Shelby Steele said that “white guilt” is not something the U.S. can depend on to move forward in the final installment of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion’s “Pursuing Racial Justice” series on Tuesday night.
“I think white guilt is really an anxiety, a terror of being stigmatized as a racist,” Steele said. “I think that because they are afraid in that way, they often act guiltily, and it’s the act that troubles me.”
Steele, who is Black, is a fellow at the Hoover Institute, a conservative public policy think tank. According to the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, “he specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action.”
John Gates, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, moderated the livestream session. Gates asked Steele questions and played pre-recorded student questions to a YouTube audience of more than 550 people.
Steele expressed concern for the non-genuine ways in which people might attempt to make it clear that they are not racist.
“They may support things they don’t believe in, they may fish around for the right politics because they want to be able to say they are innocent of racism,” he said.
Gates asked Steele what he thought about Tuesday's verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.
“It seems to show off the American judicial system in one of its finer moments,” Steele said. “I think the final verdicts make sense from any point of view. This, I think, is a harbinger of where we want to go in the future.”
Purdue President Mitch Daniels also has a history with the Hoover Institute, according to the conservative organization’s website. Daniels has conducted previous interviews with the institute, with his most recent one on June 1. A biography page for the former Indiana governor still exists on the group’s website.
Steele also said he believes “Black victimization” to be the “primary source of power” for Black America, something he said he personally disagrees with.
“This is one of the great tragedies, it seems to me, of Black American life,” he said. “We’ve come to the point where our power in the society in which we live is based not on our achievement of anything but on the fact that we have been victimized by the society.”
Affirmative action policies only make this worse, Steele said.
“That’s what bothers me,” he said. “In a twisted way, it seduces Blacks into believing in and doing business on the basis of their own inferiority.”
Compared to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Steele said he believes contemporary organizations like Black Lives Matter only further this victimization.
“They believe in the power of victimization and nothing else,” he said. “They take the wound of oppression and massage it. They are the enemy of Black American advancement.”