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A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of…

A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America (edition 1998)

by Shelby Steele (Author)

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1062178,815 (4)1
"According to Steele, the liberalism that grew out of the 1960s had as its first and all-consuming goal the expiation of American guilt rather than the careful development of true equality between the races ... In four densely argued essays, Steele takes on the familiar questions of affirmative action, multiculturalism, diversity, Afro-centrism, group preferences, victimization -- and what he deems to be the atavistic powers of race, ethnicity, and gender."--Jacket.… (more)
Title:A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America
Authors:Shelby Steele (Author)
Info:Harper (1998), Edition: 1, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:History, US History, Civil Rights

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A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America by Shelby Steele



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A powerful book which undoubtedly sparked a lot of controversy. I am sure many cussed out Shelby Steele under their breath as they read A Dream Deferred or even screamed Uncle Tom as they quit reading this collection of four essays on the topics of race relations, affirmative action and civil rights movements.

No matter what one thinks of set-asides, quotas and preferential treatment based on skin color, gender or sexual orientation, Shelby Steele writes a well discussed argument. The final essay provides some light on his own story and wraps up what he spent the prior 168 pages elaborating upon. ( )
  HistReader | Oct 25, 2012 |
A Dream Deferred. The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America. Shelby Steele

Reawakening the Dream…. December 7, 2000

This morning, sometime around three or four AM, I woke up thinking about Shelby Steele’s A Dream Deferred. I read it a number of months ago and have been wanting to write a brief note about it. There are so few intelligent, reasonable, sane voices speaking about racial matters in America I feel it as a duty to try to acknowledge those who are so scorned by the forces of both white and black extremist liberalism. The thought that impelled me out of bed was that I owe it to my memory of the best friend I’ve ever had in my life, who happened to be black, long deceased and sorely missed. So I struggle for words, knowing I will never meet that high mark.

Others may criticize Mr. Steele for emphasizing this and underplaying that, but I want to praise his thoughtful probing of the dynamics of affirmative action and how it assuages white guilt while keeping some black people from developing their highest potential. As a former college English instructor, I occasionally had minority students who were accustomed to being handed A’s and were shocked to receive C’s. Repeated experience convinced me that affirmative action was part of the problem. They lacked the self-discipline and responsibility that Steele extolls: “Very often those who educate poor blacks feel excused from the responsibilities of high expectations and academic rigor by the very conditions that make such expectations mandatory.”

My students had had years of misguided low expectations from both teachers and administrators and had ultimately internalized them. I recall one student telling me he had to have a grade higher than a C. When I responded that he should read the Harbrace Handbook from cover to cover and do as many of the exercises as possible, he stared at me in disbelief. I encouraged him to be gentle with himself and to expect to retain only perhaps sixty to eighty percent of his study but that with time and continual effort he would achieve a more sophisticated level of literacy.

Having started as a TA in the early 1980s when most students in writing classes received the C they deserved, I found it difficult to hand out largely all B’s, while the pressure for all A’s sent me looking for another way to make a living so as not to participate in the fraud of “higher” education. Misguided white guilt only complicates matters for serious, capable minority students and makes it all the more unlikely they’ll be called upon to strive to develop their abilities to the highest degree possible. Steele perceptively touches on how university administrators are exacerbating this decline.

On another note, Steele states “to be human is to be responsible” and profoundly probes the intricacies of human motivation, responsibility, and the ways in which affirmative action and the thinking of politically correct race elites erode individual agency:

“Race should *never* play a role in social reform for many reasons, not least of which is that it is *always* used to help people avoid full agency for their fate. It always transforms the responsibility that free minorities should carry into a commodity that others will use for their own moral power. Race absolutely corrupts those who use it for redemption and absolutely weakens those who use it for advancement” (112).

To all of which I say, “amen.” I hope, indeed struggle to hope, that men like Shelby Steele, Ward Connerly, Thomas Sowell, David Horowitz and others will find the resources to continue to set a new course from the lamentable situation that plagues race relations today, especially in the university, though the struggle against patronizing white guilt for true individual responsibility and achievement exists in all walks of life. It seems to me that it is a struggle that must be fought primarily by intelligent blacks and minorities who have had enough of the insult of affirmative action to stand up and fight for the unquestionable respect and honor they so rightly deserve and merit.

Frederick Glaysher
1 vote fglaysher | Apr 2, 2008 |
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But there is also an American Negro tradition which teaches one to deflect racial provocation and to master and contain pain. It is a tradition which abhors as obscene any trading on one's anguish for gain or sympathy; which springs not from a desire to deny the harshness of existence but from a will to deal with it as men at their best have always done. Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act
Try to remember that human dignity is an absolute, not a piecemeal notion; that it is inconsistent with special pleading.... Should you find this argument a bit on the heady side, think at least that by considering yourself a victim you but enlarge the vacuum of irresponsibility that demons or demagogues love so much to fill... Maybe the real civility, Mr. President, is not to create illusions. Joseph Brodsky, On Grief and Reason
What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up/ Like a raisin in the sun?/Or fester like a sore-/ And then run?/ Does it stink like rotten meat/ Or crust and sugar over-/Like a syrupy sweet?/ Maybe it just sags/ Like a heavy load/ Or does it explode? Langston Hughes, "Dream Deferred"
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