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White Guilt = Black Power

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
Shelby Steele is the man.

<a href="http://www.frontpagemag.com/guestcolumnists2002/steele01-09-02.htm" target="_blank">White Guilt = Black Power</a>
By Shelby Steele
The Wall Street Journal | January 8, 2002

[quote]THERE SHOULD BE many more imbroglios like the one currently playing out at Harvard University, enough for America to finally understand that white guilt is exactly the same thing as black power. But it is testament to the daunting power of white guilt that confrontations like this one happen so rarely.

Harvard's new president, Lawrence Summers, is reported to have rebuked arguably the most famous professor in the university's well known, if undistinguished, Afro-American Studies Department - Cornel West. Even on their face, the reported charges behind this rebuke seem screamingly true - that Mr. West is an academic lightweight, that his service to Al Sharpton's presidential campaign and his recording of a rap CD embarrass his professorship, and that his uncritical grading practices have contributed to Harvard's serious grade inflation problem.

With this sensible rebuke, there has begun an elaborate, if predictable, choreography of black indignation and white guilt...

...White guilt is best understood as a vacuum of moral authority. Whites live with this vacuum despite the fact that they may not feel a trace of personal guilt over past oppression of blacks. Whites simply come to a place with blacks where they feel no authority to speak or judge and where they sense a great risk of being seen as racist. It is a simple thing, this lack of authority, but it has changed everything.

One terrible feature is that it means whites lack the authority to say what they see when looking at blacks and black problems. Political correctness is what whites have the authority to say about blacks, no matter what they see. It is a language of severely limited authority, of euphemisms that steer whites around associations with racism. The black power brokers have told Mr. Summers that he does not have authority to say what he sees when he looks at Mr. West. He must put clothes on the naked emperor, or shame himself and his institution. After all, Princeton's president dressed the often incomprehensible Mr. West in a suit of eminence.

The muteness that white guilt imposes on whites undergirds black power. It lets blacks live inside the silence of whites, and have our weaknesses be unutterable by whites even as they are plainly visible. Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton are enforcers of white silence. And when whites are silent, black mediocrity is no deterrent to black advancement. So it is not surprising that the Jacksons, Sharptons, Wests, Gateses et. al. demanded that Mr. Summers make a strong endorsement of affirmative action - which formalizes white silence on black mediocrity into policy. In this realm of guilt and power, a white man's endorsement of affirmative action is nothing less than a vow of silence.

What is admirable in all this is that Mr. Summers seems to have actually wanted excellence from Mr. West. His rebuke for failing to deliver excellence was an act of social responsibility. It was also an opportunity for Mr. West and the Afro-Am department to move from celebrity academia to serious achievement. How many of us ever get near our full potential without at least the threat of rebuke?

But Mr. Summers does not have the authority over his Afro-Am department that he has over the rest of Harvard. And his story is important because it shows how severely white guilt limits the authority of institutions to enforce their own best standards uniformly. Everywhere that minorities press institutions today as groups, there is an erosion of excellence. The reason for this is that white guilt allows institutions to respond only with deference - deferring to the greater moral authority of minorities by lowering standards, and remaining mute to minority mediocrity, to save the institution from the racist label.

So whites have made it socially virtuous to defer and stand aside as institutions erode. The public schools are all but devastated, universities are stunted by ideology, corporations are more unctuous than churches, the media are more unctuous yet, and American politicians - of left and right - speak in barren clich├ęs about all of this when they speak at all.

The value system that controls our institutions is an adaptation to white guilt. This system will make Mr. Summers the bad guy a thousand times before it ever holds Mr. West accountable. It isn't Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton who are breaking Harvard's president; it is his own faculty and administrators who are standing aside. They think he made an "ego" mistake, a faux pas. It doesn't matter that he was right. University presidents who correctly read the tea leaves (the limits of white authority) know that deference is your only play with minorities.

And Mr. Summers, sad to say, has proven himself a quick study. He gave Mr. Jackson the endorsement of affirmative action that he demanded, and he "mended fences" in a meeting with Mr. West - two powerful endorsements of black mediocrity, two compromises of institutional integrity. And now that his capitulation has spilled blood into the water, Harvard's Latino faculty has rushed to demand their own "full-fledged Latino studies center."

