The cult of “conservative nonwhites,” cont.

Russell W. writes:

Today Dennis Prager had Shelby Steele on his radio show to discuss his White Guilt book. I was lucky enough to call and be one of only two callers who made it on the air (the other was the same intensely angry black guy your previous correspondent mentioned had called the Michael Medved show and berated Steele).

I made the point which you had written on earlier concerning Steele and other conservative minorities: that conservative whites implicitly submit to the liberal paradigm by relying on and giving greater legitimacy to writers like Steele to tell uncomfortable truths about race and race relations, and this dynamic is especially ironic in the context of this book on white guilt, as it is itself an example of just what Steele is talking about.

Prager basically brushed the point aside and said that as a practical matter, we have to rely on minorities to make these arguments because whites will be suspected of having some kind of racial axe to grind. He didn’t seem to be aware that his response was the perfect example of the type of automatic stigma of racism which Steele describes as the basis of white guilt—that whites are constantly trying to dispel this presumption of being racist and thereby don’t have the confidence to stand up for their ideas and end up pandering to minorities. It was illuminating and sad to listen to.

I should note also that Prager himself made the whole thing explicit by saying repeatedly things like, “This book is doubly important because it’s written by a black man.” I pointed that quote out to Prager during the call, but it didn’t have any effect on his thinking.

Unfortunately Steele didn’t say anything. It would have been interesting to see what he thought, but Prager jumped in with his answer and then he went to a break.

I applaud Russell for confronting Prager and Steele on this. I’m sure it was a point that neither Prager nor any of his listeners had ever thought of before. It’s a shame that Steele didn’t have a chance to reply. However, I must say that if Steele were serious about combating false white guilt, then when Prager kept saying that “This book is doubly important because it’s written by a black man,” Steele would have said, “Mr. Prager, when you say that this book is more important because it’s written by a black person, you are saying that whites don’t have the moral legitimacy to speak about race, and thus you are feeding into the paralyzing white guilt that I’m saying our society must overcome.” Either Steele is so superficial in his own thinking that this problem didn’t occur to him, or, as I’ve previously suggested, his purpose is not to relieve whites of racial guilt but to pile it on top of them until they suffocate. That was certainly the impression I got from his last article, with its unrelenting attack on “white supremacy” as the central principle of our civilization. And if that’s the case, then of course Steele would not come to your side on the “conservative nonwhites” issue. He himself is using his status as a conservative nonwhite to cripple whites and advance himself.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 20, 2006 07:04 PM | Send

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