Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Shelby Steele: Sotomayor and the Politics of Race

in WSJ.  

Steele writes that many whites are so uncomfortable with knowledge of our racial heritage as to seek absolution from minority person "bargainers" whom - in return for the white person implicitly agreeing to not hold their minority racial status against them - are willing to pretend to absolve current white persons from collective historic guilt:
Whites love this bargain because it allows them to feel above America's racist past and, therefore, immune to charges of racism. By embracing the bargainer they embrace the impression of a world beyond racial division, a world in which whites are innocent and minorities carry no anger. This is the impression that animates bargainers like Mr. Obama or Oprah Winfrey with an irresistible charisma. Even if post-racialism is an obvious illusion -- a bargainer's trick as it were -- whites are flattered by believing in it.
Yet, no one is immune from charges of anything, including racism.  A free man does not live in fear of a bogus charge of racism or sexism; does not live in fear that other men will discover his religious or political views.  I'm not advocating public irresponsibility, or lack of shrewdness, or public haranguing of others.  However, to the extent we live in fear and hide ourselves and do not share ourselves when appropriate:  to that extent we are not free.  

Judge Sotomayor has taken another path, has refused to pretend to absolve anyone, and has  advanced through life via challenging whites about their guilt:
Judge Sotomayor is the archetypal challenger. Challengers see the moral authority that comes from their group's historic grievance as an entitlement to immediate parity with whites -- whether or not their group has actually earned this parity through development. If their group is not yet competitive with whites, the moral authority that comes from their grievance should be allowed to compensate for what they lack in development. This creates a terrible corruption in which the group's historic grievance is allowed to count as individual merit. And so a perverse incentive is created: Weakness and victimization are rewarded over development. Better to be a troublemaker than to pursue excellence.

Sonia Sotomayor is of the generation of minorities that came of age under the hegemony of this perverse incentive. For this generation, challenging and protesting were careerism itself.

Read it all. Highly recommended.


Webutante said...

This is a terrific piece of insight. This equality based on grievance not only creates perpetual victims, it also sustains adolescence and stuckness. Sadly, there are many sub-cultures where permanent adolescence has been installed.

gcotharn said...

I agree. I have a lot of respect for Shelby Steele. He has an interesting life story, also.