This is how the vacuum in white authority becomes cancerous...<hr></blockquote>
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post #2 of 49
Umm, thanks for sharing? Any point to posting this?
post #3 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by Fran441:

<strong>Umm, thanks for sharing? Any point to posting this?</strong><hr></blockquote>

That's a strange question. When did we stop talking about stuff that's in the news?
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post #4 of 49
Anything you want to share about it? It just seemed like an opened and closed discussion the way you posted it. <img src="graemlins/hmmm.gif" border="0" alt="[Hmmm]" />
post #5 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by Fran441:

<strong>Anything you want to share about it?</strong><hr></blockquote>

I'd rather people responded to what the article says first before I start "chiming in".

[quote]<strong>It just seemed like an opened and closed discussion the way you posted it. <img src="graemlins/hmmm.gif" border="0" alt="[Hmmm]" /> </strong><hr></blockquote>

Well, Mr. Steele does have a lot of credibility but when it comes to the race issue I've never had any experience just opening and closing the subject like you describe. I'd be surprised if that happened here.

[ 01-09-2002: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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post #6 of 49
well, I didn't read it but I have to wonder about the phrase WHITE GUILT.

That implies a broad people, in my mind.

I just can't see anyone being, having or feeling guilty for anything less or more than they have PERSONALLY done.
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post #7 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by JRC:
<strong>I just can't see anyone being, having or feeling guilty for anything less or more than they have PERSONALLY done.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Are you saying people SHOULDN'T feel guilty unless they have some personal blame/responsibility, or that they DON'T feel guilty unless...?

I think white liberal guilt is very common, actually. It's very common in the workplace (white supervisor is afraid to criticize a minority employee who is performing to such a low standard that a white employee would be criticized).

But I don't think it's just a white/black thing. I think it's an aspect of political correctness. In other words, that same "white" supervisor might also be reluctant to criticize an under-performing employee if they were gay, or handicapped, or even extremely obese, for fear of being perceived as singling them out.
post #8 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by sizzle chest:
<strong>

Are you saying people SHOULDN'T feel guilty unless they have some personal blame/responsibility, or that they DON'T feel guilty unless...?

I think white liberal guilt is very common, actually. It's very common in the workplace (white supervisor is afraid to criticize a minority employee who is performing to such a low standard that a white employee would be criticized).

But I don't think it's just a white/black thing. I think it's an aspect of political correctness. In other words, that same "white" supervisor might also be reluctant to criticize an under-performing employee if they were gay, or handicapped, or even extremely obese, for fear of being perceived as singling them out.</strong><hr></blockquote>

I can only feel guilty when my own personal actions or inactions were primarily at the root of something. I can't feel guilty for what someone else did out of my control. I can empathize and sympathize much, but feel guilt, no. That just doesn't make sense. I can pray and worry and try to help out after something that someone ELSE did or said, but that's about all.
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post #9 of 49
roger,
Do you ever come up with an original thought? All I've ever seen you do is post right-wing articles in full for our viewing (dis)pleasure. Get some of your own ideas soon or I'll start calling you the Microsoft of rhetoric...
post #10 of 49
No one should feel guilt for action they haven't committed. Articles like these are for Intellectual Wannabies that love to prattle on about things that cannot be summed up within an article.

If people define themselves by an attribute that they had no choice in(Skin Color, Attractiveness, Heigh etc) then it speaks volumes about how compelling they feel about their own attributes that they can mold and shape primarily their personalities. There is no such thing as White, Black or any other races Power...the power comes from the individual themselves.
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post #11 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by torifile:
<strong>roger,
Do you ever come up with an original thought? All I've ever seen you do is post right-wing articles in full for our viewing (dis)pleasure. Get some of your own ideas soon or I'll start calling you the Microsoft of rhetoric... </strong><hr></blockquote>

Really? 236 posts of nothing but right-wing articles? Here's an idea of my own. You didn't have anything of interest to say about the article so you attacked the me. Yeah, that's useful.

