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Grievance, Black Politics, and Black Identity

In his conversation with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, scholar Shelby Steele said the following:

I am black and happy to be so, but my identity is not my master. I’m my master. And I resent this civil rights leadership telling me what I should think and what issues I should support this way or that way. And that’s where, in black America, identity has become almost totalitarian... You [must] subscribe to the idea that the essence of blackness is grounded in grievance, and if you vary from that you are letting whites off the hook. And we’re gonna call you a sell out. We’re gonna call you an ‘Uncle Tom’... I was gonna have a life or I was just going to be a kind of surrogate for blackness... but you enter an exile where the group identifies you as someone who is a threat, and part of being black is despising or having contempt for people like me.

What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Steele's contention that today’s black identity is “grounded in grievance?”
  • Is ideological diversity within the black community limited by an imperative to not "let whites off the hook?"
  • To what extent are racial divisions and classifications reinforced by minority group identity?

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    Me thinks, Mr Steel, ye protesteth too much.
    You have a black Father; so what? Get over it; move on. Barak Obama has.

    I do not know if Obama can be elected. I will vote for him if he is the Democratic candidate. I vastly prefer him to Hillary, even though as Mr. Steele points out- he keeps his ideological cards close to his chest- and that is somewhat troubling. But all politicians triangulate and calculate- and only time will tell whether or not Shelby Steele is an accurate prophet of electoral politics in the United States or not. I hope he is not.

    In his role as analyst however, I believe Mr. Steele is dead on the money. His deconstruction of the 'black question' is brilliant. Brave black intellectuals like him and Bill Cosby, who are willing to shine the light on all the problems facing black Americans, including those caused by blacks themselves, rather than perpetuating the singularity of victimization, are the only hope for true advancement of civil rights.

    Thanks Bill Moyers for having the courage to get Mr. Steele into the debate- I saw him recently on CSPAN as well, and he makes so much sense. Avoidance of responsibility for, or actual denial of, black-on-black crime and the reactionary contribution of 'rap' music/thug culture to the declining living standards among blacks, and the continued reliance on victimization and leaders who make their living keeping whites 'on the hook' to justify and explain all the problems in the black community have been disastrous for the black community. This sham has already been allowed to go on for far too long.

    More Shelby Steele!

    I am also really disappointed by this entire interview. I heard it over a week ago, and it still lingers in my mind...bitterly. I'm not as much concerned about Steele's political reasoning (or agenda) as I am about his concept of race relations in America.

    The only purpose that interview served was to once again alienate blacks and whites. As a black female activist I do not feel that I need to make white people feel guilty. Being aware of social injustice is different from feeling guilty, and I trust that many white Americans are socially aware.

    What purpose does guilt, or the imposition guilt serve anyway. It's not like Black Africans were not involved in the slave trade. Guilt implies that black people had no agency in the course of history, and that they were just shoved around. Placing guilt is not empowering. Clearly not all black Americans would agree to this, but, I, unlike Steele do not claim to be able to speak for all black Americans.

    Shelby Steele reminds me of the tragic character Delacroix (Daman Wayans) in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled." Della tests the TV network's tolerance for racial degradation by submitting a modern minstral show as a pilot. To his surprise it is accepted and becomes a hit. (Not surprising to me considering the public's appetite for "Mario and the Magician" type sadism in the current crop of reality shows.) The Black Republican, the Black conservative columnist (paid by the Whitehouse or not), the Black media entrepreneur (includes melancholy Bill Cosby), as rare and admirable as they can sometimes be, are always tools of the elite, set in place to hold colored folk to a higher standard than upper class white people (who have most of the chips, and a greater share of the pecadillos).
    I heard a comedian conjecture that if you hear a tale of a really ritualistic serial killer on the news that the perpetrator is unlikely to be Black. I asked myself why not. It may be because the really twisted Black minds are occupied in devoted service to the myths of the elite. And what is that conditiion but a really involved and sophisticated minstral show? (Only James Baldwin found a way to escape and turn the demeaning proposition on its head. If he were alive he'd be only one of several human beings qualified to use the N-word properly: as an emblem of courage and defiance.)

    I was offended by the scheduling of Steele and his topic at this time! I hope we will have people who are against each of the other candidates! It reminds me of when the Catholic Church broadly publicized it's opposition to Geraldine Ferraro (not coincidentally the first major woman vice presidential candidate!).
    Please explain how this is "fair and balanced" coverage!?"

    It appears somewhat unfair for Mr. Steele to hold Mr. Obama to a different degree of political criticism than of other candidates. Perhaps it is because of his conservatism, which is his right as a citizen. Part of the Obamatism is purely politics, and partly refreshing as a new politican on the block. It has been many years since we heard of Mr. Obama's enthusiam and ability to pull many people back into the political arena. And it is people like Mr. Steele that have been trying to put a finger or it or figure it out, viewing this tide against the old traditional way of looking at things. Bargainer or challenger, whatever Mr. Steele brands it, it is indeed what the people (all flavors of people) are saying they are ready to listen to. Open your ears Mr. Steele, ready or not, change is a coming.... sayi

    Shelby Steele has only revealed to us his problems with being a Black Man in America.
    Black leadership does not tell Blacks what to think, nor do they tell Blacks what issues to support. (Check Black support for Hillary Clinton and Obama). Simply, Blacks pespectives are not monolithic.

    Apparently,Steele has been called an "Uncle Tom". He offers no specifics as to why he makes any of these allegations,nor does he offer one scenario that prompted some to call him an "Uncle Tom".
    There are many Blacks who do not support Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Many of them don't claim victimization of the "Uncle Tom" epithet, nor do they express feelingsof intimidation because they don't support the so-called "Black agenda". In fact, many of them are to the left of Jackson and Sharpton. There is and never has been an easy ride from Blacks for any Black in American history who chooses to assume a leadership mantle - and that includes King, Malcom, Garvey, Adam Powell, etc.

    From what I hear Shelby Steele to say is that he is really not in touch with Black people nor Black leadership. Black people are quite diverse in their views and have a history of choosing between opposing leadership. Some of Martin Luther Kings biggest battles were with other Black leaders who disagreed with his approach. And,those occurrences were far from being just anecdotal. (Remember Malcom X, Adam Clayton Powell, the organization SNCC. etc).

    Those of you who are not African Americans would do well to investigate other sources before concluding that Steele has a valid argument. It is obvious to me that there is something more troubling with Steele and his reeaction to being Black in America that rankles him enough to reduce Black America and Black leadership to simpleminded, unsubstantiated assessments.

    Mr. Moyers' conversation with Shelby Steele was truly enlightening, as are so many of his dialogues with today's REAL honest thinkers and concerned Americans. They are not "interviews" in any sense of the word. I become a "fly on the wall" listening in to an energized and focused discourse between two concerned patriots in the true sense of "searching for reasons and solutions" for 21st Century dilemnas faced by our now very "shaky" free society. When Mr. Steele referred to Sen. Obama as a sort of "invisible man", sometimes the bargainer assuaging the collective guilt of white Americans, sometimes the challenger connecting himself to the tribulations of African-Americans throughout the history of this country, I think Obama does so solely in his "Politician" persona and does artfully pull that switch to his political advantage. As a person, a man of mixed race, up close and in the flesh in his daily journey along the challenging road of life, he may or may not do exactly the same. Those closest to him can only know that in vivid terms. I've only read excerpts of Obama's book on his formative years and he seems fully aware of the voting public's need to know him much more personally if they are to climb aboard his wagon and head with him to a better promised land. I give great kudos to Mr. Steele's courageous declaration that his "identity" as a "black man in America" is not the master of either his choices in life or his destiny. He becomes a shining although maybe only partial solution to the dilemna of being an "Ellisonian" Invisible Man in America. His very physical image and his words sharpen into a competent clarity as he does so. I plan to read Mr. Steele's writings, and not only on Obama. I grew up a white kid in a racially very mixed, low-to-middle income working class section of Brooklyn, New York and my struggles were shaped mostly by my own shortcomings and fears and strengths and aspirations. The color of my skin allowed me to move much more freely out into the rest of New York and then the world at large with only my "heavy Brooklyn accent"(ha!) as a sometimes "profiling" opportunity for those who encountered me. Many friends of mine, from the Puerto Rican community, the recently immigrated eastern Europeans, Arabs, and African Americans mired in self images inflicted on them and their ancestors by a society driven by racist agendas, all had to deal with the true "invisibility " of their unique inner self in this society's very "fixed" game. I will continue to tune in and be a fly on the wall, hungrily taking in future conversations taking place at Mr. Moyers' table....Bruce Robertson

    I am just beginning to blog & am not sure if blogging produces change; however, MLK "had a dream" & I am having a nightmare,(the GOP & NDP have denied me the right to vote in selecting a presidential candidate) so I have turned to the lofty Internet to see if I am just stabbing at windmills, & saw this blog.
    I watched Mr. Moyers' Journal & Mr. Steele makes strong points & the time has come to be able to discuss the black issues with reason & calm clarity. Bill Cosby, Colin Powell & Shelby Steele are people I listen to & don't think about what race they are. The credit is to them, as I am a white boy that grew up in the 40s & 50's in the heart of the South. Sharpton & Jackson strike me as being so biased & hostile, that I tune them out. So, are they trying to talk to me or to blacks?
    How many generations are necessary to give the blacks a chance? Where would Al & Jesse be without their hyped raceism?
    What about immigrants that come to this country with little skills in our society & yet go on to own businesses, graduate college, etc.?
    I could talk to Bill, Colin & Shelby and listen to their ideas, but I'm ain't on no hook & ain't going to be put there because mistakes were made by past generations. I will stand with the past generations that fought for my right to representative govrnment!
    W. Moore

    Do you agree with Steele's contention that today’s black identity is “grounded in grievance?”

