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I’M Black You’Re White Who’s Innocent Essay

Summary: This paper is based on an article called “I’m Black You’re White Who’s innocent” by Shelby Steel. The article takes a position that is against affirmative action because it takes the independence away from people of color.

The article “I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent?’ is an analysis of the black and white racist situation that America has been facing. It is a claim to the fact that both the groups have created the racist situation. Some whites accept that the racist attitude that enforced slavery was due to the fact that whites in ‘innocence’ felt they were superior to blacks. The pursuit of power-convinced them they were entitled to it. Once convinced it was easy to believed in innocence. Conversely, they were morally secure in their actions which led to centuries of subjugation. Their power was derived from the innocence, and that is why Steele called it ‘innocence is power.’ Thus, racial struggle becomes the struggle of innocence. In the 1960’s more whites began to realized they were not so innocent and so began the loss of power.

With that realization there seem to be a transfer of power to black people, as they became the ‘innocents’. Guilt, shame, innocence, and power all became integrated to leaving behind the factor we call racism’. Shelby Steele is an English professor and widely read author who taught at San Jose State University for 20 years before taking a position as a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Steele claims that affirmative action is a double-cross of black Americans and he loathes affirmative action. Affirmative action presents a sense humiliation; a Faustian bargain presented to minorities, for the hypocrisy and shameless self-congratulation it brings out in its white supporters. Steel believes the victimized self-image of blacks, slows individualism, initiative, and diminishes one’s sense of possibility, while contributing to the demoralization of this ethnic group. In many ways Shelby Steele, makes a strong case against affirmative action.

One testament of this, according to Steele is the good will of the whites towards the blacks whose effect can’t be seen until years later when it shows to be more harmful than beneficial. In the 1960s, whites were confronted with their racial guilt and blacks for the first time blacks felt empowered. In this stormy time, white absolution and black power coalesced into virtual mandates in the law. In the later 60s and early 70s these mandates escalated from simple anti-discrimination enforcement to social engineering by means of quotas, goals, timetables, set-asides, and other forms of preferential treatment. This shift was due to the white mandate to achieve a new racial innocence and the black mandate to gain power. In my opinion I believe Steel was saying that whites were trying to clear their guilt by repairing the damages from the past by allowing black the appearance of more access to white societies basics rights… such as being able to get a good job , better education and better housing.

Conversely, many years later it allowed racism to fester within society causing more harm than good. One example Shelby Steele used was the rate of job advancement. He attributes the differences between black rates of advance and those of other minority groups to white folks’ pampering. Most blacks, Steele claims, make it on their own as voluntary immigrants have done–were they not held back by devitalizing programs that presented a picture of one’s self as as somehow dissimilar to and weaker than other Americans. The claim remains that progress depends upon recognition of black-white sameness. Steele argues, black America has adopted a model of morals in which it preserves the legacy of slavery and segregation in order to keep white America feeling guilty. I completely disagree with that comment because I feel that black people only want those would be oppressors to understand that it has been a struggle and by remembering where we have been will prevent things from going back that way.

The oppression of blacks in the United States was the worst case of oppression in human history, and not discounting the American Indian. At the end of such a period, the formerly oppressed get busy building a new nation, and they develop a nation-building ethic. Those ethics value individuals who sacrifice for the good of the group and work hard to develop the talent and skills necessary to close the achievement gaps that naturally exists at first between the liberated groups and their former oppressors. Unlike other historical cases, blacks remain in the same society with their former oppressors. As white America faces past inequalities, they buffer it by making promises to eradicate poverty through large-scale federal programs. Steele does not dismiss the legacy of slavery and persecution, and the economic and social subordination of black people as a responsible force leading to affirmative action in the first place.

If anything, he argues that affirmative action, is society’s repayment. Steele argues loudly that over the long run policies based on racial preference serve only to prolong the social and economic disparity between whites and minorities. His position is that blacks will have to lift themselves out of poverty by dint of hard work, perseverance, and patience. Some blacks would disagree with that comment, but I for one believe that is the only way. reveling in self- pity will get you nothing and nowhere fast. In his essay he states that today, most racism exists in the heads of people. They perceive themselves such that they become the perception. A white man sees a black and is immediately reminded of his guilt. The black remembers his innocence and the two combine to form a relationship that is ‘perceived’.

Actions are based on imaginary perceptions prolonging the condition. The ‘victimization’ criteria that the blacks are so fond of is not an escape, rather, it is a bargain made that has recuperations that no one ever thought possible. The blacks in their victimization have become slaves to the guilt of the whites and thus, are still oppressed. The bargain they made was a necessary one at the time yet, today it chains the two segments of society in bonds of slavery making the bargain one that Steele calls ‘Faustian’. Seemingly powerful, it actually takes from them the power to be independent. It makes them lack the initiative to aim for something more than that which is handed out by the whites.

I’m black, you’re white, who’s innocent? Race and power in an era of blame By Shelby Steele Retrieved June 1, 2012
http://www.harpers.org/archive/1988/06/0023431


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