Dreams from Obama

From The New York Review of Books:

Book A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Obama and Why He Can’t Win by Shelby Steele.

In A Bound Man, Steele attempts to apply to the election his notions about the uses of “black victimization” and “white guilt” that he worked out in The Content of Our Character. “You must never ever concede that only black responsibility can truly lift blacks into parity with whites,” because to do so would be to give up control over white guilt. In politics, blacks wear either the mask of the challenger or that of the bargainer. The purpose of these masks is to enable blacks to gain things from the white majority by “manipulating their need for racial innocence.” Because whites are “stigmatized with past racism,” blacks have a monopoly over racial innocence and believe, as only the oppressed can, that this is their greatest power in America.

It could be said that Obama’s way has been prepared not by Colin Powell, dutifully holding up the vial at the UN, but by Nelson Mandela, who emerged from his prison not bitter, calling for reconciliation. It is possible that the emerging youth vote is an anti–”War on Terror” vote, not just an anti–Iraq war vote. Mandela was also the one figure on the world stage who persuaded us that he was exactly what he seemed to be. The anti-apartheid movement was one of the few things happening on campuses in the 1980s. Since then white students in their thousands have taken Black Studies classes, reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, bringing Derrida to bear in their term papers on the hip-hop artist Nas’s debut album, Illmatic, even as black student enrollment nationwide has been falling. Shelby Steele ridicules institutions obsessed with diversity, but they, like Obama, are right to be inspired by the civil rights movement. The youth vote that gave him such a margin of victory in South Carolina, and kept his campaign going on Super Tuesday, missed the Sixties. Here is their chance.

More here.