    Not at all. Some people let the past chain them down forever. Others remove those chains and live out their lives in pursuit of their dreams and ambitions. Some african-americans will never get over the history of slavery in the United States and keep using it as as a crucible around their necks justifying their anger and disenchantment with the United States. If an African American's identify is grounded "in grievance" they only have themselves to blame. Go see The Pursuit of Happyness and tell me that Christopher Gardner suffered from a grievance against the "White man." He's now a millionaire and I highly doubt he is plagued with any grievance.

    # Is ideological diversity within the black community limited by an imperative to not "let whites off the hook?"

    It might be. All that really can be said is any african-american sells him or herself short if they allow the history of slavery to act as a barrier to achieving their ideals.

    I'd like to conclude by saying I don't at all agree with Mr. Shelby's assessment of the African American psyche. I voted for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and again in 1988. And I easily could vote for Obama. But what matters for me isn't whether an african american is a challenger or a bargainer. I want to know what their positions are on the greater issues of the day.

    Shelby Steele is an unabashed conservative. And I'm sick and tired of that ilk leading our nation. The United States is in short supply of liberal leadership. And we need it more than ever.

    Do you agree with Steele's contention that today’s black identity is “grounded in grievance?”

    Not at all. Some people let the past chain them down forever. Others remove those chains and live out their lives in pursuit of their dreams and ambitions. Some african-americans will never get over the history of slavery in the United States and keep using it as as a crucible around their necks justifying their anger and disenchantment with the United States. If an African American's identify is grounded "in grievance" they only have themselves to blame. Go see The Pursuit of Happyness and tell me that Christopher Gardner suffered from a grievance against the "White man." He's now a millionaire and I highly doubt he is plagued with any grievance.

    # Is ideological diversity within the black community limited by an imperative to not "let whites off the hook?"

    It might be. All that really can be said is any african-american sells him or herself short if they allow the history of slavery to act as a barrier to achieving their ideals.

    I'd like to conclude by saying I don't at all agree with Mr. Shelby's assessment of the African American psyche. I voted for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and again in 1988. And I easily could vote for Obama. But what matters for me isn't whether an african american is a challenger or a bargainer. I want to know what their positions are on the greater issues of the day.

    Shelby Steele is an unabashed conservative. And I'm sick and tired of that ilk leading our nation. The United States is in short supply of liberal leadership. And we need it more than ever.

    Mr. Moyers,

    As a long-time admirer of your work, I'm astonished that you let let Shelby Steele get away with such a cheap, mean-spirited hatchet job on Barack Obama. It was painfully obvious after only a few minutes that Dr. Steele was offering up the kind of character assasination that would cause problems for any analyst this side of Rush Limbaugh. It is certainly Steele's prerogative to say whatever he wants to about Senator Obama, but I didn't expect you to continue to facilitate his hyperbolic Conservative-operative animus, instead of challenging him, especially in view of the fact that every African-American who so neatly fit into his "bargainer" or "challenger" pigeonholes were all Liberals. I waited in vain for you to ask him about Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell -- whether or not he has created a special dispensation for them, since there is very little that he had to say about Obama's successes among the majority demographic, that wouldn't apply equally, -- if not more so, given how they're situated -- to them. I myself am an African-American born and reared in the Jim Crow South, and I'm not sure whether Senator Obama will get my vote or not. But I'm certainly not buying what Dr. Steele is selling, and I'm disappointed that it seems he sold it so effortlessly to you.

    Mr. Moyers,

    As a long-time admirer of your work, I'm astonished that you let let Shelby Steele get away with such a cheap, mean-spirited hatchet job on Barack Obama. It was painfully obvious after only a few minutes that Dr. Steele was offering up the kind of character assasination that would cause problems for any analyst this side of Rush Limbaugh. It is certainly Steele's prerogative to say whatever he wants to about Senator Obama, but I didn't expect you to continue to facilitate his hyperbolic Conservative-operative animus, instead of challenging him, especially in view of the fact that every African-American who so neatly fit into his "bargainer" or "challenger" pigeonholes were all Liberals. I waited in vain for you to ask him about Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell -- whether or not he has created a special dispensation for them, since there is very little that he had to say about Obama's successes among the majority demographic, that wouldn't apply equally, -- if not more so, given how they're situated -- to them. I myself am an African-American born and reared in the Jim Crow South, and I'm not sure whether Senator Obama will get my vote or not. But I'm certainly not buying what Dr. Steele is selling, and I'm disappointed that it seems he sold it so effortlessly to you.

    To what extent are racial divisions and classifications reinforce by white group identity, white denial of their own racial politics?

    It’s intriguing to watch Bill Moyers bring Shelby Steele to reveal Shelby Steele vis-à-vis Barack Obama and so-called “race.” Mr. Steele makes clear it is he, himself, who is “a bound man.” Thus, does Mr. Steele judge himself a “bargainer,” or a “challenger?” Actually, Mr. Steele shows himself best suited for a different label, an orthogonal label: projectioner, someone who intellectualizes ascriptions of personal, undesirable thoughts, feelings, and experiences to others.

    You continue to miss the story with Barack Obama. It is not about race-which is what has the African American leadership confused and the Clintons doing damage control.

    The change being talked about is regime change, a new generation, someone without the baggage of the sixties, without questions about Vietnam, with a last name not Bush or Clinton.

    It has been disappointing to me that your show, which I usually count on for a thoughtful sane take on important issues, has devoted two episodes to talk about a Barack Obama that largely doesn't exist.

    Having read his first book, checked out his record in Congress, and listened to several speeches and a couple of the debates, he seems to me to be very much a real person who I think deserves to be talked about in a genuine way and not reduced to generalizations by your guests.

    I was fascinated by Shelby Steele. You listened to him in the way I listen to people when I am working as a clinician in psychiatric emergency. I got the impression that Mr. Steele is very damaged in much the same way as Clarence Thomas and I had a lot to sympathy for him (as you did).
    My daughter and I watched the program together. She was just irritated with Mr. Steele. Times have changed. She lives in a multiracial society. Her friends are all races, including mixes (like Obama's). To her, Mr. Steele was an exotic antiquity

    Very interesting to read the range of reactions over the last week, from hostility and maligning of Moyers to appreciation.

    I am puzzled by the hostility of Obama supporters.

    Why the hostility?

    How will Obama bring about any form of consensus when hostility is the immediate reaction to anyone who questions or disagrees? Does that mean that Unity comes from coercion? From the threat of being ostracized or maligned? Is it a new form of political heresy to have questions or doubts about a candidate?

    I am a 32 year old black woman and I truly believe Mr. Steele has little knowledge of the black community. He is very angry toward blacks and seemed to suggest that blacks would be hostile toward Obama because he has been accepted by the white mainstream. Can someone please tell this man that most young black people work and go to school with whites everyday?

    Also, Obama is actually polling extremely well among young blacks especially. Mr. Steele is stuck in another decade and is obviously out of touch with mainstream black culture. He clearly doesn't do his research and constantly stereotypes black people based on his negative opinions of blacks. He tells blacks not to have a victim mentality but goes on Hannity and tells white conservatives they are victims.

    Bill Moyers should have someone like Dr. Marc Lamont Hill to reflect our generation's view on race, he is much more progressive and in touch with black america.

    I was fascinated to hear Dr. Steele explain his paradigm on your latest show. It has remained in my mind all week. I am liberal and not a supporter of his but as I thought about what he was saying (thanks for letting him talk without debating him), his ideas reflect my own experiences in meeting new people who are African American professionally.

    Many hold me at arm's length. I am very aware that as a white woman, I have to prove something before they will even begin to trust me. I'm beginning to get weary of this and a little annoyed at age 68 after being a civil rights supporter for all my life and have immediate family who are racially mixed for whom I would give my life.

    Your interview was an aha! moment for me. Thanks to Dr. Steele of all people, I'm just going to not try so hard to make connections in my older age because this is not really about me and I just don't have so much energy any more. I can't make right the wrongs, even though I've tried to do my part both personally and professionally and will continue to do so. I am a Obama supporter.

    I'm white, in my fifties, feel strongly that the civil rights movement produced some of the most positive social advances in my lifetime thus far, and emphatically agree with Steele.

    Yes, I feel the black community must move beyond grievance as the core of its political alignment.

    This is a crucial moment for America, with pressing issues facing all of us--global warming, the cost of health care, an educational system declining against competitor nations, the erosion of civil liberties, a fundamental moment of economic transition that is leaving the middle class behind.

    All of us need to address these challenges together as Americans. We are all in the same boat.

    It seems to me, as others have already suggested here, that the title and publication timing of Mr. Steele's book completely compromises any possibility of neutrality or serious inquiry. It is a mask far worse than the one he claims to have shed and accuses Obama of wearing.

    It’s important to learn of and possibly from other people’s experiences. What Shelby Steele shared was just that, his understanding and experiences. We are fortunate that Mr. Moyers lets his guests be heard if for no other reason than the opportunity to see the world as it is, complex and diverse.

    I am sure what Shelby Steele suggests can be found to be accurate and inaccurate. Things are always left out when we try to put a wrapper around Reality. Clinging to and relying on such narrow classifications can only lead to contradiction, frustration and conflict.

    Few notice the labels they embrace are just as troublesome as those given them. They just don’t see how extreme thinking and saying “I am” white, black, man, woman, straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, some job title, or any other identity is. Each of us is far more complex than any identity ever created. How tightly these identities are embraced leads to rigid ways of feeling, thinking, and reacting and often results in misinterpretations, misunderstandings, inappropriate actions, and unnecessary conflict. Most organizations or groups are built around these narrow identities, and it’s easy to see that they influence their member’s behavior. Many live their lives within the confines of their chosen labels. The view from within those prisons makes seeing truth impossible and can result in treating people as lesser beings. If we don’t provide ourselves the freedom to see then our achievements will reflect our ignorance and arrogance.

    It seems to me, as others have already suggested here, that the title and publication timing of Mr. Steele's book completely compromises any possibility of neutrality or serious inquiry. It is a mask far worse than the one he claims to have shed and accuses Obama of wearing.

