Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Shelby Steele Surprised Me

Shelby Steele is one of the bright lights among blacks when it comes to recognizing that the empowerment of blacks in the U.S. will be accomplished by the repudiation of the entitlement mentality that has shackled a portion of blacks to poverty. Referring to the misery of blacks as a result of hurricane Katrina, Steele stated, “I did not like my people being seen this way.”

My people? It did not occur to me that Steele, who has his act so squared away, would think of blacks as his people. If it were not for the fact that Steele made the comment, I would have not seen any reason to point out that he is black. I am white and I don’t think of whites as my people. I think of decent Americans as my people, and that includes a whole lot more people than the blacks who suffered in New Orleans.

The psychologist, Viktor Frankl, survived the holocaust and was subsequently asked if he hated Germans. Frankl replied that he did not because there are only two races of people, the decent and the indecent. Clearly there were decent Germans during the holocaust years, so according to Frankl’s theory it is wrong to condemn the entire German populace. I like that concept and find it far superior to racial, national and religious designations. The problem with that theory is that it requires us to examine each person individually, on the micro level, to determine his classification. Makes it a little hard to do sweeping generalizations.

While Frankl’s theory is morally superior than the alternative, the fact of the matter is that we are stuck with group generalizations, the macro level, as a matter of understanding history and how it influences the current status. From the macro perspective, Steele exams the concept of historical shame separating whites and blacks in the Unite States. Steele wrote, “Probably the single greatest problem between blacks and whites in America is that we are forever witness to each other's great shames.”

Steele makes a powerful argument for the imperative of blacks accepting responsibility for their own destiny.

The black shame of inferiority (the result of oppression, not genetics) cannot be overcome with anything less than a heroic assumption of responsibility on the part of black Americans. In fact, true equality -- an actual parity of wealth and ability between the races -- is now largely a black responsibility. This may not be fair, but historical fairness -- of the sort that resolves history's injustices -- is an idealism that now plagues black America by making black responsibility seem an injustice.

…despite the fact that greater responsibility is the only transforming power that can take blacks to true equality, this is an idea that deeply threatens the 40-year balance of power between the races.

Steele concurred and wrote that Bill Cosby

…not only implied that black responsibility was the great transforming power; he also implied that there was a limit to what white responsibility could do. He said, in effect, that white responsibility cannot overcome black inferiority.

Steele thoroughly examines the intertwining of white shame in the form of guilt and acceptance of responsibility with black shame for the refusal to take responsibility.

And both races live with the permanent anxiety of being held to account for their shames by the other race. So, there is a reflex in both races that reaches for narratives to explain shame away and, thus, disarm the "other."

Read Steele’s excellent discourse on black and white shame.