Shelby Steele | Srivideo
Born/Date of Birth: January 1, 1946
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Spouse: Rita Steele (m. 1967)
Children: Eli Steele, Loni Steele Sosthand
Parents: Ruth Steele, Shelby Sr. Steele
Alma mater: University of Utah, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Coe College
Institutions: Hoover Institution, San Jose State University
Main interests: Racism, multiculturalism, affirmative action
Shelby Steele (born January 1, 1946) is an American conservative author, columnist, documentary film maker, and a Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action.
In 1990, he received the National Book Critics Circle Award in the general nonfiction category for his book The Content of Our Character. He is the brother of Claude Steele.
Early life and education
Steele was born in Chicago to an American father of African descent and an American mother of European descent. His father, Shelby Sr., a truck driver, met his mother, Ruth, a social worker, while working for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). His twin brother is Claude Steele, who is currently Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at UC Berkeley, and formerly dean of the School of Education at Stanford University.
Steele received a B.A. in political science from Coe College, an M.A. in sociology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah. Steele met his wife, Rita, during his junior year at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he was an American of mixed race ancestry along with 17 African- American students in his class. Steele was active in the SCOPE Project, a voter registration project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and he met Rita at an activist meeting. In 1968, Steele graduated from Coe College and went on to earn his master's degree in sociology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Steele attended the University of Utah, where he taught black literature and studied for his Ph.D.
After earning a Ph.D. in English in 1974, Steele was offered a tenured position at the university but turned it down because of hostility encountered as part of an interracial couple in Utah. Steele accepted a position at San Jose State University as a professor of English literature and taught there from 1974 to 1991.
Steele is a black conservative. He opposes policies such as affirmative action, which he considers to be unsuccessful liberal campaigns to promote equal opportunity for African Americans. He contends that blacks have been "twice betrayed:" first by slavery and oppression and then by group preferences mandated by the government, which discourage self-agency and personal responsibility in blacks.
Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest hindrance for black Americans. In his view, white Americans see blacks as victims to ease their guilty conscience, and blacks attempt to turn their status as victims into a kind of currency that will purchase nothing of real or lasting value. Therefore, he claims, blacks must stop "buying into this zero-sum game" by adopting a "culture of excellence and achievement" without relying on "set-asides and entitlements."
Steele wrote a short book, A Bound Man: Why We are Excited about Obama and Why He Can't Win, published in December 2007. The book contained Steele's analysis of Barack Obama's character as a child born to a mixed couple who then had to grow as a black man. Steele concluded that Obama is a "bound man" to his "black identity." Steele gives this description of his conclusion:
After Obama won the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Steele defended the content of the book and claimed its subtitle was a marketing device motivated by the publisher which he came up with "in about 30 seconds." He explains Obama's victory by likening him to Louis Armstrong who donned the "bargainer's mask" in his bid for white acceptance. In his analysis, he takes whites, who he claims have for decades been stigmatized as racist and had to prove they are not, "off the hook."
On Uncommon Knowledge, an interview program for the Hoover Institute hosted by Peter Robinson, he said: "White America has made tremendous moral progress since the '60s.... And they've never given themselves credit for that. And here is an opportunity at last to document this progress."
Steele has been critical of what he describes as the "world opinion" of Israel.
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