    I’d like to commend you on your program last week. I have been deeply disappointed in the campaign coverage that the media has provided, and it was truly refreshing to listen to Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s analysis and commentary on this subject. I really appreciated her unbiased discussion of both democratic and republican candidates and focus on the important issues of the campaign. I hope that she will continue to appear periodically on your program throughout this election year.
    I was also very pleased to hear you interview with Shelby Steele. I share his skepticism with regard to Barak Obama and have been amazed at the eagerness of so many Americans to flock to support the campaign of a candidate with such a vague image and agenda. I am a well-educated (advanced degree) African-American female corporate executive, who came from impoverished beginnings. I credit my success in part to the opportunities opened up to black Americans by President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”. While my political views tend more toward those of the Democratic Party, I pride myself on being an Independent. I have and will continue to vote for Republicans as well as Democrats who I believe represent the best candidates for the job. I resent the ongoing consideration of African-Americans as a mindless block of sheep, blindly following the Democratic Party; and who now faced with the choice of a black Democrat versus white ones, are only capable of concluding that the black candidate is the best because he is black. I am incensed every time I hear the media speak of “The Black Vote”! But like Mr. Steele, I am equally incensed by those African-Americans who seek to define me in their terms. It is due to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson that African-Americans became “free at last” to define ourselves as individuals and to join the ranks of all Americans in ability to pursue and achieve their dreams. It is because of that legacy that African-Americans can abandon their former agenda of grievances.

    Thank you for hosting Ms. Jamieson and Mr. Steele.

    Dear Mr. Moyers,

    Now that we've heard 35 minutes of Obama-bashing from Mr. Shelby Steele, when will you interview an Obama supporter to even the score? I believe you're a fair-minded person, but Steele's anaylsis of blacks as either challengers or bargainers was an oversimplication that lends itself to stereotyping and does no justice to human complexity. While Steel was erudite and eloquent, I sensed a hidden agenda and something ominous under that coat and tie. Although I am not an Obama supporter, I think you owe him equal time. Thank you.

    What Steele missed is that "challengers" and "bargainers" belong to an earlier generation. What's fresh about Obama--among other things--is that he's ASSIMILATED. Like JFK was a sign that Catholics were for political purposes at last assimilated.

    I am a white woman and experienced racism myself when I was with my cousins child whos father is black. It was a personal slight, and it made me really mad. After spending a great deal of time fuming over it, I realized that anything I could do, write letters, call people to complain, etc. wouldn't change anything. People are people, some are racist. Another thing I realized, I lost a lot of energy and suffered a lot of frustration thinking about what had happened. What good did it do to pay attention to someone I considered to be any ignorant person? It did me no good. I realized then that paying attention or looking for racism is more detrimental than racism itself. Because it causes a person to divert their attention from their own goals and aspirations and chase what amounts to irritating flies. That is probably the most insidious way that racism hurts - all it does is create impotent rage.Black people don't need the approval of white people to achieve their goals. They have the power to do it. To say that white people hold them down is a form of racism in itself.

    Dear Mr. Moyers,

    Practicing equality in a world divided by difference, is the solution to the unification of everything, the unity of One.


    On my last post here I eneded by asking "Mr. Moyers, what are we talking about here!? Now, I know.

    Campaigning for Senator Clinton, the day after the hit piece on Bill Moyer's Journal, in which Mr. Steele made his attack against Senator Obama, with Mr. Moyers serving as nothing more than a cheer leader at an idealogical train wreck,
    said Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television:
    “And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood –­ and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book –­ when they have been involved.”
    Moments later, he added: “That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me, for a guy who says, ‘I want to be a reasonable, likable, Sidney Poitier ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’ And I’m thinking, I’m thinking to myself, this ain’t a movie, Sidney. This is real life.”
    And then, from no less than Fmr. President Clinton on the Obama campaign: "It's just a fairytale."

    I'm quite clear now on what is happening here and elsewhere in the traditional liberal establishment. People like Bill Moyers (who worked for Lyndon Johnson) are crapping their pants at the prospect of a new liberalism; a movement that is not looking for its answers in the hand of government. The Clinton campaigns, in an exquisite ability to triangulate in close quarters (I speak of both of the Bill campaigns of the past as well as the present Hillary capaign) raised the issue of Obama drug use earlier on. It was a warning to Senator Obama. Now the warning comes from a Clinton toady black American billionaire. Oh, let's be scared.

    Or, let's be on guard. The Clintons can't even entertain the notion of not being in power, so they seek to intimidate the one man who stands in their way, by any means available to them. They'll paint Senator Obama as a drug user and anything else with which they need to defame him as long as they come out the winners. They know they can't win a real debate because all of their "solutions" are from a past that is long gone, way over on the other side of 9/11, which Bill Clinton, in his degenerate pursuits and inattention to the security issues of the nation, helped to bring on.

    I have one final question in all of this: Mr. Moyers, have you sold out to these Clintons, the last best hope for all of you patrons of the welfare state, or are you just renting out?

    I am a non-African-American child of the 1960's. My school in Southeast Georgia first integrated when I entered the second grade, so I grew up with African American friends, Latino friends, Asian friends. Listening to Shelby Steele made me uncomfortable at first. The interview invoked long forgotten and deep seeded feelings left over from the intensity and upheaval of the 1960's. How ironic, and sad, that the Clinton and Obama campaigns have just now managed to conjured up a classic "race bait" moment in what should be a joyous occasion. I wanted to escape the bad feelings and so I watched the 1988 interview with E. L. Doctorow. Right in the middle of the interview Doctorow says, "…the politician, usually to get elected, has to appeal to prejudices, symbols, biases, fears, all of the ways we have of not thinking…"

    Thanks for your post Viticia Thames, it was the challenge I needed to put Steele in the proper perspective.

    I still believe that some of Steele's points, though simplistic and generalized, may be valid in discussing the campaign of Obama. What Obama is doing is far different from Jesse Jackson's campaigning and it seems to be working, perhaps because of some of the points made by Steele, the country is made of people of many generations, not just yours, and Obama needs a strategy to reach all demographics. Your post though has put a more human and optimistic perspective on these issues, it was great, gives me hope.


    Well... I have been reading this extremely lengthy commentary on Moyers interview with Shelby Steele for the past hour. I caught most of the interview when it aired on PBS, and have watched it again twice on my computer. Here are some of my observations:

    1) There are some truly lengthy and well thoughtout responces on here. I'm not stating that they are correct or incorrect, but just truly heartfelt and thoughtful.

    2) I read an early post stating how the one of the goals on PBS is to be impartial. I note also that 90% of the comments about Steele are negative. This confirms for me what I have always believed, that PBS is not impartial, but liberal. How else can you explain the utter disregard for one of America's few conservative blacks. (I would love it if someone could confirm this by telling me that I'm just a simpleton and that I dont understand the complexities of the issue).

    3) The vast majority of negative comments on here can readily be answered / explained by an objective reading of the transcript or rewatching the video.

    4) The only comment of value that I have read are the ones that ask, 'why didnt moyers ask steele if he is a bargainer or challenger??' I think this is a valid question, but again, I think it can be answered by watching the video. I believe that if Moyers had asked this question, Steele would have said something along the lines of... I'm neither. I dont have to be one or the other. I am an individual, who started in academics, became exausted with the constant pressure from both blacks and whites to be a 'challenger' and decided to go my own direction. I am happy just being me... I am the master of my fate... theres nothing more to it than that.

    Lastly... as a proud Conservative and Captain in the Army, working on my second command, I will continue to emphasize to my soldiers that there are at least two things that are irrelevant about people: their race and talent. Those two things you are just born with... you didnt earn them or deserve them. All that matters is what you do from here... do you work to become the best American you can be? Do you work to be the best person you can be? What have you done with the talent you've been blessed with? Desire and determination are far more important... life is not about your race or talent, its not about where you are... only where you're going.



    This guy has scars from the 60s that pervade his perception of reality, and I find that very saddening. The Black identity is much more diffuse in integrated America than it was in segregated America, the America he grew up in. In his own words he has been traumatized by the past of racism in this country - the kind that Obama and myself never knew. For him then to be looked at as an authority on our Black experience in integrated America is beyond disbelief.

    I found myself at several points in this interview wanting to ask questions, questions that Bill Moyers simply didn't have the experience or vicarious experience to ask. I am the daughter of a religious-right, fundamentalist Republican who is African American. But as I say to you, and I say to my father, and I will say to America, "Blackness in integrated America is not the Blackness you knew as a child in the 60s, nor is it a Blackness you can comprehend from that frame. To understand our Black experience you will need to listen without presumption of authority and without boxes or categories to put us in. But it is clear that the scars of what you went through in the 60s and 70s are so deep that communication across this generational divide - the divide between those who grew up with whites as peers rather than oppressors - may sadly never understand. It's the kind of generational gap that makes for painful labels from a frame that no longer has relevance to our experience keeping understanding between us unattainable."

    To hear, "you are a bargainer because you give white people the benefit of the doubt" is preposterous. We grew up with white people, why wouldn't we give them the benefit of the doubt? That benefit of the doubt doesn't make us invisible, it makes us human.

    I can hear his perspective and see grains of truth, but the perversion of the present through the lens of the 60s should be admonished at best.

    Thank you Mr. Moyers for the debate the interview spawned. I will vote for Mrs. Clinton not because Mr. Obama is a "barginer or challenger" but because I don't feel he could command the Congress. He needs eight years in the senate then he most likely will be grounded for a run at the presidency. To the commenter who said Mr. Obama is the first black to try for president, please check history. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Brooklyn, NY and Rev. Jesse Jackson also sought the office. We don't need a black, white, Hispanic or Asian, we need the best leader possible to lead us over the next eight years.

    Sorry, I couldn't sympathize with Mr. Steele. The whole notion of black "power" coming from a pre-judgement of racism on whites is ridiculous. As a woman, should I judge every man as a rapist until he proves himself differently? I could, but can't imagine how isolated my life would be if I did so. If you want to create distance, divides, and inequalities-I see how this type of mindset keeps that going. Thankfully, I believe this is an older generational mindset that is evolving into something better, which is change.

