Shelby Steele believes today’s Black leadership treads in victimhood, ducking responsibility and playing an old, played-out “Blame Whitey” game.
The verdict that declared George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin was a traumatic event for America’s civil-rights establishment, and for many black elites across the media, government and academia. When you have grown used to American institutions being so intimidated by the prospect of black wrath that they invent mushy ideas like “diversity” and “inclusiveness” simply to escape that wrath, then the crisp reading of the law that the Zimmerman jury displayed comes as a shock.
On television in recent weeks you could see black leaders from every background congealing into a chorus of umbrage and complaint. But they weren’t so much outraged at a horrible injustice as they were affronted by the disregard of their own authority. The jury effectively said to them, “You won’t call the tune here. We will work within the law.”
There’s another sort of establishment and that’s the one where Black conservatives talk about the Black experience, but not to other Black people who know it already.
That is why Steele’s sphere of influence is primarily limited to (gasp!) White male conservatives who say they are the true victims of racism, avoid any acknowledgement of the considerable advantages White Privilege affords them and are play an even older, but just as played-out game calleed “Why Can’t You Lazy Blacks Stop Complaining and Blaming Us Because You Aren’t White Like Me?”
If Black liberals get paid to soothe White Guilt, Black conservatives work their own hustle by appealing to White Denial. Steele is fluent in the familiar language of the apologist and appeaser as he scorns the attention the “civil rights establishment” has paid to the unworthy Trayvon.
Why did the civil-rights leadership use its greatly depleted moral authority to support Trayvon Martin? This young man was, after all, no Rosa Parks—a figure of indisputable human dignity set upon by the rank evil of white supremacy. Trayvon threw the first punch and then continued pummeling the much smaller Zimmerman. Yes, Trayvon was a kid, but he was also something of a menace. The larger tragedy is that his death will come to very little. There was no important principle or coherent protest implied in that first nose-breaking punch. It was just dumb bravado, a tough-guy punch.
There was nothing in the Zimmerman trial that established Martin “threw the first punch.” Nor is any truth to Steele’s slander that Martin was “something of a menace.” After all, it is the “cherubic” Zimmerman (as Steele lovingly describes him) who has the criminal record.
There is no need for similar acts of character assassination about Zimmerman’s character. The menace posed by his history is a matter of legal record.
The neighborhood watch volunteer who wanted to be a cop was arrested in July 2005 for “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer.” Zimmerman got into a scuffle with cops questioning a friend for alleged underage drinking. Upon entering an alcohol education program, the charges were reportedly reduced and then waived. The next month in 2005, Zimmerman’s former fiance sought a restraining order against him because of domestic violence. Zimmerman sought a restraining order against her in return. Both were granted.
Despite Steele’s scurrilous slurs against a murdered and unarmed teenager, it is Zimmerman’s brushes with the law establish he was the real “fucking punk.” The White conservatives who make up Steele’s readership are not concerned with Zimmerman’s established record of criminality as much as they are the threat a unleashed Trayvon Martin might have. It isn’t truth Rupert Murdoch is paying Steele to provide. It is relief for poor, put-upon White conservatives who have nothing but fear and loathing in their hearts for every other Trayvon that hasn’t been murdered yet.
Steele is in the same class of race hustlers like Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Allan West, Mira Love, Niger Innis, Star Parker, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, Jesse Lee “thank God for slavery” Peterson, Uncle Tom Sowell, and of course Gentle Ben Carson. With the exception of Carson, not one of them has any clout or following within the Black community.
Why would they? Their job is to represent themselves, not the interests of Black people as they show up at right-wing conferences, Tea Party rallies and Republican conventions telling the attendees what the are paid to say and smile pretty when the camera pans the audience so conservatives can point to those one or two grains of black pepper among all that white salt and flaunt their commitment to “diversity.”
Which is about an inch deep as it is wide, but somebody’s got to play The Spook That Sat By the Door., so why not Shelby Steele? He’s uniquely qualified to suck up to the White conservatives that keep him gainfully employed and will remain useful so long as he keeps making them feel good and exhibits he’s sufficiently grateful. When they’re done with him they’ll just throw him out and get another off the shelf just like him.
The next Shelby Steele will also specialize in dispensing useless advice to his core audience. But that core audience does not include anyone who looks like Shelby Steele.
- Shelby Steele: The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment (tarpon.wordpress.com)
- Doc’s Talk: Will Blacks finally wake up to their own Race Hustlers? (docstalk.blogspot.com)
- Last Word On the Zimmerman-Martin Case (lightondarkwater.typepad.com)
- Misunderstood outrage (thisgotmyattention.wordpress.com)