Shelby Steele: 'Blacks Have Never Been Less Oppressed Than They Are Today'

By Michael W. Chapman | June 10, 2020 | 4:01pm EDT
Shelby Steele.  (Screenshot, YouTube)
Shelby Steele. (Screenshot, YouTube)

While discussing the civil unrest in America sparked by the killing of George Floyd, author and civil rights expert Shelby Steele said "systemic racism" is a "corruption" because "blacks have never been less oppressed than they are today."

Steele, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, also said if we were serious about problems in black communities, we would ask black Americans why they are not carrying their "own weight" instead of blaming nearly everything on racism. 

There was "no black underclass" in the United States prior to the 1960s, said Steele. "That's a new phenomenon," which has been fostered in part by federal government programs, such as public housing.

Steele made his remarks on the June 7 edition of Life, Liberty & Levin, hosted by conservative Mark Levin on FNC. 

After discussing whether the current protests and riots are some kind of civil rights movement, Steele said, "When people start to talk about systemic racism built into the system, what they're really doing is expanding the territory of entitlement."


"We want more, we want more," he said. "We want the society to give us more to help us and so forth. Society is responsible for us, and because racism is so systemic."

"Well, that's a corruption," said Steele. "And I know it's a corruption because the truth of the matter is, blacks have never been less oppressed than they are today. Opportunity is around every corner, and in all of this, no one ever stops to say, well, you're unhappy about where minorities are at in American life and blacks continue to be at the bottom of most socioeconomic measures. You're unhappy about that."

"Well, why don't you take some responsibility for it?" he said.  "Why don't you take more responsibility? I would be happy to look at all the usual bad guys -- the police and so forth -- if we had the nerve, the courage to look at black people, to look at black Americans, minority Americans, and say, you're not carrying your own weight."

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"You are going to go have a fit and a tantrum and demonstrate and so forth, and yet you're not -- you're not doing -- are you teaching your child to read?" said Steele, author of White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era

"Are you making sure that the school down the street actually educates your child?" he added. "Are you becoming educated and following a dream in life and making things happen for yourself?"

"Or are you saying I'm a victim and I'm old and the entitlement is inadequate and I need to be given more?" he asked.  "And after all, you know, you whites that racism has been here for four centuries and slavery and so forth, and so it's time for you to give to me."

"Well, that's an exhausted, fruitless empty strategy to take," said Steele. "We've been on that path since the '60s and we are farther behind than we've ever been and we keep blaming it on racism and blaming it on the police. I'm exhausted with that."

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"I grew up in a time when there was real segregation," he said. "And blacks during the '50s and so forth took a lot of responsibility for their lives because the government didn't.  My father bought three ramshackle houses, rebuilt them, rented them out, kept clawing his way up the ladder -- a man with a third grade education from the South."

"What Civil Rights Bill is going to replace that? That value system?" he said. "And he was not exceptional. Across the community we lived in, those were the values and that is the problem -- is that we have allowed ourselves to be enabled in avoiding our real problems by a guilty white society that keeps using us, exploiting us as victims to say that it's wonderful and it's overcoming racism and so forth."

"If you really care about how minorities do, why don't you ask them to do it?" said Steele. "Why don't you ask them to drop the pretense? There's always going to be some racism in every society. My own sense is that it's endemic to the human condition. We will always have to watch out for it. As I like to say, stupidity is also endemic to the human condition and we have to watch out for that, too."

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

He continued, "That is no excuse for us being where we are right now in American life. We have let this sort of guilty society and our grievance industry put us in this impossible position where we are a permanent underclass."

"Before the 60s, there was no black underclass," said Steele. "That's a new phenomenon. Public housing completely supported by the government."

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