[ 01-09-2002: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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post #12 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by hmurchison:

<strong>Articles like these are for Intellectual Wannabies that love to prattle on about things that cannot be summed up within an article. </strong><hr></blockquote>

Who's the intellectual wannabe? Me or Shelby Steele? And what is it that Mr. Steele tried to write about that didn't get summed up here?
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post #13 of 49
I have to admit I always kind of liked Cornell West when I've seen him on TV. I didn't know he was involved with Sharpton. I don't know anything about his teaching or his scholarship, but I don't see why the President of the University was getting on his case about making music or being involved in political campaigns.

To turn around the issue - would the President of Harvard get on a White professor for making a country music album or being part of Nader's political campaign?

I, too, would prefer hearing more of roger's opinions than the articles he reads.

BTW: that Steele family is pretty amazing.
post #14 of 49
I can't see how this is a "right-wing" issue, torifile. If this Cornel West guy is an underperforming professor, he should be out.

If the president of Harvard is holding anyone to a lower standard because of their race, how is THAT not racism? Anyone who really supports the advancement of minorities should desire demand that.
post #15 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by poor taylor:
<strong>I can't see how this is a "right-wing" issue, torifile. If this Cornel West guy is an underperforming professor, he should be out.

If the president of Harvard is holding anyone to a lower standard because of their race, how is THAT not racism? Anyone who really supports the advancement of minorities should desire demand that.</strong><hr></blockquote>

If he were under-performing as a professor, he should be out. But no one can say that he is. The article provides no reason for why Cornel West is a 'light-weight'. In fact, I'd say he's a great asset to Harvard. He is synonymous with scholarship in his field. Of course, his field happens to be civil rights and African-American studies, so it is a right-wing, left-wing issue. The right always takes these issues as irrelevant, silly or reprehensible if they are from the point of view of the minority. Roger, our scholar on cutting an pasting, seems to think that by merely providing some Op-Ed piece on this issue, he will spur discussion and, eventually, assent on the rightness of the Right's point of view.

Roger, how about you start an actual discussion rather than regurgitating some columnist's point of view so that I can actually respond to something? Here's a start...

In a simple search of my libraries holdings by Cornel West yielded 51 books or chapters by that "light-weight." When you get into academia, you tell me how light-weight that number of publications is. This doesn't even count the number of peer-reviewed journal articles he's done. Or the number of lectures he's given, the number of programs he's appeared on or the number of Op-Ed pieces he's done. How about you do your own research before criticizing or posting someone else's criticism?

Get a clue.
post #16 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:
<strong>

Who's the intellectual wannabe? Me or Shelby Steele? And what is it that Mr. Steele tried to write about that didn't get summed up here?</strong><hr></blockquote>

Neither of you but there I take offense to the notion that White Guilt exists. Some people have advantages over others but in todays society a persons dedication and will can take them very far. I just object to the notion that something so profound can be explained in such a brief article. I see nothing wrong with West's affiliation with Sharpton and most Sinatra fans don't mind that he rubbed elbows with the Mob. Mr Steele seems to think that some carry an inate guilt and I just don't think that is true. Black Power is a figment of someones imagination just as White Guilt. They make for great Mantra's but they do not hold up to futher scrutiny IMO. Talke to 1 Million people you will most likely get 1 million different stories, beliefs and opinions. It all matters on how deep and wide your scope is. What the hell though..it's makes for fun arguements!
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post #17 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by torifile:
<strong>
If he were under-performing as a professor, he should be out. But no one can say that he is. The article provides no reason for why Cornel West is a 'light-weight'.</strong><hr></blockquote>


Yes it does. Did you read it? It mentions several areas that have been reported in news articles. This opinion piece is not "the case against West" so it doesn't go into them.

[quote]Originally posted by torifile:
<strong>In fact, I'd say he's a great asset to Harvard. He is synonymous with scholarship in his field.</strong><hr></blockquote>

And how do you know that? Are you an expert in Afro-American Studies at major universities? Rather I think because he's black and has a big afro and raps and tells whitely off you think that's "qualifications".

