through college when your
> >financial aid ain't right and you have no money on your meal plan, you
> >stick by a sister so she can feed you, why is it when you are hurting from
> >football practice and you can not do your term paper, so your black
> >girlfriend does it for you, so you want get kicked out of school, why is it
> >your black girlfriend massage your mind and body when you are line (Greek),
> >why is it your black sister you cry on when your mommy died, but as soon as
> >you go professional football, or basketball, you have a white women on your
> >arm, talking about black women are too aggressive, to money hungry, and too
> >controlling, etc. Why is it my brother you forgot who nurtured you, feed
> >you, read to you when you could not hold your book, took care of you when
> >we could barely take care of ourselves. Dame right we are aggressive and
> >controlling, because we have to deal with white women's jealousy, to white
> >men's envy, to your black a$# ignorance, so if we can not stand up for
> >ourselves, no one will. (Sa'Mor- comic view)"
> >
> YOU JUST HAD TO GET THAT IN THERE. YOU DID SO WELL DEFINING A SELLOUT
> EARLIER. WHY INCLUDE THE HATRED OF YOUR OWN MIXED SELF? YES, I AM ASSUMING
> YOU ARE MIXED BECAUSE YOU ARE LIGHT SKINNED. WHY DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF OUT TO
> BE THE SELLOUT (BY HATING YOUR WHITE HALF) YOU DEFINED SO CLEARLY EARLIER IN
> THIS REVIEW?

  !!!!CUTE COMMENT, HATRED IS SUCH A HARSH WORD, SELLOUT, NO NOW YOU PROVED MY POINT SWEETIE, YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT A SELL-OUT IS. I GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE AND NOW I AM "HATING MY WHITE HALF OH DON'T LET ME FORGET I AM MIXED BECAUSE I AM LIGHT SKINNED" SWEETIE MY GRANDFATHER IS MY COMPLEXTION, BLUE EYES, WITH THE SAME GRADE OF HAIR AS MYSELF, MY GRANDMOTHER IS A PRETTY DARK BROWN, MY MOTHER ONCE AGAIN HAS MY SAME SKIN TONE, MY FATHER IS A DEEP CARMEL, MY FATHER, MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER AND GRANDFATHER HAS ALWAYS CONSIDERED THEMSELVES AS AFRICAN AMERICAN, WE(BLACKS AND WHITES AND EVERYONE ELSE) ALL KNOW IF WE DIG DEEP DOWN IN OUR ROOTS WE ARE ALL MIXED WITH SOMETHING, BUT I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT A WHITE HALF TO EVEN HATE A WHITE HALF OF ANYTHING, BUT I AM CURIOUS HOW AM I A SELLOUT? LET GET PHILOSPHICAL FOR A MINUTE, WE ALL WERE ONE SPECIS BUT OF COURSE MAN SINNED AND GOD SPREADED US THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSE, WE STARTED TO ADAPT TO OUR ENVIROMENTS, SPEAKING DIFFERENT LANGUAGES, SKIN TONES CHANGING AND SO ON, SO WHOSE MIXED? WELL THAT'S LOOKING AT THINGS IN A WHOLE OTHER ASPECT, BUT TO SOOTHE YOUR HEART I DO NOT HATE ANYTHING OR ANYONE, AND REALLY NOT MYSELF. BUT MOVING ON, TELL ME OF YOUR DEFINITION OF SELL-OUT. ALSO THAT IS WHAT MOST PEOPLE THINK THAT IS YOUR TYPICAL SELL-OUT COMING FROM BLACK PEOPLE AND NO ALL BLACK PEOPLE MAY NOT FEEL THAT WAY, BUT I ENCOURAGE YOU TO FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF, THE NEXT TEN BLACKS YOU SEE ASK THEM WHAT DO THEY THINK A SELL-OUT IS? BUT IT WAS AN EXAMPLE, WOULD YOU OR WOULDN'T YOU AGREE?

