At libertylawsite.org, W.B. Allen reviews a new book by Shelby Steele:
Steele focuses on the rise of the paternalistic state, with the reaction to racial polarization as the main generator of that state. Written as a series of reflections on moments in his life and career, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country illustrates how, initially, the problems of racial discrimination engendered excuses for patterns of racial exclusion…. The fact that American Blacks were the victims of racial exclusion became the basis for erecting a victims’ protection regime that closed instead of opening the doors to full Black participation as responsible individuals in American society….
I came to appreciate why this particular book struck me so differently from Steele’s other works…. I read it once, then twice, then a third time before it hit me: The account of how this writer and thinker came to a frank embrace of conservatism was a kind of weaving, and we his readers learn how much he was a part of the warp and woof of American national life during a very trying period of the national existence. Tempted by Black radicalism, resentful of race hypocrisy, and outraged by the national sins, he skated nearly into the oblivion of victimization.
But Shelby Steele rose from that miasma on the strength of a healthy streak of self-respect, which made the lure of freedom stronger still.
In his words, “Only human initiative is transformative, and it is an eternal arrogance of the Left to assume that government can somehow engineer or inspire or manipulate transformation.”