[quote]Originally posted by torifile:
<strong>Of course, his field happens to be civil rights and African-American studies, so it is a right-wing, left-wing issue. The right always takes these issues as irrelevant, silly or reprehensible if they are from the point of view of the minority.</strong><hr></blockquote>

They do?

[quote]Originally posted by torifile:
<strong>In a simple search of my libraries holdings by Cornel West yielded 51 books or chapters by that "light-weight." When you get into academia, you tell me how light-weight that number of publications is. </strong><hr></blockquote>

If they are bad books then it does. Any one of these Ivy League guys can pound out a book or a chapter. If it's the same thing every time and/or offers nothing new or original to the field then it's lightweight.

[quote]Originally posted by torifile:
<strong>This doesn't even count the number of peer-reviewed journal articles he's done.</strong><hr></blockquote>

And how many would that be?

[quote]Originally posted by torifile:
<strong>Or the number of lectures he's given, the number of programs he's appeared on or the number of Op-Ed pieces he's done.</strong><hr></blockquote>

That's part of the point. Those don't count for shit in the big leagues. This guy is at Harvard.


Plus you ignored the whole grade inflation issue which is a major problem at Harvard and other schools.
post #18 of 49
"Grade Inflation" hahahahaha Harvard has been doing that for years. The States are littered with Mediocre Harvard graduates. I read and article about Harvard Lawyers a couple of years back in which something like %25 weren't even practicing Law anymore and a fair portion were disallusioned. It seems everyone works with a least one Harvard Alum, they probably whisper about just how mediocre they are. Harvard sets a standard that most cannot live up to because of the Myth of the institution. The most brilliant minds of our History were not shackled with the "Prestige and the Arrogance" that Ivy League schools generate. They simply had intestinal fortitude to find and prove the right answers to what their soul was telling them the whole time.

Funny..when I was in the Military..the most ate up Soldiers there the "Military Intelligence" guys that aced their ASVAB Test. West shouldn't complain too much Harvard is no panacea for Higher Learning.
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post #19 of 49
Which is why they need to fix it. I guess telling a black guy to fix it is racist huh?
post #20 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by Scott H.:
<strong>Which is why they need to fix it. I guess telling a black guy to fix it is racist huh?</strong><hr></blockquote>


Nope. If he feels like West is subpar then he should act. West can then do what he needs to to do, either move on or seek reinstatement. People get fired everyday. Such is life.
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post #21 of 49
Well no one gets "fired" from these places. The profs I know play games like West's all the time. "Give me what I want or I'm going to Northwestern" or more to the point "I'm going to Northwestern and there's little you can do about it".

[ 01-10-2002: Message edited by: Scott H. ]</p>
post #22 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by torifile:

<strong>Roger, how about you start an actual discussion rather than regurgitating some columnist's point of view so that I can actually respond to something?</strong><hr></blockquote>

Let's see. A discussion hasn't been started here? Shelby Steele isn't just "some columnist". My interest was that people respond to what he wrote not what I thought about what he wrote. His opinion piece should have given you something to which you could have actually responded.

I've admired Mr. Steele ever since I read his book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/006097415X/qid=1010677127/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_10_2/103-6294448-8479821" target="_blank">The Content of Our Character</a>.

[quote]<strong>In a simple search of my libraries holdings by Cornel West yielded 51 books or chapters by that "light-weight." When you get into academia, you tell me how light-weight that number of publications is. This doesn't even count the number of peer-reviewed journal articles he's done. Or the number of lectures he's given, the number of programs he's appeared on or the number of Op-Ed pieces he's done. How about you do your own research before criticizing or posting someone else's criticism?