    But props to Bill Moyer for having this type of discussion. Although it left me feeling conflicted to Mr. Steele's message-I found myself thinking about this interview for days afterward. Maybe that's a sign that we aren't talking about this enough, or the right way.


    I’m a regular viewer of Bill Moyers's Journal and I usually find the discussions to be quite critical and insightful. But, like many other viewers, I was disappointed by the discussion of race and politics with Shelby Steele. I felt that Steele drew on old-fashioned essentialist notions of racial identity to suggest that Barack Obama isn't a viable candidate. It seems to me that Steele's argument is based on a false dichotomy: Barack can appeal to White voters but in doing so Black voters will reject him as “not Black enough,” or, he can appeal to Black voters but in doing so White voters will reject him for being “too Black.” My sense is that the majority of younger people in the U.S. no longer think in the either/or terms of previous generations and that we are quite capable of taking people on their own terms. This is not to say that I am naive about the deep-seated, historically racist tendencies in our society; it is to say that I think most young people in this era of "multiculturalism" (that loaded word) think in relational terms, realizing that particular facets of our identities are revealed in different situations and contexts. The flaw with essentialist notions of identity, like the ones used by Steele, is the assumption that we are “authentic” only when we remain the same across space, time, and situation. But in practice, different aspects of our identities are manifest in our relations with family, while others are visible in interactions at work, while still other features of who we are come out in our interactions with friends from other social and cultural groups. So, I disagree with Steele in that I think it is Obama’s great strength, and not his liability, that he is able to meaningfully relate to people from diverse backgrounds. And this broad appeal across boundaries of race--based on common principles of progressive political change--is the bet that many of us are making with our support for Barack Obama.

    Also, I found yesterday’s discussion—on Democracy Now—of the dynamics of race and gender particularly interesting:
    "Race and Gender in Presidential Politics: A Debate Between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell"

    Hey shelby, i dont like your perspective on things i think i have a better perspective on african americans and their rank in power so come to my page and check it out at

    How about a debate between Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Shelby Steele?

    I like what Mr. Steele has to say. I can not understand why so many people think one man with little inside experience can convince two houses of congress to follow him and change what they have established. His is not Joe Clark and this is not the movie "Stand By Me". Change for the sake of doing something different is not wise. Maybe this slogan means that America should change from Anglo Saxton males as leaders and abstain from choosing the best person for the job? Is this some folks opportunity to enact affirmative action? Is this the result of years of not keeping score in little league and soccer. In turn, everyone is a winner, everyone gets a chance to play, and we are all the same. If this is the motivation of Obamas' following, may God help us all.

    Shelby Steele assumes that the world exists exactly as he sees it, viewed through the myopic lens of his racial experience. Shelby Steele is of a different generation than Obama; his identity is colored solely by the Black American experience. There are many other Black experiences. I am a Black West Indian born and raised on the island of St. Thomas to Kittician parents. This makes me, like Obama, a first generation African American. My parents moved their family from St. Kitts to St. Thomas in the hopes of making a better life for their children. Growing up in St. Thomas I was able to see Black people in every possible position of authority. I saw people of color use their authority to empower. I also able to see people of color abuse their power and oppress the powerless.

    Having come from this experience gives one a completely different view of America and her possibilities. This is why people of color tend to prosper when they come to this country. They come here having bought into the promise of the American dream. It is often harder for Black Americans, based on their oppression at America’s hands, to buy into this dream.

    Steele also made an issue of Obama not crediting his mother for his development. Steele credits this to Obama’s supposed desire to distant himself from his white mother. In many of my discussions with friends about my own development the conversation most often centers around the impact of society on the individual. Simply because I have experienced two different societies first hand. Therefore I can pretty readily contrast and compare these two societies. I do not have any experience being raised by any other mother than my own Black West Indian mother. Eventually some of the conversations may come down to the impact of my mother on my development but it's not the norm. But anyone who knows me knows through my actions and bearingof the extreme reverence that I hold for my mother.

    So in assessing Obama’s personality and motivations it may do well for Mr. Steele to take into account other variables outside of his own experience.


    It's getting a little silly. There are so many people who are completely misunderstanding Steele's argument. I have already come out about my own anti-conservative bias on earlier posts. But I am writing to defend Steele on just a couple of points that people keep mistaking here.

    First, a note about our esteemed host. Don't give up on our local treasure, my fellow commentators. Think of the alternatives. What a relief to see that it's not just Limbaugh, Imus, and horrors like Norman Podhoretz on the one hand and Bill O'reilly on the other.

    To be fair, Moyers did hint at a kind of skepticism: he indicated his surprise at Steele's vigorous disenchantment with Obama, but it would have been indecorous to attack him. I do agree that he could have asked more probing questions about whether Steele himself was a bargainer or a challenger. The answer it seems to me was performed very clearly in the interview. Barack is not a challenger. Steele is a challenger in so far as he mounts a challenge on the fronts of race and class, for instance. Isn't that the whole point of criticizing Obama? TO CHALLENGE his namby-pamby appeasement and bargainer persona, so much to the taste of those who prefer not to have to face uncomfortable truths? This point, that Moyers did not ask this question of whether Steele was a bargainer or challenger, is hardly a devastating criticism of the interview. But it is the most devastating criticism I have read, so I acknowledge it.

    1. As for Steele, he may be a little too conservative for my taste but he certainly is not a self-hater. NOTHING, NOTHING he said suggests that he is self-hating. He says he is proud to be a black man, and while he does feel that he has often been shortchanged, it's not because he hates himself but because HISTORICALLY black people have been victimized. This has to be distinguished from the kind of low self esteem some of the goody-two-shoes arguments here see in Steele.
    2. Steele is far from contradictory. NOTHING he says is contradictory. It just doesn't seem to fit the rosy Cassandra view of politics adopted by those people who here attack Steele and defend Obama. Elementary logic would clear up any allegations of this sort leveled against him.

    3. Connie: If--IF-- you are naive (and I don't think you are, really--people who apply this label ironically to themselves usually are not naive), it's not because you
    "like[ Obama]because he is an intelligent, thoughtful, dynamic man that would make a great leader." It's not because "Race and racism had not crossed my mind." Indeed everyone recognizes that he is intelligent, thoughtful and dynamic. That is STEELE'S POINT OF DEPARTURE, if you review the interview. And it's not that race and racism have no place in politics. Rather, many people want to delude themselves or persuade themselves that "color blind" policy is the way to go. That's really the fallacy. To underscore the racism of American society is simply to see what's there. And to want Obama to confront the hypocrisy and lies of an administration whose gods are Money, Oil, War, Greed, Fear and Profiteering is not to desire a politics of division. It is to want the opposite of a politics of appeasement, pandering, "bargaining." Before we can have reconciliation, we have to have truth laid bare. Some people, Connie, don't want that truth about race, hypocrisy, greed, money, oil, the military-industrial complex, to be brought to light, because then they might have to be held accountable. THAT is what the business about letting certain people off the hook is about.

    Please, get the Steele argument in its subtlety (and again, I am generally HIGHLY suspicious of people like Steele) before you treat us to your limp sarcasm.



    I watched the entire interview with Mr Steele. I found him to be very objective, interesting as well as insightful. I found his views regarding the "Challenger, Bargainer" theory to be enlightening. I have had several close African American friends that have espoused both such viewpoints. I may even be better able to summerize my own fragmented views on the subject of our U.S. culture. Additionally, in my humble opinion, given the freedoms we are still afforded in this country, the individual, with the help of our Creator, has the gift and even the responsibility to exercise these unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The "collectives" throughout the history of man have only gone so far. They can also hurt the One, by removing the free agency that is given each one, thereby removing the one thing each individual should safeguard the most, Free... (dom), (thought), (agency), (speech), (will). It is the individual, that can be lead to greatness. Right or wrong, the Collective can only follow the individual.

    Mr. Moyers, as a Black man, and fellow Texan, this is the first time I have been disappointed in your selection of guest or topic. As a journalist I feel that yours has been a voice of reason and scrutiny in a wilderness of deceit and "spin".

    There is so much that is contemptible, wrong, and objectionable about Mr. Steele's thesis, and "so called" scholarly conclusions regarding blacks and our collective need to require that our leaders show signs of moral depravity and achieve a level of acceptance from the "white" community, before we as a group find them acceptable.

    Additionally, this supposed "blame game" which Mr. Steele claims that blacks as a group, play on whites through some miraculous method of holding the conscious of the white community hostage to their feelings of guilt over the past treatment of blacks amounts to nothing less than "voodoo" sociology. To assume that this assertion were true would rob blacks of the credit for persistently, and conscientiously navigating the precarious and dangerous waters of racial prejudice which existed prior to the civil rights movement and which still persist. It would also relegate the important role that whites have played in rectifying the wrongs which have historically been perpetrated against blacks to nothing more than a game of "deal - no deal".

    I submit to you that Mr. Steele's comments are more representative of an unfortunate anomaly which continues to plague the black community, that of a light skinned, straight haired black who assumes an elitist and paternalistically superior position relative to the collective thoughts and actions of black people.

    A fact that to often is overlooked regarding African Americans is that our actions cannot be correctly analyzed outside of the primary consideration, that we are Americans. Our actions both positive and negative reflect the fact that as Americans we share the common aspirations, hopes and dreams which are commensurate with our American heritage, and many of our responses to the reality of our lives here can easily be explained in the context of a people frustrated by oppression and the denial of access which is afforded to other groups.

    At a minimum, I am hopeful that any future interviews with Mr. Steele or considerations of his rantings, will be tempered with input by someone who will present alternate factual material which is representative of the Black perspective, and not simply a means to sell a book and exorcize one's personal demons.

    P.S. I would love to have a shot at him.

    The reality of what we are seeing is more about generations than about race. When you listen to people over the age of fifty they talk about race and experience. When you listen to people forty and youngerthey talk about change and who they like the best. People don't like Obama because he's black; they like him because he seems to be the closest to change. When you take a conservative and have him talk about how he is not defined by being black, you really going back a long way. If he doesn't define himself by it, why does he write books about it and talk about it. Most of the people I talk to don't care if the next president is black or a woman or green, they want someone who inspires.