USING STEREOTYPES OF THE "COMMON TYPICAL SELLOUT" IS INCONSISTENT WITH
> YOUR ARGUMENT "...so Steele should not have made such outlandish stereotypical
> statement..." AGAINST USING STEREOTYPES IN THE FIRST PLACE! YOU HAVE DAMAGED
> YOUR OWN CREDIBILITY NOW, AND JUSTIFIED STEELE'S POSITION.
>
> >The Content of Our Character written by Shelby Steele is an ongoing realm
> >of how blacks feel inferior to whites and it stops us from achieving our
> >highest potential. Pertaining to black college students; he states,
> >
> > "I think they choose to believe in their inferiority, not
> >to fulfill society's prophesy about them, but for the confronts and
> >rationalizations their racial "inferiority" affords them. They hold their
> >race to evade individual responsibility. Their margin of choice scares
> >them, as it does all people. They are naturally intimidated by that eternal
> >tussle between the freedom to act and the responsibility we must take for
> >our actions." (28)
> >
> >Steele even argues how middle class blacks are looked at differently, how
> >blacks use race as an excuse for not succeeding, and how blacks play on
> >white's guilt. Steele's does not illustrate if he is doing anything to
> >uplift the black race or solve the problems they are facing, nor does he
> >offer any solutions, besides stating blacks must take responsibility for
> >themselves. This book shows a form of hopelessness for black people, it is
> >misleading to those who are already misinformed about blacks. There are a
> >few issues that I agree with Steele on, but I find his stance contradicting
> >at times. One moment he is stating blacks need to take control and then he
> >is saying how we need programs to better ourselves. Steele is definitely
> >right; blacks or anyone shouldn't wait for someone to give them
> >anything. I guess I disagree with the way he presents his information, the
> >stereotypical stance of it. He put blacks in categories, which implies if
> >you are middle class you think and do things like this, if you are lower
> >class you think and do things another way and because you are lower class
> >you are not trying. I could have even been convinced if he used more phases
> >such as, "some blacks", and "a few blacks", things on those lines. But
> >instead I felt like he was being very general to describe blacks and their
> >misfortunes and mistakes. Despite minor accusation, he brought up some very
> >interesting issues and that's why he should have undergone a more personal
> >evaluation, such as; realizing that sometimes it is more there that meets
> >the eye. He could have talked with several people from both the lower and
> >middle class level, asking them questions rather assuming how blacks felt
> >or even how their families are constructed and how they felt about there
> >current situation. He stressed individuality but he must not have took in
> >consideration that maybe people did things because of their individual
> >experience and beliefs.
> >
> >We all are human therefore we are going to do what ever it takes for us to
> >get ahead, blacks and whites. I do not think people try to use racial
> >guilt from the past as a form of advancing as much as Steele tries to
> >emphasize. I think blacks are concerned more with the racism they deal
> >with on a day to day basis.
>
> CONCERNED WITH RACISM ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS MORE THAN WHAT? SUCCESS? THAT IS
> STEELE'S WHOLE POINT.
>
  !!!!MORE THAN THEN BEING INFERIOR, YOU HAVE YOUR OPINION WHAT YOU THOUGHT STEELE POINTS WERE AND I HAVE MINE, YES STEELE THOUGHT BLACK SHOULD BE SUCCESSFUL BUT HE THOUGHT BLACKS WERE NOT BECOMING SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE THEY CONCENTRATED ON RACISM, INFERIOR THOUGHTS AND SO ON.
 >
Will racism ever end, who knows? Black are
> >not the only group that are discriminated against, but we are one of the
> >main groups that get misrepresented through media, books, and talk
> >shows. But despite the profound racism that still exists, despite the
> >number of blacks along with whites that are in ghettos or jail, blacks
> >continue to produce prominent successful individuals. Yes, African
> >Americans must work on their unity and must educate themselves; they must
> >pull

>
> AGAIN, STEELE'S POINT... THE PULLING INSTEAD OF INDIVIDUAL ACTION.