Get a clue.</strong><hr></blockquote>

I'm well aware of who Cornel West is. Do you believe that 51 books puts him beyond criticism? Have you heard any of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005OC67/qid=1010677561/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_3_1/103-6294448-8479821" target="_blank">his album</a>? It's not exactly an artistic success and it certainly doesn't contribute anything to his reputation intellectually. His affiliation with Sharpton is likewise eyebrow-raising.
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post #23 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by hmurchison:

<strong>Neither of you but there I take offense to the notion that White Guilt exists.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Okay, but how else can you explain the reparations movement? I honestly don't see how it could exist without white guilt and the ability of some black leaders to try and exploit it.
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post #24 of 49
Thread Starter 
One more thing, torifile. Stephen Ambrose has also produced a large number of books. The recent <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/738lfddv.asp" target="_blank">revelations</a> of his plagiarisms shows that quantity is not always quality.
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post #25 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by hmurchison:
<strong>
Neither of you but there I take offense to the notion that White Guilt exists. </strong><hr></blockquote>

Hmurchison, I think you're misunderstanding the term "white guilt." It doesn't mean to say that white people SHOULD feel guilty or that we're all culpable for something.

It means many white people (whether they realize it or not) feel guilty about the comforts and advantages of their lives, and so tip-toe around minorities (racial or other) and hold them to a different (lower) standard.

Talking about the existence of "white guilt" is not to imply that all whites SHOULD feel guilty, or that they have something to make up to blacks or others. It's merely to acknowledge the phenomenon when it occurs.
post #26 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by sizzle chest:
<strong>

It means many white people (whether they realize it or not) feel guilty about the comforts and advantages of their lives, and so tip-toe around minorities (racial or other) and hold them to a different (lower) standard.

</strong><hr></blockquote>

Sorry sizzle chest, but that's not quite how Shelby Steele is defining "white guilt" either.

[quote]
From the article:

White guilt is best understood as a vacuum of moral authority. Whites live with this vacuum despite the fact that they may not feel a trace of personal guilt over past oppression of blacks. Whites simply come to a place with blacks where they feel no authority to speak or judge and where they sense a great risk of being seen as racist. It is a simple thing, this lack of authority, but it has changed everything.<hr></blockquote>

According to Steele's definition, white guilt is the social unacceptability for whites to judge or criticize blacks and black issues. White guilt describes a social context, and doesn't really have anything to do with personal guilt, or personal economic status. Steele is saying that whether or not you feel guilty about black oppression, the social climate is such that whites who try to speak as a judging authority on black issues are labeled as racists. He is saying that the inability to hold blacks (and he does specifically say "blacks," not "minorities" in general) to a standard is the RESULT of white guilt, not white guilt itself. The difference is subtle, but important to Steele's argument.

Personally, Im with torifile, and think its crap because Steele is trivializing black issues. I also resent Steeles implication that whites are somehow entitled to BE moral authorities for blacks.

Simmons withdrew his comments not because of white guilt, but because they were stupid and inappropriate for ANY head of an institution to make, ESPECIALLY the head of an institution as prestigious and high-profile as Harvard.

No matter what his intentions, calling ANY professor an "embarrassment" or "academic lightweight" in public is just asking for trouble, even if the accusations are true (and Im not saying they are or arent). Simmons withdrew his comments because West was getting ready to make Simmons eat his words by making it an ugly, public issue, something which Harvards board of trustees (or whichever governing body hired Simmons to be president in the first place) wouldnt have appreciated.

[ 01-10-2002: Message edited by: jesperas ]</p>
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post #27 of 49
Maybe Mr. Steele sees "white guilt" differently than the way I've always heard it used.

So, is "white guilt" an apologetic, over-polite kind of political correctness imposed by whites upon themselves.... or is "white guilt" a disbelief by certain blacks (I'd rather this was about minorities in general but we keep swinging it around to a pure white/black issue) that any white person has the right to hold any authority over any black person ever, due to past misdeeds (real or perceived) by the white race against the black race?

I generally hear the term used as the former -- something "nice" liberal white people feel, rather than something that is imposed upon them. Again, I've always heard it used as a variation on political correctness.

And I don't believe anyone is saying that whites in general should hold some kind of MORAL authority over blacks in general, or than a white man specifically should hold MORAL authority over one black man specifically. What we're talking about here is a person who has ADMINISTRATIVE authority over another person, choosing to exercise that authority. You know, the sergeant has to be able to tell the private what to do, whether the sergeant is white or black and whether the private is white or black.