    Okay, I’m white and I am an Obama supporter. And I am so naïve. I just did not realize until I watched Bill Moyers interview with Shelby Steele that the real reasons I like Barack so much are because:

    -he’s an invisible man, a projection screen – he will never tell me what he actually thinks and feels;
    -I want to see a black leading a largely white country so, as a white American, I can feel redeemed and can move away from my shameful racist past;
    -he (representing black America) will let me (representing white America) off the hook;

    -he is giving me the benefit of the doubt, by presuming I’m not racist, and

    -as a white American I love him because he’s a black who's not angry.

    I feel so enlightened. Here I thought I liked him because he is an intelligent, thoughtful, dynamic man that would make a great leader. Race and racism had not crossed my mind. Thank you Mr. Steele for making me aware of the real issues of this campaign!

    Most people did not pick their parents. So why would a person be judged by who their parents are? Each person should be judged by who they individually are.

    I enjoyed the interview with Steele very much. It was one of the more thought provoking programs I’ve seen in a long time. I came to this blog to try to find a good analysis but it’s mostly a dismissal of Steele and all of his views. I’m very much to the left politically and I’m sure I would disagree with Steele on many issues if I looked further but much of what he had to say in the interview, though simplistic, seemed to ring true. More importantly his analysis didn’t seem to be a negative criticism of Obama or Oprah or anyone else; it was simply an analysis of our culture and the complicated issue of black/white race relations.

    Every single black person I know has said at some point over the last year that they don’t believe this country will elect a black president, all of these people have more liberal politics, it seems that Steele is saying the same thing but has given an interesting analysis as to why he believes that’s true. I do disagree strongly that these people may have a desire to see themselves as victims and that Obama may be a threat for this reason; I believe it’s an understandable and realistic attitude considering the divisive and hateful politics that continue to win elections in this country. I’m a gay man and I know damn well we will never see an openly GLBT person in the White House in this century, and that belief has nothing to do with my ‘victimhood’.

    What I did learn from the interview is that perhaps my desire to see Obama win may be a desire to see us overcome our racism, to show the world that we are an inclusive society. Of all the candidates with a chance at the nomination, Edwards has more to say about issues that matter to me personally but I would love to see 2008 be the year that we elect the first person who is not a white, Christian, heterosexual male. This would not be a superficial, meaningless event, I believe it could empower many people and in time it could help to change the face of Congress, making it a reflection of the true diversity in this great country. If Obama’s strategy is working, more power to him, all is fair in politics. The first woman and the first African American to have a real chance at the presidency is a truly exciting prospect, and I still have hope that Steele and others are wrong.

    I'm mixed race and this interview infuriated me beyond words. It was hard to witness such a backwards discussion on race taking place on one of my truly favorite shows.

    I watch the journal religiously; sometimes what I hear makes me happy, or sad or mad but whatever it is I can expect critical thought and debate to be at the heart of the discussion.

    This was not the case with Mr. Steels interview. I felt as though I was witnessing a therapy session for a self-hating mixed man with an Alan Keys complex, and I could not understand why Mr. Moyers (in my opinion one of the true heroes of world journalism) was not playing the part of his therapist but rather his pusher.

    Oppression is hard to take in whatever form it manifests, but it is most heartbreaking when you see someone oppress themselves. The 'one drop rule' stands as a testament to the idiocy of racial pigeonholing. If the 'one drop rule' worked during the slave trade and worked during Jim Crow then why is it still being used today by those (Mr. Steel) whom it was directly designed to enslave, and why on Bill Moyers Journal of all places!?

    It was beyond pitiful to see Mr. Steel impose the 'one drop rule' on him self, when just moments before he described his own victimization at the hands of this same system during his childhood in the south. It was, however, just plain insulting to have him then turn around and try to apply it to a fellow mixed race person like Obama; Someone who may help this country get over just a bit of it's racial hangups by simply being part of the discussion. I felt like yelling at the TV "oppress yourself but hands off me and the rest of the multiracial world that doesn't need to use colored name tags to define ourselves"! Why must the fact that people (mixed or not) who have a choice to use different dialects, accents, languages and cultural cues, be indicative of some system of duplicitous "masks" at work.

    I have ancestry on five continents but my BA from UCLA and the fact that I can speak with King's English does not mean that I'm somehow putting on a "mask" over the real me when I speak Ebonics with my brother, Pidgin English with my dad, French with my uncle, or Spanish with my nephew.

    If Obama wants to use his ability to operate from any number of cultural milieus to better relate to his audiences, then it is his prerogative as a politician, he'd be foolish if he didn't, and i think it's just plain inspiring. At the very least, he should be able to do so without being called some sort of tricky shapeshifter who has "given up his blackness" on Bill Moyers Jounal! I'm sorry but f*** that! This is just too backwards for anything less.

    Our world would benefit greatly if more world leaders gave up their "whatever-ness" and could genuinely speak to people from other countries in ways they would better understand.

    Steel's noble visage is an exemplar of the wonderful things that racial intermixing can produce. If you squint at Steel during the interview, he could pass for anything from Italian to Persian, Philipino to darn near anything. As an educated and charismatic personality he could be such a force for change. Instead, he appears to be a MAL-function of his formative troubled era in race relations, preaching the centuries old tired dichotomy of 'black or white, pick one'

    "I am black and happy to be so" says Steel. If the equal amounts of Caucasian blood in his veins are so easily discounted by him now, I would love to hear what the 1/2 of his ancestors who were 'white' would say about it. If he wishes to categorize his 'race' by what is truly a 19th century system of economic dualism, then I wonder if his assertion of absolute racial unambiguity would come so easily to him if he found himself on a 19th century auction block that only traded in 'blacks'. If it were me on that auction block, given the chance, I would, as now, be arguing that "I don't have a race, thank you very much!" It probably wouldn't save me, but at least I wouldn't be selling MY SELF down the river.

    Mr. Steele makes no sense. I found this mischaracterization of African Americans that have fought for civil rights disturbing. Just because he has never had the courage to challenge white supremacy doesn't give him license to label those who have as grievance holders. This notion that blacks need to affirm some sense of black power is proposterous. I speak as a black man, and I'am offended at his assertion that blacks hold whites in contempt and refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt. How does he arrive at this conclusion? He's dillusioned in my opinion and gives and inaccurate dipiction of black perception on race. Are blacks sometime suspicious? Maybe at some unexplainable experience, but to hold all whites at all times in contempt is asinine. Maybe this explains why his sensibility on race is shared by only 8% of African Americans. This would also explain why he would never admit that race still permeates our society and would never speak out on racial injustice. He's a hired gun who's uncomfortable with who he is.

    In regard to Barack Obama. Why does he characterize this man in this fashion? Obama can't have a true concern for bringing people together? Why does he have to choose between one of the two races. Why can't he play to both black and white when both races are experiencing the same issues in this economy. Last time I check jobs where leaving America, not black America or white America. This is pure race baiting. I believe Obama speaks to all races, and has come to understand that our problems and aspirations are not so different. Obama seeks to truly bring all Americans together along commom interest. This idea that Obama is politicing and pandering is ridiculus. I feel that maybe he's jealous that Obama having the same racial make-up, has been able to transcend race, and relish the experience of being bi-racial. Whereas Steele has had to choose which identity would he affirm. The bottom line is bringing people together and if Obama has the skill and charisma to articulate this message to all Americans, who is Shelby Steele to question his methodolgy?

    The fact that black voters are ninety to ninety-five percent Democrat voting block lets off the hook politicians on fulfilling promises. Republicans correctly ignore time and effort in a hopeless direction. This lack of competition means blacks get stiffed every election cycle. Why not do a piece on how this lack of competition harms the voice of millions of black voters? I bet Mr. Shelby Steele has profound logic on the subject.

    Dear Mr. Moyers, Your handling of the Shelby Steele interview was so beautiful so sensitive I could hardly believe the drama that was unfolding. By honestly listening to Mr. Steele, by your probing questions, you brought to the small screen more truth than any of Steele’s contentious framing of Barack Obama would suggest. When Shelby began to speak of his youth and his upbringing in the black community as a mixed-race young man hatred, bitterness and hurt began to rise in his voice. Unconsciously he revealed why he and others such as Clarence Thomas bare such enmity toward those who were able to escape their pain. Despite his contentions otherwise his own words tells us exactly why he is impelled to take his revenge on what he terms “bargainers” through the only weapon he knows, his scholastic mask.

    We are used to being told exactly what to see and think, I would imagine that few of your viewers realized the revealing dance that was going on and that you felt it neither necessary nor appropriate to point it out. Bravo for another great interview.

    There is an easy solution to Steele's fear of being called "not black." Just call himself "white" and the blacks will be overjoyed to call him "black."

    It is folly for people with half or more European ancestry to call themselves "black." Compare Obama and Stelle with the late, demonized Anatole Broyard. Our media praise Obama for rejecting his white family and deliberately seeking out blacks and creating a black identity for himself. Broyard is accused of "abandoning" a "black" family that was in fact a predominately European Creole family that despised blacks. He is demonized for creating a white identity for himself. His self-respect and refusal to accept the "one drop" myth is denounced by jealous blacks as "self-hatred." He only did what Obama did, but Obama is praised for abandoning "white" for "black."

    Obama is the opposite of the "Imitation of Life" heroine. She has a white phenotype and rejects a black mother for a white racial community in which she can blend in, be comfortable, and be herself. Obama rejects his white family and seeks a community with the same phenotype. The Imitation of Life" heroine is demonized and Obama is praised. Why? Is it because the mixed-white heroine is a sacrifice to the guilt of liberal whites and jealous blacks who secretly believe that white blood is needed to improve the "inferior" black stock and must be prevented from escaping the black prison?

    Also, can Steele explain why the dreaded "black blood" in Hispanics and Arab-Americans is ignored if a "one drop rule" is truly universal?