  !!!!UNITY AMONGST THERE FAMILIES, STRESSING THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION AND NOT ONLY THE EDUCATION THAT IS TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS, BUT PICKING UP OTHER BOOKS AND RESEARCHING FOR THEMSELVES. NOT TO STEP ON ANYONE ELSE TO BE SUCCESSFUL. NOT TO BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE AND LEND A HELPING HAND TO THOSE IN NEED. (BLACK, WHITE, ASIAN, LATINO, ETC.) TEACHING THEM TO BE ABLE TO DEAL WITH THIS CORRUPT SOCIETY.
TEACHING THEM INDIVIDUALITY, CONSIDERING YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A TRACK STAR BECAUSE YOUR PARENTS ARE ONE, OR LETTING THEM NOW JUST BECAUSE YOU AND YOUR BROTHER ARE TWINS THAT YOU WILL HAVE YOUR DIFFERENCES. THAT IS TEACHING INDIVIDUALITY, BUT BEING A INDIVIDUAL DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD NOT KNOW YOUR HERITAGE, AND WITH AMERICA'S HISTORY NOTHING IS WRONG WITH TRYING TO HELP YOUR SISTER AND BROTHER IF YOU SEE THEM STRUGGLING, THAT IS NOT SAYING YOU FELL INFERIOR OR YOU ARE TRYING TO RACE-HOLD, THAT MEANS YOU ARE WORKING ON CHANGE, POSITIVE CHANGE.

> their brothers and sisters along the way in order to remain strong in
> >numbers and effective in America. Our flaws should not be race affiliated,
> >because they are human errors that we make as individuals, and therefore no
> >one should label anyone's mistakes as a means of finding flaws in a
> >particular race. Or even perceive the thought that a race feels inferior
> >because of actions of a few people of that race.
> >
> I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU MEAN THIS IN YOUR HEART OF HEARTS BECAUSE YOU AGREE WITH
> "SA'MOR."
> WE HAVE SPOKEN OUTSIDE OF CLASS. BASED ON OUR CONVERSATION, I THINK YOU KNOW
> WHERE I AM COMING FROM. I WELCOME ANOTHER DIALOGUE.
> -SARAH

  !!!!SARAH, NOW YOU HAVE TOOK IT TO THE EXTREME, TO TELL, ME WHAT I BELIEVE ANDD BELIEVE BASED ON A CONVERSATION THAT WE HAD ABOUT THE STRUCTURE OF THE CLOSE, HOW WE FELT ABOUT THE BOOK AND CHILDREN, NOT ONCE WERE MY BELIEFS AS FAR AS AFRICAN AMERICANS AND WHITE ARE CONCERNED WAS ADDRESSED I JUDGE YOU ACCORDING TO WHAT YOU DO, I JUDGE MY TEACHER, PEERS MOTHER, AUNT, WNCLE, BROTHER, ETC... ACCORDING TO WHAT THEY DO, NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE BLACK OR WHITE. AND WHO SAID I AGREE WITH SA'MOR, I DON'T BECAUSE NOT ALL SUCCESSFUL BLACK MEN OR WOMEN DATE ANOTHER RACE, AND THEN THRE ARE THOSE WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL WHO DATE OUT THEIR RACE BUT STILL KEEEP IN REAL, BUT THERE ARE THOSE WHO MAKE IT SUCCESSFUL THEN DEGRADE THEIR OWN RACE, BUT NOT ALL BLACK MEN/WOMEN DATE OUT THEIR RACE.
BUT I AM GOING TO KEEP IN REAL WITH YOU, BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE ALL OUR DOWNFALLS COME IN, BECAUSE WE ARE TO BUSY TRYING TO SUGAR-COAT THINGS, EVERYONE HAS THEIR PREJUDICE, WHETHER IT IS NOT LIKING BLACK OR WHITES OR FAT PEOPLE OR WHAT WE CONSIDERING NOT SO ATTRACTIVE(UGLY), BUT YOU HAVE TO BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND THOSE AROUND YOU, SO IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT I BELIEVE ON THAT TOPIC, I HAVE STATED ABOVE, BUT IF IT IS ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO KNOW JUST ASK, I AM A VERY OPEN AND HONEST PERSON. THANKS AGAIN, I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU. TANGELA WILLIAMS