Whether you think his decision was correct, and whether you think the head of a university should have authority over the professors working at the university, are two different questions.
post #28 of 49
I felt that this article summed up most of my feelings about the subject. However, this seems like an appropriate time to delve into Steele's position on Affirmative Action. I've always felt that affirmative action, like welfare, has been a crefully crafted system of oppression.

Put your teeth back in and think about it for a moment.

Every oppressed minority before affirmative action (Irish, Chineese, Italian, Jew) in this country had the opportunity to band together and secure their future culturally and economically. What affirmative action says is that now everyone has to play by the white man's rules. What's fair about that? Add to it this "white guilt" that in Steele's view seems to encourage mediocrity, and you've got what is happening in our ciies today.

Urban Flight
Declining Schools
Declining Standards
Declining Morals

Our best way to overcome oppression is to look mediocrity in the eye and say begone! Wherever it comes from. ALL people need to be able to talk frankly with one another, about anything.

Challenging assumptions and obliterating ignorance is key. White Guilt as defined by Steele as a willful continuation of that ignorance. Don't say that someone, or yourself, doesn't have the authority to speak on an ethnic issue. EDUCATE, INFORM, SHARE, TALK.

I'll shut up now.
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post #29 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:
<strong>

No matter what his intentions, calling ANY professor an "embarrassment" or "academic lightweight" in public is just asking for trouble, even if the accusations are true (and I?m not saying they are or aren?t). Simmons withdrew his comments because West was getting ready to make Simmons eat his words by making it an ugly, public issue, something which Harvard?s board of trustees (or whichever governing body hired Simmons to be president in the first place) wouldn?t have appreciated.
</strong><hr></blockquote>

I don't remember reading that Simmons made any public statements about West. Rather it seems they had a private meeting and West made them public. Maybe you read something I didn't. After all you can't buy stuff with your "white guilt" chips if no one knows what to feel guilty about.

Also if the guy is a lightweight and embarrassment shouldn't someone say so? I guess only if they are white and male you should.

[ 01-10-2002: Message edited by: Scott H. ]</p>
post #30 of 49
I don't quite get the white guilt thing in this article, but...

(dons cranky white male hat)

I have to really wonder about these Afro-American studies and Women's studies programs. How do you even really evaluate what these profs do? If they're historians, or sociologists, or political scientists, they should be in those Departments, and then people will know how to evaluate what they do. As it is, no one really knows what these profs are supposed to be doing, so no one knows how to evaluate them. That's not quite the same as saying that this is due to white guilt.

As far as I can tell, this Cornel West is doing exactly what profs in these departments do - activism. In order to be a part of the program, it seems like you have to have a certain political viewpoint, rather than certain training or scholarly interests.

It's true that blacks and women have been way under-represented in academia (although whether that has been due to hiring discrimination is very questionable), and it's also true that their hystories and issues have been under-represented. But they should be part of the regular social science and history (etc.) departments, rather than some newly created department. Putting them in a new program is a way of hiring more minorities, but it ends up diminishing their credibility, it doesn't enhance it. It's like saying they're not "real" history or poli-sci, they're special and different.

BS. It's totally legitimate to study these multi-cultural topics - people in academia devote their lives to studying one obscure fruit fly, so there's no reason why you can't study Black culture and history. But putting it in a different program is a bad idea.
post #31 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:

<strong>According to Steele's definition, white guilt is the social unacceptability for whites to judge or criticize blacks and black issues. White guilt describes a social context, and doesn't really have anything to do with personal guilt, or personal economic status. Steele is saying that whether or not you feel guilty about black oppression, the social climate is such that whites who try to speak as a judging authority on black issues are labeled as racists. He is saying that the inability to hold blacks (and he does specifically say "blacks," not "minorities" in general) to a standard is the RESULT of white guilt, not white guilt itself. The difference is subtle, but important to Steele's argument.</strong><hr></blockquote>

That's a fair enough of a read of what he's saying.

