Today’s racial divide has far more to do with the peculiar strain of liberalism that grew out of the 1960s than with race itself. Americans know, but find it hard to openly admit, that active racism is no longer the greatest barrier to black and minority advancement. It is likely that today’s racial disparities are due more to dysfunctions within the black community, and to liberal social policies that have encouraged minorities to trade on past victimization rather than to overcome the damage done by that victimization. Still, the assertion that blacks today remain stymied by white racism is a dogma of modern American liberalism that cannot be questioned. The mere claim of racism has become a potent political tool that conservatives have not found an adequate response to. The cost of this failure is great. Redemption – paying off the nation’s sins – has become the moral imperative of the age and the nation’s racist past has destroyed its moral authority in the eyes of many.
Shelby Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He has written widely on race in American society and the consequences of contemporary social programs on race relations. Steele received the National Book Critic's Circle Award in the general nonfiction category for his book The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America. His other books include White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era and A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America. Steele has been awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Bradley Prize.