    We should be encouraging mixed-whites and mulattoes to be white, not black, and stop demonizing the brave souls like Broyard who claim what is rightfully theirs.

    Here is a quote from an article about Jews in the New York Times. You blacks would do well to heed it:

    “You cannot be who you are simply as a reaction to someone’s hate... “When they hate you, it’s really easy to know who you are. You’re the person they hate. When they actually don’t hate you, you have to decide who you are.”

    Obama has no more resposiblity to address the concerns of "black" people than any other candidate. He is not a decendant of slaves. He would be a hypocrite if he tried to represent that he understands the "black experience." I am a Female Jamaican Independent who has been here in NYC for 38 of my 48 years and I still don't get why we are "black" and other people are "white."
    Science has long since thrown out racial classifications, when will America catch up? I am an American citizen for 30 years and I will vote for Obama first and McCain second despite all the racism and sexism I have encountered. I want all American children to know that hard work, determination and hope are all worthwhile pursuits.

    In the interest of fairness Bill Moyers should now interview other scholars or Obama himself to get a different
    perspective. I can't believe that Bill Moyers actually said Obama has "rejected his blackness" in a way that Steele hasn't.

    Steele is trying to pigeonhole Obama in a way that fits his theory for his book but is not based in reality. He says Obama is an invisible man, a projection screen, and is keeping his convictions concealed. He's a bargainer trying to remain as invisible as possible.

    In my eyes, it really doesn't take much research to learn more about Obama's ideas about race. He's on record supporting affirmative action in college admissions and public employment. He worked as a civil rights lawyer and as
    a community organizer in south Chicago. All this would be classified by Steele as a "challenger" advocating "racial preference that conflicts with equality under the law" and as obeying "Black Nationalism" (Steele's term). This is anything but "rejecting blackness" as Steele claimed.

    Steele also complained that Obama is not crediting "values" for his success (his mother's guidance, emphasis on diligence, etc). But Obama is on record many times talking about personal values and how much they matter. For
    example, "Go into any inner-city neighborhood," Barack Obama said in his
    keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, "and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white."

    As scholars such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. quotes: "Mr. Obama shows how to get the balance right. We've got to create as many opportunities as we can for the worst-off - and make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life. But values matter, too. We can't talk about the choices people have without talking about the choices people make".

    Gates and his cohorts don't create the either/or dichotomy that Steele does (it's either "values" or "supposed black nationalism" ). I believe that Steele, Thomas Sewell, Clarence Thomas and their ilk , etc. go too far and throw the baby out with the bath water regarding mutual social responsibility or any policy that advocates anything other than extreme "individualism".

    Congratulations Obama!!
    "...BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY." Malcolm X

    It is Sunday evening and I am still thinking about Bill Moyer’s “conversation” with Shelby Steele. It was dismal. We are in the midst of a political campaign and Moyers invites a well-known, divisive conservative to do a hatchet job on one of the contenders. No one was invited to defend the candidate. No other candidates were discussed.
    The attack was particularly insidious as the candidate’s very “person,” rather than his program, was questioned. Moyers, seemingly seduced, challenged nothing.
    Regardless of what one may think about Obama (or Steele, for that matter), there’s no defense for such partisan programming—without any rebuttal—during a political campaign, It’s a far cry from the stated PBS mission:
    “By guaranteeing our programs treat complex social issues with journalistic integrity and compassion, our audiences know they can rely on us to provide accurate, impartial information.”

    Mr. Moyers, I have always been a huge fan of your work but I must admit that I was so irritated by last Friday night's show involving the 'miraculous comeback' of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire over Barack Obama I had to turn off the show.

    Instead of pontificating on what caused Hillary's comeback in NH, why didn't you discuss the obvious ELECTION FRAUD that has taken place there? If any show had the courage to approach this subject, I would hope that it would be yours.

    Please visit to find out more regarding the obvious voting irregularities that occurred in districts that used the Diebold electronic voting machines. Not only favoring Clinton over Obama but discounting the votes for Rep. Ron Paul as well.

    The American people deserve much better!

    Mr. Steele's reasoning explains exactly what I feel in my interactions with or observations of black and white. I have always puzzled over why a black won't permit me to be friendly with and accept him, but Mr. Steele has shown me why. He has also made clear why Obama lacks specifics in his campaigning, which makes me leery of him, yet understanding of the box he is in.

    Also, on the Journal, Moyers is acting as an interviewer, whose job is to draw out the guest. He is not an investigative journalist by the time the program hits the air; therefore, it would be incorrect to agitate and be confrontational. The guest is there to present his views.

    As an aside, why are so many beating up on Senator Clinton? I submit it is because they have been taught over the years to hate her. It is certainly all right in a political campaign for her to draw comparisons between Obama and herself. Everything I have heard in this regard has been within the bounds of decency and what is considered accuracy in this context.

    Thanks for helping me understand so much more than I did before your program.

    Shelby Steele

    I believe Shelby really believes in what he’s saying. But, black people do not hold racism over whites heads. We bring it to their attention, because they continue to ignore it. The issue of getting past it won’t happen until someone apologies for their racist policies. You recently had Bishop Desmond Tutu as a guest. The only way South Africa was able to reconcile and not fall into civil war was for the reconciliation hearings. The reconciliation hearings required the oppressors/perpetrators to acknowledge their crimes against the oppressed. This has not been the case in America. Whenever the term affirmative action or, "God forbid", reparations is even uttered, white America gets uptight [resentful] and find a minority of the minorities, like Shelby Steele, to speak out and tell the black community to "get over it." (Minority of minorities means Blacks represent 12% to 18% of the American Society and only one percent of them are conservatives. Do the math). Mr. Steele refers to the black literary and musical arts as a great source of pride for him. Does he not realize that these highly respected forms of expression are as a result of the pain due to the racism that he wants us to just get over? Please -! I respect Bill Moyers. I believe he is one of the few white men in America that has faced his demons of white supremacy and challenged himself and the country with the work he does on PBS. Because of this we have the same enemies. So the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This makes Bill Moyers a friend. In a society that suffers from short-term memory we don’t realize how recent blacks achieved legal equality in this country. I wrote this letter to my father’s generation whom I call the civil rights generation.

    Open letter to the Civil Rights Generation

    I like Barrack Obama was born in 1961. I was a child during the 60’s and spoke to my Grandparents who where Jim Crowed and my parents that were segregated and my brothers and sisters that are criminalized and imprisoned. It is time for a new day in Black leadership in this country. Although I love, admire and respect the black candidates of the past like Shirley Chisom, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and even Dick Gregory. I want to ask this question? Where were you when the first African American Man was in a real position to win the most powerful office in the land?

    Many forget that when Martin Luther King was alive many of you stayed home while your children marched in the streets. When Malcolm X was alive you worried about his religion and did not support him. What will you say to your grandchildren when they ask you about your support for the First Real Black President? Will you have to duck the question or even lie? Or will you tell them that you knocked on doors and campaigned with all the influence you could muster and helped change the Willie Lynch dynamic that has crushed out people for over 300 plus years.

    I have no illusions that Barrack is the answer to all that ails us. But we have had 43 White men walk all over us or ignore us and even enslave us. I think it is time that we stand up, show up or shut up.

    I hope this letter is received in love and respect the spirit it was written in.
    Frederick V. Nielsen, II

    As always, interesting show. I listened to your interview with Shelby Steele twice. Mr. Steele hit the nail on the head in terms of how it feels to be jammed into an identity that doesn't fit. The interview gives us all a lot to think about. Thanks

    Mr Steele's comments seemed to be confined to his own myopia of black/white. Obama's popularity is strictly a "deal" between blacks and whites?
    Does he know that the U.S. also has people of other origins in it? Did he research what is Obama's dynamic with any other, "non-historically- slave-owning" group? Is there a "deal" there too? What is it?
    I would agree, though, that the specifics of what Obama will do is vague - but that is true of ALL the candidates to date - Dem AND Repub.
    Sound-bytes mostly - but that's all the debate format allows. The structure itself precludes any discussion of value.

    I have just one thing to say on this: Shelby Steele seems to forget what so many others do--that Barack Obama is as much white as he is black. Mr. Steele's comments seem underlined w/racism. Barack is trying to be color-blind in a racially divided world. And the negative subtitle of Steele's book, ". . . and why he can't win" is depressing.
    Again, I will say it, Barack Obama is one-half white and one-half black. I'm sure he's had to do much soul-searching around this fact and that it has been a struggle for him to be his best self in both those worlds (esp'ly w/attitudes like those of Mr. Steele). I applaude Barack Obama and DO hope he proves Mr. Steele to be VERY WRONG come election day.

    I absolutely disagree with Mr. Steele on many of the points he made. But more specifically i disagree with the statement he made about Barak Obama not having his own voice. That minute he is "John F. Kennedy" and the next he is "Dr martin Luther King". I will like to remind mr. Steele that one of the qualities that makes for a great leader is ADAPTABILITY. A leader must be able to adapt to his surroundings. Just to use an example, one of the reasons that American Corporations used to fail abroad or have difficulties was because they were unable to adapt to the society they were catering to. you cant behave American in japan and you cant behave Japanese in American either. A corporation must be able to adapt to their new society which allows them to communicate better. Adaptability is what makes for a good leader because you are able to cater to all the different type of individuals in the society. Adaptability is what makes Obama a great man, and Adaptability is what we need in the next president of the United States.

    Steele explained what I have often wondered about but had no way of understanding. His words of reason reflect what I have felt over the years but would never have been able to express. Also, I believe Mr. Moyers interviewed him correctly. An interviewer draws out the other person. I do not see Moyers in this situation as an investigative journalist digging for the truth. Therefore, I do not think he should be confrontational with Steele, only lead him to state his viewpoints. This was one of the most illuminating and helpful discussions I have heard.

    I am surprised at all of the denial about prevailing racial biases. They exist and are so apparent. They are also the basis for BO switch hitting politics.

