Shelby Steele On ‘How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country’

Here is Peter Robinson interviewing Shelby Steele, an excerpt of the transcript is below:

Shelby Steele: Let me say this. What is a racist? I have racist impulses. I’ve never met a human being who didn’t. We will always have to watch out for those impulses in ourself. They are automatic. They are reflexive. They’re not reflective. They’re reflexive, and we will always have to watch out for that and make them utterly impermissible. The point is, is that we can’t just say … We can’t use racism politically anymore. We’re no longer in a place where … Racism exists, yes, but is racism a problem? No.

Peter Robinson: I’ve heard you mention that you’re impressed that race just doesn’t seem to matter to Trump.

Shelby Steele: That’s right. You know, I don’t think Donald Trump is getting up in the morning and saying, “You know what? I have to figure out how to do a better job of keeping black people down today.” I don’t think that’s the case. I think when he went to Harlem during his campaign, and he went to the black church, and he leaned over the podium, and he said, “What have you got to lose?” he spoke more honestly to black people than any person of his stature in my memory. Some black people heard that. What, are you going to keep going back to the party that keeps offering you the very things that oppress you? We’re due for some changes, and hopefully they’ll come sooner than later.

Peter Robinson: Last question, Shelby. Let me quote Frederick Douglass, the great, the former slave. This is 1863. “In regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just manifest toward us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. Do nothing …

Shelby Steele: “Nothing.”

Peter Robinson: … with us. Your interference is doing us positive injury,” close quote. That’s Frederick Douglass speaking to white Americans in 1863. Last question, what does Shelby Steele say to white Americans today?

Shelby Steele: Well, I couldn’t say anything better than that. That is … I’m very … I’ve quoted that myself. I’ve used it. I’m a great fan of Frederick Douglass. He’s the greatest of all time. What truth. How long is it going to take us to absorb that message? So simply put, yet so absolutely true. What I would say to whites is, “Have a little more faith in yourself. Do you have ill will toward people of different races and backgrounds? Then you, obviously, know that’s something you cannot indulge.” That’s it. That’s it.

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