[quote]<strong>Personally, I'm with torifile, and think it's crap because Steele is trivializing black issues.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Well, torifile really didn't get that far.

[quote]<strong>I also resent Steele's implication that whites are somehow entitled to BE moral authorities for blacks.</strong><hr></blockquote>

That's not at all what he's implying. Steele is an African American calling on another African Americans to seek excellence. He wants blacks to advance by their own merit rather than by exploiting white guilt.

[quote]<strong>Simmons withdrew his comments not because of white guilt, but because they were stupid and inappropriate for ANY head of an institution to make, ESPECIALLY the head of an institution as prestigious and high-profile as Harvard.

No matter what his intentions, calling ANY professor an "embarrassment" or "academic lightweight" in public is just asking for trouble, even if the accusations are true (and I'm not saying they are or aren't). Simmons withdrew his comments because West was getting ready to make Simmons eat his words by making it an ugly, public issue, something which Harvard's board of trustees (or whichever governing body hired Simmons to be president in the first place) wouldn't have appreciated.</strong><hr></blockquote>

His name is Summers, Lawrence Summers - former Clinton Treasury Secretary. And I believe the characterization of Mr. West as a "lightweight" and an "embarassment" is Mr. Steele's not Mr. Summers' actual words.

And he backed down because he lacked the cajones to stand up to the fury he had unleashed - which was Mr. Steele's final complaint.

[ 01-10-2002: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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post #32 of 49
[quote] Originally posted by sizzle chest:

What we're talking about here is a person who has ADMINISTRATIVE authority over another person, choosing to exercise that authority. <hr></blockquote>

Exactly my point. And it's why I think what Steele is trying to do is crap. I'm not arguing about the "rightness" of the whole Simmons/West spectacle. I don't know if West deserved it or not. I didn't go to Harvard, don't have a vested interest in Harvard politics, and could give rat's @ss about what goes on there behind the ivy.

I'm saying that Steele is grandstanding by trying to use the situation to further his own pet theories. The problem with people like Steele is that they dream up these Swiss army knife theories which they apply to as many situations as they can. They would have us think that all of the complex political, social, and economic issues of the world can be packaged in these neat little treatises that fit at the bottom of a cracker jack box. They sound just correct enough, and push just the right buttons for people to say, "Yeaaahhh. Ya' know? He's right!"

Take the whole confusion around the definition of "white guilt." The one that you provided is also the way I learned it as well, and I think the one that most people think of when they hear words like "white guilt," or "white man's burden."

So why is Steele trying to redefine the term? Or, if he did coin the term, why use the word "guilt" when what he's defining really doesn't have anything to do with personal guilt at all? Because he wants to elicit reactions like the ones in this thread. He wants people to say, "Guilt? I ain't done nothing to feel guility about. What the hell kind of ship are they running at Harvard?"

The problem with people like Steele is that they present these pin-point, focused, theories of the world that appear correct according to the parameters they put forth, but dissolve to utter crap when examined from a larger perspective.

What went on at Harvard is an administrative issue between the president and a professor. It's also a public relations issue because I'm pretty sure that Simmons wanted to avoid a potential media scandal at all costs. Steele would have us believe that there's some underlying, white-guilt psychosis involved, and that's just crap.

[quote] Originally posted by Scott H.

I don't remember reading that Simmons made any public statements about West. Rather it seems they had a private meeting and West made them public. <hr></blockquote>

You may be right about that; I don't know the specifics. As president, Simmons had every right to criticize West, but the way he did it was just stupid. If he really wanted change, he should have realized that academics have some of the biggest egos in the world (deserved or not), and that calling them an "embarassment" will just tick them off. Simmons may be president of harvard, but he ain't no Jack Welsh, and Harvard isn't GE. Professors don't just "jump" when the administration tells them to. By calling West and the others "embarassments" and "light weights," Simmons was just trying to unroll his presidential-schlong and hold a pissing contest. Hell, profs like West make their living being activists; how the heck could Simmons think that he wouldn't respond? If Simmons really wanted change, he should have figured out a way to sell his vision to ego-maniacal professors who make their living by rebelling against "the man."
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post #33 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:

I'm saying that Steele is grandstanding by trying to use the situation to further his own pet theories. <hr></blockquote>

Please. It's a little late to complain about grandstanding by the time Shelby Steele entered the fray. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and Mr. West got there long before he did.