    Mr. Steel hit it right on target. He admires BO, and so do I. But I, for the life of all my research and looking at his record, listening to his vapid speeches, cannot figure out what he really stands for. He does have a repetitive Mantra, that has no substance or meaning behind it.

    I would love a "Great New Hope", for this country. We really do need it. But that is childish, and naive. I am not sure anyone could deliver that , and BO has no record to show he could deliver much of anything except empty promises.

    This show was about race, because this country is still all about race. I have friends from all backgrounds. I can tell you the predominate tone of blacks, is just the one Steele described. I would imagine blacks have a hard time being called on this tired behavior, with such accuracy. This is not to say that there are no racist whites. The whole country has a lot to learn, and a good start would be some Honesty about this issue.

    Whites are afraid to speak up. We are called racist every time we don't agree with a black person or a black platform. Jesse Jackson, et al have done much to keep this strife going.

    I basically like BO and I hope he turns out to be one of the rare politicians of substance. He needs to get in touch with himself, first, before we can.

    I think Mr. Moyers did a great job as a host. This was about Steele's book, not Mr. Moyer's opinions.

    Why isn't this being framed as a pro-feminist vs. anti-feminist debate? Why does it always have to be about race? And who's purposes are being served by making it so? Obviously Shelby Steele's! I am a white woman voter in New Hampshire. Since I voted for Obama and not for Clinton does that make me anti-feminist? Besides, didn't it ever occur to any of the media that maybe Granite Staters would say one thing and do another...and chuckle about it to themselves from now till mud season?

    Dear Mr. Moyer: In watching your guest, Mr. Steele, Sunday night the thing that struck me most was the resemblence of Mr. Steele to Pres. Bush; especially around the mouth. Seriously, am I the only one to notice this and comment on it?

    I have only one complaint about your performance in the interview with Mr. Steele. You never asked 'the' question: Which are you Mr. Steele, a bargainer or a challenger? Conservative African Americans of the Republican party(about 1/100 of the total black electorate)who have received the kind of opportunities Mr. Steele has are the ultimate 'bargainers'. But you're a very bright guy and I am sure you know this and were being polite to this guy in not framing the question to him.

    Suffice it say that we are all bargainers in life from birth. Your race has nothing to with the premise only what you happen to be bargaining for. We all want what we want when we want it. The older we get in life the more we learn this and devise methodologies of how we go about achieving whatever our goals in life are. In the beginning we intuitively bargain with our mothers for a bottle so that we might stop crying and go to sleep. As we get older we learn saying please gets you a much more positive response than not.In grade school we learn good grades will probably get that new bicycle for the summer instead of waiting til christmas. The concept grows and develops as our needs and desires grow. To be a 'challenger' in life does not automatically equate you to being an Al Sharpton as though it is a bad thing. Dr. King was a 'challenger' and I doubt anyone equate these men to each except for one obvious fact. As an African American male I am pleased to see Obama with the best bargaining skills of the frontrunners of the Democrat and Republican party. After eight years of President Bush the most, device, incompetent person to sit in the Oval Office we need somone with superior bargaining skills to bring this country together.
    OBAMA 08

    If Steele's contention that today's black identity is "grounded in grievance" is accepted as truth, then responding to it in the fashion he does (and says black people must) is keeping a negative feedback loop going. There is no way out.
    Of course he would have to be against Barak Obama, who probably could be said by Steele to be employing white ways of speaking and white ways of being. According to Steele's convoluted way of thinking.
    Further, Steele's saying that any black person's identity is limited by a group imperative to be stoking the grievance against whites, truly makes the black position that of victim, and maintains it. The black "culture" in America is defined by the people who are born into that culture, and how they think about themselves and the world around them.
    There is a group identity phenomenon in all parts of American society and the world. Even with the folks in prison who certainly claim themselves to be victims due to their imprisonment. If they get paroled, and continue to think of themselves as they did in their prison culture as victims, then they will remain in a mental prison, and probably return to the physical prison they got out of. Is this really what black Americans want for themselves?
    I say hooray for the Bill Cosbys and the Barak Obamas who want to inspire hope that their race doesn't have to be limited by what their culture has falsely attempted to label as black pride, when it really is the desire to be different and better than what they perceive their white adversaries are. This is truly a negative feedback loop. The only way out is to aspire to be a good human being first, rather than a group member. And to believe that there is hope for a world that does not prize group mentality over individual merits.

    How Eloquent! I have never heard of Shelby Steele, but I will be looking for his publications now. Everything he said is what I believe to be true. Every day I bleed liberal guilt about black oppression and black historical experience, but I deeply resent being corralled with true white supremacist bigots simply because of the white color of my skin.

    All politicians are "bargainers" regardless of race. It goes with the job. In fact, all PEOPLE are bargainers because give-and-take goes with living in society.

    PEOPLE support Obama because of his message of hope and his experience bringing people together.

    Excellent discussion and a good example of the type of conversation possible between people when they drop posturing and honestly explore their views with each other. I agree wholehearted with Steele: we're tired of the old masks and 'group think' which do little to take us forward.

    And I personally am suspect of Obama's quick-change approach to different audiences. The change we need is to the real.

    There seems to be no way to
    reach a plateau of happiness with Mr. Shelby Steele who, in my opinion, has constructed a box for himself that he really doesn't want to be let out of, in fact, sadly, he seems quite comfortable in it. During your discussion, I noticed that at every turn that hinged on an attempt at or approach toward a possible workable solution to some issue, he had a ready reason why it would never work!

    He presents himself as "the authority" on black people and how we see the world. I resent this and firmly disagree with his conclusions which, I don't think, are necessarily those of a great many black people although Mr. Steele presents his pessimistic views as though he speaks for the vast majority, that his views somehow reflect the predominant black world view.

    Perhaps Mr. Steele would paint me with the same brush he uses to describe Oprah and Barrack Obama. I am a year younger than Oprah and maybe that has something to do with it. I remember that Mr. Steele made some reference to his age and I feel that perhaps it is indicative of his own "black experience" and what has obviously shaped his ideas.

    I appreciate your wide variety of guests.

    Shelby Steele was able to articulate many undermined feelings that others don't want to address; the Obama campaign has allowed them to surface and be examined. He is a breath of fresh air that has cleared away stagnated ideas for fear of reprisal. He is his own man and is not afraid of saying what he thinks. Can we say the same for Obama? I was a supporter until his message become so diluted because of the broad appeal that he wants to have, that I really don't know where he stands on many issues. He speaks of change, that's are you going to get me there?
    Shelby Steele allows us to view ideas from more than one perspective and he has touched on something that transcends the Obama run for president. I very much enjoyed the show and thank Bill Moyers for being brave enough to weather the storm of controversy that this subject has provoked.

    I might be viewed as a White 62-year old woman from Iowa who just doesn't get it. However, I embrace the new day where I am defined by more than my sex, color, age, and place of origin and recognized as a member of the human race with complex interests and passions. Barak Obama also deserves room in this new day.

    Mr. Steele characterized Mr. Obama as having nothing more to offer than a vague concept of hope. Had I known Mr. Steele needed an education, I would have invited him to come to stay in our home in Iowa where he could have had easy access to Barak Obama's 70-page policy booklet, read and listened to newspaper and TV interviews, attended a number of Mr. Obama's town meetings, and perhaps even had his own questions answered. Instead, he chose to insulate himself by writing a book using sound bites and prejudice as his knowledge base.

    Frankly, Mr. Moyers, I'm disappointed in you! You have such great capacity to help us learn from various points of view, but you usually do this by challenging and prodding, not by giving someone free rein to discredit another human being.

    Mr. Steele's ideas on race apply to women as well. Many of Hillary Clinton's harshest critics are women. It's just that inter-marriage will eventually resolve many of Steele's issues, but women will always be women.

    This is the worst interview I've seen on the show. A lot Dr. Steele's ideas are bogus. Now, what is wrong with giving people the benefit of the doubt of being racist until they prove otherwise!

    Looks like Oprah's white female soccer mom cadre has come out hard here to defend their "bargainer". "Thrill and charisma"..."Believe"..."Inspire". Blah blah blah.

    Talk about proving the point. They have accepted Obama's bargain but unlike on the "Oprah" show there will be no keys to a new car after you pull the lever for Obama...Only the spectre of two more conservative SCOTUS nominations from President McCain.

    Thanks for playing. We are doomed.

    Forget what color you are. White, black, brown, red or yellow, if everyone stopped putting emphasis on their color as being the reason for their successes or failures, everyone else will forget as well. Individuals or groups who keep bringing race to the public mind are doing more harm than good.

    Watching your program today was exceptionally painful. That you gave this much air time to a such an obviously biased, disgruntled, and dissasociated man as Shelby Steele and virtually without challenge and then stood idley by as he attempted to tear down Barrack, not based on any real knowledge but based on what he thinks he knows about Barrack. He has spent absolutely zero time with Barrack. He also claims to know "what Blacks think" Well I'm also from the south side of Chicago and I also have sinced moved away and I can tell you that being in the ivory tower is an isolating experience and I'm not conservative. Being upper middle class is a separating experience as well and after a certain number of years away you simply can't claim to know black thought and black culture for all of the race. And the real lesson about race is that within black identity their has to be room for a spectrum of people with different ideologies and differing ideas and blackness can't be a simple box. What Mr. Steele knows is the way conservative, isolated ostricised blacks think. His analysis and framework of challenging versus bargaining blacks is extremely simple and an example of binary black and white thinking that does not allow for nuance and individualism in people and ignores their obviously enormous talents and abilities. In an insane sort of way his framework is anti conservative even though he is conservative. By forcing all blacks into a two sided box challenging versus bargaining he contradicts one of the values conservative so often champion that of individualism. It's ironic that he (a conservative)misses this point.

