Shelby Steele (born 1 January 1946) is an American conservative writer and a fellow of the Hoover Institution. His columns and op-eds have been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Harper's Magazine. In 1991 he won an Emmy, a Writers Guild award, and a San Francisco Film Festival award for his documentary, Seven Days in Bensonhurst. In 2004 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.
- In the end, black power can claim no higher moral standing than white power. [...] No power can long insist on itself without evoking an opposing power.
- [W]hy are there no Martin Luther Kings around today? I think one reason is that there are no black leaders willing to resist the seductions of racial power, or to make the sacrifices moral power requires. King understood that racial power subverts moral power, and he pushed the principles of fairness and equality rather than black power because he believed those principles would bring blacks their most complete liberation. He sacrificed race for morality, and his innocence was made genuine by that sacrifice. What made King the most powerful and extraordinary black leader of this century was not his race but his morality.
- [T]hough fear always seeks a thousand justifications, none is ever good enough, and the problems we run from only remain to haunt us.
- Certainly since Vietnam, America has increasingly practiced a policy of minimalism and restraint in war. And now this unacknowledged policy, which always makes a space for the enemy, has us in another long and rather passionless war against a weak enemy.
“Why this new minimalism in war?
It began, I believe, in a late-20th-century event that transformed the world more profoundly than the collapse of communism: the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty. This idea had organized the entire world, divided up its resources, imposed the nation-state system across the globe, and delivered the majority of the world's population into servitude and oppression. After World War II, revolutions across the globe, from India to Algeria and from Indonesia to the American civil rights revolution, defeated the authority inherent in white supremacy, if not the idea itself. And this defeat exacted a price: the West was left stigmatized by its sins. Today, the white West--like Germany after the Nazi defeat--lives in a kind of secular penitence in which the slightest echo of past sins brings down withering condemnation. There is now a cloud over white skin where there once was unquestioned authority.
- The great ingenuity of interventions like affirmative action has not been that they give Americans a way to identify with the struggle of blacks, but that they give them a way to identify with racial virtuousness quite apart from blacks.
- There is a price to be paid even for fellow-traveling with a racial identity as politicized and demanding as today's black identity. This identity wants to take over a greater proportion of the self than other racial identities do. It wants to have its collective truth—its defining ideas of grievance and protest—become personal truth.... These are the identity pressures that Barack Obama lives within. He is vulnerable to them because he has hungered for a transparent black identity much of his life. He needs to 'be black.' And this hunger—no matter how understandable it may be—means that he is not in a position to reject the political liberalism inherent in his racial identity. For Obama liberalism is blackness.
- A Bound Man: Why We are Excited about Obama and Why He Can't Win (December 2007)
- At every turn "world opinion," like a schoolmarm, takes offense and condemns Israel for yet another infraction of the world's moral sensibility. And this voice has achieved an international political legitimacy so that even the silliest condemnation of Israel is an opportunity for self-congratulation.
Rock bands now find moral imprimatur in canceling their summer tour stops in Israel (Elvis Costello, the Pixies, the Gorillaz, the Klaxons). A demonstrator at an anti-Israel rally in New York carries a sign depicting the skull and crossbones drawn over the word "Israel." White House correspondent Helen Thomas, in one of the ugliest incarnations of this voice, calls on Jews to move back to Poland. And of course the United Nations and other international organizations smugly pass one condemnatory resolution after another against Israel while the Obama administration either joins in or demurs with a wink.
- "Israel and the Surrender of the West" (2010), The Wall Street Journal
Why the Left is Consumed with Hate (2018)
- "Why the Left is Consumed with Hate: Lacking worthy menaces to fight, it is driven to find a replacement for racism. Failing this, what is left?" (23 September 2018), Wall Street Journal
- For many on the left a hateful anti-Americanism has become a self-congratulatory lifestyle.
- The Achilles’ heel of the left has been its dependence on menace for power. Think of all the things it can ask for in the name of fighting menaces like “systemic racism” and “structural inequality.” But what happens when the evils that menace us begin to fade, and then keep fading?
- [T]he left, whose existence is threatened by the diminishment of racial oppression. The left’s unspoken terror is that racism is no longer menacing enough to support its own power. The great crisis for the left today—the source of its angst and hatefulness—is its own encroaching obsolescence. Today the left looks to be slowly dying from lack of racial menace.
- [T]he left gets power from fighting white evil, not black despair. Today’s left lacks worthy menaces to fight. It is driven to find a replacement for racism, some sweeping historical wrongdoing that morally empowers those who oppose it. (Climate change?) Failing this, only hatred is left. Hatred is a transformative power. It can make the innocuous into the menacing. So it has become a weapon of choice.
- [T]he left is still stalked by obsolescence. There is simply not enough menace to service its demands for power. The voices that speak for the left have never been less convincing. It is hard for people to see the menace that drives millionaire football players to kneel before the flag. And then there is the failure of virtually every program the left has ever espoused—welfare, public housing, school busing, affirmative action, diversity programs, and so on. For the American left today, the indulgence in hate is a death rattle.
- Encyclopedic article on Shelby Steele at Wikipedia