Our country is not perfect, however when we as a culture or a society see something unjust, we work hard to fix it. We did it with slavery, child labor, civil rights and women’s rights to name a few. This is why the whole country was united in the belief that George Floyd’s death was criminal. Everyone who saw that video was horrified. Almost every police officer agreed according to published news reports. After that, people of all ages, races and backgrounds wanted to rise up and decry the injustice.
We are at an important junction in our nation’s history. Dr. Shelby Steele has a sociology degree and has written many books. In one of those books, “White Guilt,” he explains that in 1965 the race riots broke out across the nation precisely at the moment when white guilt started after the president admitted that segregation was wrong and historic civil rights legislation passed.
It is Steele’s premise that prior to this historic event, whiteness constituted “moral authority.” With perceived moral authority came supremacy, and thus power.
Dr. Steele specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism and affirmative action.
He writes that the American Civil Rights movement was largely nonviolent and revolutionary against not just white supremacy, but against white authority worldwide.
A nonviolent Civil Rights movement in America succeeded. Steele said, “The idea that whiteness in and of itself constituted white authority was killed off. There are no serious people anywhere in the world who would stand in the public square and argue that whites should rule the world. It doesn’t mean that people don’t believe in the idea or that all racism is gone, but the authority that came with being white is gone and has been defeated and has had a profound effect on the world and here in America.”
According to Dr. Steele, the Civil Rights movement of the 60s changed the world and brought about “the greatest social legislation ever passed anywhere in the world and has served as a model for the rest of the world. With the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the acknowledgement on the part of America that we had done something very wrong, that racism is wrong; that slavery was wrong;, that segregation was wrong, that white supremacy was wrong became inherent in the legislation.
“I think this is America’s greatest moment,” Steele said.
“Here was a nation that morally came to terms with itself,” he said during a speech at the Independent Institute. “It faced itself. A society rich and powerful looked at itself, examined itself and acknowledged its wrongs and vowed to become a different kind of society. I’m not aware of any other society in the world that has done that. I’m glad to be in America because we were able to do that.”
One of the unintended consequences was what Steele calls “white guilt.”
He said, “Looking specifically at America, which in many ways is where I think dimensions of white guilt become the clearest.”
So, what is white guilt? Dr. Steele continues, “The problem …, every time you acknowledge a wrong is that the price you pay is that you lose your ‘moral authority.’ So, America has to be applauded.”
The moral authority whites lost shifted to minor authority. Steele claims white guilt is black power.
“White guilt causes a vacuum of moral authority, not being able to speak about race properly because of our sins of the past,” he said. “White guilt is enforced by stigma. When you acknowledge that you were part of a group who had done a wrong in the past (like Nazis in your German family line) You may not have had Nazis in your family, but outside of Germany, people felt a higher moral authority than Germans. So that’s the position that we are in now. Whites have been assumed to be racists and our institutions have lived under threat of stigmatization. That institution becomes illegitimate and loses its ability to function in society and has a powerful impact. Since the 60s that’s what has happened.”
Steele says that “this leads to the next phenomenon and that is dissociation. You have to find some way to dissasociate from the stigma that you are not a white supremacist. That you are not still secretly committed to racism.”
According to Steele, “The first great example of dissociation was President Lyndon Johnson’s great society in 1965 when he created social programs to end poverty in our time, which failed and did not bring about racial equality but they did dissociate the American society and government from racism. They had to do something dramatic because the sins had been so dramatic, so the government had to spend a lot of money to dissociate itself. The purpose of the great society wasn’t as much to end poverty as to restore legitimacy to the government and society.”
He continues, “Whites need to acknowledge and accept the fact that since 1965 til now, white America has made one of the greatest moral evolutions in all human history. There is no example of a society determining to correct itself morally that’s been more consistent and more relentless than what white Americans have done. Today racism is despicable and seen as disgraceful by whites. They want no part of it. There are fringes out there, but they have no authority and no real role in American life. And whites have done this and need to accept this as fact and reality. In my own life 99% of the whites I have met have had nothing but goodwill, have wanted to help me. I have seen racism, but it has no power.”
Accept this moral advancement. We are in fact a good people America is full of good people who mean well.