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Content of Our Character: A New Vision of…
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Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America (edició 1990)

de Shelby Steele

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440642,478 (4.15)1
In this controversial essay collection, award-winning writer Shelby Stelle illuminates the origins of the current conflict in race relations--the increase in anger, mistrust, and even violence between black and whites. With candor and persuasive argument, he shows us how both black and white Americans have become trapped into seeing color before character, and how social policies designed to lessen racial inequities have instead increased them. The Content of Our Character is neither "liberal" nor "conservative," but an honest, courageous look at America's most enduring and wrenching social dilemma.… (més)
Membre:aleshel
Títol:Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America
Autors:Shelby Steele
Informació:St Martins Pr (1990), Hardcover, 175 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:Non-fiction, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Race Relations, African American Literature

Detalls de l'obra

The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race In America de Shelby Steele

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A most amazing book! Mr. Steele is speaking from the perspective of a black man about the atmosphere pervading this country now. As I read previous reviews I find I agree with most of them. Mr. Steele is addressing ideas and methods such as white guilt and affirmative action and is discussing them through a different prism. Everyone needs to add this to their library no matter which "viewpoint" they agree with. ( )
  khoyt | Aug 15, 2020 |
The reactions to Shelby Steele's The Content of Our Character ) show us another example of the polarization of race and adherence to long-held political positions. A quick analysis of various book review media indicates that comments on the book were predictable depending on the writer's previously held posture. Those who have a commitment to entitlement and affirmative action found much to disparage; those on the traditionally conservative side fighting any kind of preference loved it.
I think that's a shame because Steele, a black English professor, well entrenched in middle class values, in this collection of nine essays, wants blacks to come to grips with the last twenty years and then move on. He argues that those on the bottom rung of the ladder, regardless of color, require development, i.e. assistance in reaching their personal capabilities. Steele suggests that affirmative action has come to be regarded as an entitlement, that is, "they owe it to us for past injustice." The difficulty is that entitlement allows whites to continue to regard blacks as inferior. "They can't do it on their own, haven't got the intelligence, or just aren't capable," are sentiments of many whites who support preferential treatment. He blames blacks as well for holding attitudes reflected in the following statement, "I'm doing well considering my background." Steele declares that what should be expressed is the more positive, "Am I doing everything I can considering my background?"
Language he considers representative of the problem. The use of "Afro-American" v. "Black American" is evidence of "a despair over the possibility of gaining the less conspicuous pride that follows real advancement." I suppose this could also be said of the women's movement and handicapped advocates who theorize that changing the words will change behavior and attitudes, a tenuous argument at best.
Power must not be sought through victimization, asserts Steele, for while it leads to collective entitlement, it demoralizes individuals.

( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
In many ways, The Content of our Character is a predecessor of (and perhaps to a large degree the impetus behind) John McWhorter's more recent books on race.

For this reason, Steele's book comes across as rather dated by comparison. McWhorter has updated, corrected, and expanded upon Steele's vision to the extent that "The Content of" is probably not required reading for those interested in the subject.

This is not to say, however, that the McWhorter and Steele have the same view.

Where McWorter focuses on victimology as a social and cultural crisis that stains the subconscious of many or most black folks, Steele instead takes a more individualistic approach.

His main argument is that, insofar as black folks have tied up their individual identities with the larger racial group, they've stunted their ability to succeed (both financially and culturally) on the individual level. This is because the larger group has developed a persona that forces its members into to role of the victim. As long as one primarily identifies with their racial group (above and beyond their individual self) they're forced to take on the persona of the racial group. This, says Steele, leads to the often unwarranted feelings of hopelessness and anger emerging even from those who have not encountered racism lurking around every corner.

Steele argues that while group identification served a useful purpose during the civil rights struggle, now that blacks have opened up the playing field significantly and have an ever increasing amount of opportunity, continued group identification has got people looking outward towards the greater society when they should be looking inward towards themselves. What was once a useful and pragmatic strategy for taking on a hostile society has turned into a sort of self-imposed roadblock. Steele argues that, insofar as the road block is self-imposed, only black folks themselves (on an individual level) can remove such an obstacle.

Steele also comes down harshly on the phenomena and mechanisms of white guilt, arguing that whites attempt to quickly wipe away their lost innocence by giving out whatever blacks demand, even when such demands are counter productive for everyone involved. Steele argues that the social products of white guilt tend to leave blacks high and dry because most of the time white liberals are more concerned to recapture their racial innocence than to do what would really take to help balck folks. In Steele's estimation, what black folks need is not condescension or a spate of handouts, but rather dignity, self-respect, and, perhaps, social programs that can address the specific problems in the community without the paternalism.

Steele's main arguments should resonate with conservatives of all colors, although, like McWhorter, I think there is a sense in which Steele tends to overlook or downplay the legacy and continued existence of white racism.

There is nothing wrong with optimism, but, at times, even a reader that agrees with their general arguments may find Steele and McWhorter both a little bit too sunny, if you will.

One real worry I had about "The Content..." is that Steele often couches his argument in opaque psycho-analytic language in a way that is counter productive. One is with him to a point, as part of his thesis is about the *psychology* of individual members of the races being discussed. Nonetheless, if the reader is doubtful about the concepts and projects of this sort of psychology/analysis (as I am) it can become a bit grating and sometimes serves to obscure more than enlighten.

A final point on style: Steele is a rather nice stylist and, on my view, he reads better than McWhorter. In fact, one reason to think "The Content..." will endure is because it is generally well written, witty, and eloquent. It also takes a much more autobiographical, reflective approach than many of the other books with similar content and arguments. For these reasons it could in fact be a *better* choice for readers more inclined to the prose and biographical insight of an English professor than the typically terse and more statistical writing of social scientists. ( )
1 vota NoLongerAtEase | Jul 16, 2008 |
Good book on race in America. It pretty much concentrates on black/white relations so doesn't help much in regards to raising Asian children and helping prepare them. There are some chapters on White Guilt if this is something you are struggling with that I thought were helpful. ( )
  autumnesf | May 20, 2008 |
While more than a decade old, this book still has its finger on the pulse of race relations in America. It is a perfect tool to help teachers, especially Anglos, understand the volatile relationship between white guilt and race holding -- two terms that Dr. Steele has coined to describe the delicate dance of blacks and whites in the volatile area of race. ( )
  JamesT | Jun 14, 2006 |
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In this controversial essay collection, award-winning writer Shelby Stelle illuminates the origins of the current conflict in race relations--the increase in anger, mistrust, and even violence between black and whites. With candor and persuasive argument, he shows us how both black and white Americans have become trapped into seeing color before character, and how social policies designed to lessen racial inequities have instead increased them. The Content of Our Character is neither "liberal" nor "conservative," but an honest, courageous look at America's most enduring and wrenching social dilemma.

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