[quote]Professors don't just "jump" when the administration tells them to. By calling West and the others "embarassments" and "light weights," Simmons (sic) was just trying to unroll his presidential-schlong and hold a pissing contest.<hr></blockquote>

Do you know that he used those words? Is there a quote somewhere? And if not, then your accusation has little merit.
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post #34 of 49
Thread Starter 
double post <img src="graemlins/bugeye.gif" border="0" alt="[Skeptical]" />

[ 01-10-2002: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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post #35 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by BRussell:
<strong>
To turn around the issue - would the President of Harvard get on a White professor for making a country music album or being part of Nader's political campaign?
</strong><hr></blockquote>

Well s/he should!
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post #36 of 49
This quote is so true it hurts:

"...universities are stunted by ideology..."

They are not a place of free speech. They are a place of a few deservedly ignored academics and their rabidly uncritical young cause-heads both equally and jealously defending the, at best, innocous frivolity of unpopular ideas. At best mind! -- when they are at least attached by some steps to something rigorous and scholarly. -- At worst they're just plain wrong, and often all the more zealous because of it.
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post #37 of 49
[quote]That's not at all what he's implying. Steele is an African American calling on another African Americans to seek excellence. He wants blacks to advance by their own merit rather than by exploiting white guilt. <hr></blockquote>

The implication is that blacks NEED a white moral authority to, as you say, "seek excellence."

[quote] From the article:

And when whites are silent, black mediocrity is no deterrent to black advancement. <hr></blockquote>

[quote] Please. It's a little late to complain about grandstanding by the time Shelby Steele entered the fray. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and Mr. West got there long before he did. <hr></blockquote>

...and that makes it OK for Steele? (warning: chicken or the egg argument approaching...)

[quote] Do you know that he used those words? Is there a quote somewhere? And if not, then your accusation has little merit. <hr></blockquote>

Alright fine. I don't know that Summers (OK now?) used those exact words, but the accusation still stands because the situation is still the same: whatever Summers did, it ticked West off, and Summers should have known better. It's still an ADMINISTRATION issue, not a white guilt issue like Steele is trying to make it into.

[ 01-10-2002: Message edited by: jesperas ]</p>
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post #38 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:
<strong>
Alright fine. I don't know that Summers (OK now?) used those exact words, but the accusation still stands</strong><hr></blockquote>

No it doesn't. If the accusation can not be traced back to Summers then it's little more than hearsay.

[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:
<strong>because the situation is still the same: whatever Summers did, it ticked West off, and Summers should have known better. </strong><hr></blockquote>

So we have to tip toe around the black guy because he might get ticked off? If I was a true "light weight" and my boss told me so I might be ticked off. Point being my reaction is not the pudding. A guy like West could get ticked off at anything so he could play on white guilt. I don't know if that's the case here but at the very least his reaction is just about irrelevant.
post #39 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by Scott H.:
<strong>

So we have to tip toe around the black guy because he might get ticked off? </strong><hr></blockquote>

Do not take my opinion of the specific situation above as my opinion for all black/white situations. Unlike Steele, I am not trying to create a theory in a cracker jack box.

Besides, you're missing the point that the whole white-guilt thing is a smokescreen in this situation. Jackson and West are just as culpable as Steele is.

And the accusation I said still stands is that Summers is a poor administrator, communicator, and motivator. Again, I'm not saying that West didn't deserve to be rebuked, but whatever Summers said caused West to start a grass roots protest by rallying students, professors, and Jessee Jackson, which obviously was not the response Summers wanted. If Summers WAS a good administrator, he would have gotten the result he was looking for, and this never would have happened. The fact that the situation blew up into what it did speaks for itself.
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post #40 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:
<strong>
The implication is that blacks NEED a white moral authority...</strong><hr></blockquote>

Right. They don't need a white moral authority. That's your embellishment.
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