Shelby Steele, a prolific author and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, warns liberalism is the biggest threat to American culture and breaks down race relation issues the country faces in an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Liberalism is our biggest threat to our culture and our way of life,” says Steele, the author of five books.
For those who succumb to liberalism’s group identity, he says, it can retard human development for those claiming victimhood, while falsely elevating those who wrap themselves in empty idealisms and popularized notions like “diversity, “multiculturalism” and “inclusion.”
As a personal indulgence, I asked him why he has written that his “friend and hero” Justice Clarence Thomas is “the freest black man in America.” Citing Thomas’s background, rejection of identity politics and elevation to the Court, Steele says Thomas “doesn’t owe allegiance to any group.” “He’s on the Court as an individual making fascinating law with a unique mind.”
Steele discusses in the interview how strict racial identifications and boxes are, with mixed marriages and mixed races, becoming obsolete and counter-productive. He discusses his son’s, Eli Steele’s, provocative documentary, “I Am or How Jack Became Black ” about his grandson’s racial journey out of his family and into school. His grandson Jack is white, black, Jewish, Mexican, and Native American, but they found he couldn’t go to school if he won’t check one racial box as dominant.
Steele decries the social rejection of “mixed race” boxes. He says, “the ham-fistedness” of people who design these policies are no better than the policies of segregation were.”
“We have betrayed [Martin Luther] King’s vision of making race irrelevant and wasted another couple generations. Black people have declined more so than during the era of segregation. We have to get beyond race at some point,” he says.
Steele sees President Donald Trump as indifferent to the cultural pressures of race privileges, by his insisting on the same laws applying to all Americans. “Well, it almost looks a little lightweight,” Steele says, “but it’s actually kind of profound. It’s where the whole country needs to move.”
As for the anti-Americanism becoming more mainstreamed and visible in the black community, Steele tracks this trend from the 1960s. He calls it “heart-breaking and sad” that anti-Americanism so dominates the American black identity now. This has been “ruinous to black America, where we are worse off than we were under segregation by almost every socio-economic measure.”
Steele’s advice to open-minded Americans beginning to reject group identity politics is simple – “You are free. There are no posses or lynch mobs after you. You are free.”
He credits white America for the level of moral progress he has witnessed in the last 60-70 years. He’s “impressed and humbled” at societal changes whites have made in his own lifetime. “I don’t know where else in the world that has happened.”
For more on Shelby Steele, consider one of his five books, watch for his columns in the Wall Street Journal or National Review or listen to his recent Russell Kirk lecture on Modern Liberalism and the Racial Divide at The Heritage Foundation.
Mrs. Thomas is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
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