Born in Chicago to a black father and a white mother, Shelby Steele (b. 1946) is an author and columnist who writes frequently about matters of race relations and multiculturalism. From 1974 to 1991 he taught English at San Jose State University. In 1994, he joined the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he currently serves as the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow. His 1990 book, The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other books include A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America (1998), White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (2006), and A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2004 and the Bradley Prize in 2006.
Author: Shelby Steele
One of the most vexing questions about American race relations concerns the wisdom and fairness of our programs of affirmative action, practices that, in the name of justice and fairness, give one form or another of preferential treatment to blacks (and other victims of prior discrimination), in order to help them overcome the handicaps incurred as a result of prior injustice and deprivation.
Shelby Steele (b. 1946), in this second selection from his provocative 1990 book, The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, explores a different—and, to him, more troubling—psychological aspect of self-identifying by race, what he calls “Race-Holding.”