    Last but not least the work can't really be scholarship since he didn't interview anyone, didn't survey anyone, did no data analysis whatsoever and no historical research on the subject of his book. All we know is that he read Barracks book and then applyed a sort of pop psychoanalysis grounded partly in his own issues and experiences with being from a biracial background. As he himself stated they grew up in two completely different places and at different periods of time. He can not know Barrack's experience and life as they are too different. How can he possibly write credibly about it. Last but not least if I had the power to fire Bill Moyer for bad work I would do it for this piece. It was so poorly done, so damaging and disrespectful, that the man should be terminated at the very least put on notice. I expect unbiased information on PBS and balance in every piece. There are scholars that do research on identity and that have studied and written about Black identity and it's varying levels of salience for example William Cross to name just one. It would be nice if the next time you do this type of piece you have someone on who knows the research and literature on identity. Everyone knows Barrack's quest is an uphill battle. I guess I'm not surprised that the most viscious attempts to tear him down also come from a man desparately claiming to be black.

    I thought Mr. Steele's theory about race was fascinating and I couldn't turn away from the screen for the entire conversation. It's true that there is an element of over-simplification to it; ALL theories have this. Human relationships are too complex to be truly captured by any one theory, but some of them ring true or provide unique insight, even if they can't tell us the entire complicated reality. Mr. Steele's observations were fascinating and had a grain of truth in them. I'd never heard anything like this before.

    I work in academia, and I'm so tired of the rhetoric and the circular, futile conversations about race that go on in this setting. We need a fresh voice and a new approach. We need this kind of shake-up, because things have stagnated. How can whites be expected to live forever in this atmosphere of presumed racism, where every decision is second guessed by others and even themselves? How can minorities enter the playing field en masse when poverty and poor education continues to plague so many of them? Anger regenerates itself, it boils under the surface and poisons the future unless it is somehow addressed -- not with the purpose of just venting it out on an oppressor, but also with the purpose of extinguishing it. And white guilt? Guilt and shame simmer below the surface and eventually turn into rage and resentment. How can our country find unity without first shedding these crippling things, which Mr. Steele so lucidly discussed?

    Some lingering questions are bothering me, though. What does Mr. Steele think we should do about all this? How does a nation cleanse itself and move forward? How? Could Obama really bring us there? Is he really a new generation for race relations, or just a very good diplomat? Or, is a good diplomat all we really need?

    I am rather shocked (and disappointed) at the anti-Steele (and Moyers) vitriol emerging from these postings. I don't see why people feel so threatened by Steele's ideas. Yes, his model of "bargainer" vs. "challenger" is simplistic--models are necessarily so. But the fact that so many prominent black Americans (as well as everyday people) can be fairly easily categorized in this way means the model does have some validity.

    I, as many white Americans, have found myself strongly attracted to Obama, but with a rather uncertain feeling about my own motives. I found Steele's analysis enormously helpful in that regard. Does that mean I came to the same conclusions as Steele regarding Obama's chances (or fitness) for the presidency? Not at all. What it helped me do, I think, is start asking the right questions: what is this guy likely to do as president? President of the US is an important job, and we don't have to look very far to see how really poorly-informed choices by voters can have disastrous consequences!

    If Obama has the goods, I consider his racial ambiguity an added plus. When, after looking and listening to a person, you can't easily categorize their racial/ethnic affiliation, maybe that's a good thing.

    Bill, I thought Dr. Steele missed the mark if his intent was to bring clarity to a very complex subject - race. His comments left me cold in that they seemed to strengthen the notion that racial separation is a function of society that neutralizes Mr. Obama's notion that hope can and will assimilate all races into one if survival of the human race is to be realized. Identity is not a public act as regards race but a very private matter. Who really knows anything about anyone because we are hard wired to choose words and actions that validate the presupposition that the next day should reflect what we learned in all of the previous days. Stated simply, Mr. Obama is no more or less certain of the outcome of human events than is Mr. Steele. The difference is that Mr. Obama chooses to navigate the waters of race relations without the need to clarify who he is, when in fact the only objective of his politics is to pave the way for a better America and a better world. This abstract objective has no racial agenda, except that which might obtain as a result of goodness for the whole of humanity.

    Dear Mr. Bill Moyers,

    I have the utmost respect for your journalism and have been telling everyone I know since you’ve come back onto PBS that you are my hero, but now your response to Clinton’s supposed New Hampshire win has utterly damaged that high regard. Behind the electoral-curtain racism cannot account for an average 16 point spread disconnect in polling up to three hours before the election and yet more disagreeable polling after! After the problem in the last two Presidential elections you should damn well know that the entire electronic vote counting process is suspect. I was shocked, dismayed, and outraged to see you of all people perpetuating the mass media racism explanation when you should have been talking about Holt’s Election Reform Proposal and Kucinich’s (among others’) call for a recount.

    Nearly everything about this report bothered me. I believe Melissa Harris-Lacewell was right on your show when she said that Obama was “black enough”, and completely disagreed with her opinion that he could not become the next President. After Obama’s win in Iowa, I later enjoyed hearing her go the other way in an NPR segment, in which she argued with Shelby Steele saying that Obama was actually as a matter a fact—electable. Now again she’s implying that we white people are too racist to elect an African American, and then you have the conflicted and internalizing racist Shelby Steele on your show to talk about his kooky bargaining black-man analysis.

    I’m a white working class male who has many African American friends and who lives in an African American community, in a house with two African Americans. My friends and I agreed with most of Dr. Ronald Walters’ assessment when he was on your show. We don’t see a black man when we look at Obama; we see an inspiration leader. I ask you, why would the majority of a country that is against the illegal warring want the pro-war candidates, either McCain or Clinton? Please give us more credit than that.

    White people I talk with are sick of the Bush and Clinton family status quo and think that Clinton is even a divisive candidate. Presently young people are beginning to wake up and hesitantly get excited about the process, but another Clinton will drive ever more youth to withdraw inward to our apathetic despair and cynicism. We know things are screwed up. And soon to get very bad, but we need real leadership now if one wants us to care about all that.


    Joshua Farris – Iraq veteran activist from Seattle, WA

    I really think in the interest of fairness Bill Moyers should now interview
    scholars such as Henry Louis Gates or Obama himself to get a different
    perspective. I can't believe that Bill Moyers actually said Obama has "rejected
    his blackness" in a way that Steele hasn't.

    Here's where I think Steele is trying to pigeonhole Obama in a way that fits
    his theory for his book but is not based in reality. He says Obama is an
    invisible man, a projection screen, and is keeping his convictions concealed.
    He's a bargainer trying to remain as invisible as possible.

    In my eyes, it really doesn't take much research to learn more about Obama's
    ideas about race. He's on record supporting affirmative action in college
    admissions and public employment. He worked as a civil rights lawyer and as
    a community organizer in south Chicago. All this would be classified by
    Steele as a "challenger" advocating "racial preference that conflicts with
    equality under the law" and as obeying "Black Nationalism" (Steele's term).
    This is not "rejecting blackness" as Steele claimed.

    Steele also complained that Obama is not crediting "values" for his success
    (his mother's guidance, emphasis on diligence, etc). But Obama is on record
    many times talking about personal values and how much they matter. For
    example, "Go into any inner-city neighborhood," Barack Obama said in his
    keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, "and folks will tell
    you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents
    have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their
    expectations and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is
    acting white."

    I agree much more with scholars such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. who has quoted:
    "Mr. Obama shows how to get the balance right. We've got to create as many
    opportunities as we can for the worst-off - and make sure that every child in
    America has a decent shot at life. But values matter, too. We can't talk
    about the choices people have without talking about the choices people make".

    Steele's claim that black identity is "grounded in grievance" is correct, although less so today than it has been in the past. However, this is so because of the institutional forms that prevent blacks from gaining, as a group, effective equality with whites: media and entertainment representation exaggerate "ghetto" culture; education in primarily black communities is horridly under funded; and black communities often are surrounded by incinerators, refineries and smelters, suffering the ill effects of these compounded by a failing health system.

    I will certainly grant that this may be, perhaps even more fundamentally, a class problem. But to ignore the history that created the class problem, and to magnify the present animosity toward the suggestion that race plays a role is in no way enlightening.

    Why might blacks feel as if they shouldn't "let whites off the hook"? This wouldn't be a bad thing if whites were on the hook, especially if they won't admit they're on the hook.

    If I unknowingly buy a stolen car and give it to my son, it is not his. And there is something to learn from this.

    So many of us whites do not know our terrible past beyond a few events; fewer of us know how much we presently benefit from the injustices that occurred in this past. Just because we don't know how much our past has helped us at the expense of others does not make it absurd for those others to demand the facilitation of a relative equality that would exist in a just society.

    Finally, racial divisions are not enforced by minority group identity so much as minority group identity is forced upon groups by the majority who have preconceived racial divisions in mind. Why do so many, even in a liberal state like California, want to make English the "official language"? Why does the entertainment industry make caricatures of black and Hispanic activists? Why are CD sales of "ghetto" artists so popular among middle and upper class whites?

    Yes, individuals in communities develop their own identities based on a shared history with others in that community, but economic and social forces outside of those communities can shape them as well, especially when they have more clout.

    Bill, with all this incoming fire - you must feel like you are back at the White House during the Tet Offensive ?

    I appreciate Bill Moyers style as his questions are always gently asked and well thought out.
    I did have a problem with Mr. Steele, and admit I did not fully understand the reason for his voicing such views nor did I agree with his views. What purpose is served by declaring your race and why should it matter? It certainly is time in this country when we all should see beyond gender or race. I think Mr. Steele presented his agenda of declaring himself to be black and seemed to place Obama on the fence for not doing that. It is not important to me what Obama’s heritage is but what his goals for America may be.

    Dear Bill Moyers,

    Your "Journal" almost always has guests who bring much needed intelligence, accuracy and candor to the examination of the prevailing wisdom of important current issues with which they cut through the spin and disingenuousness that is often given a free ride, or even promoted, by the majority of the mass news media.

    Your guest on Friday 1/4/08, Shelby Steele, however sadly was not one.

    I couldn't disagree more with his thesis that Barack Obama, by giving whites the benefit of the doubt that they are not racists, rather than challenging them to prove they are not, betrays blacks.

    To begin with, Obama is running for the Democratic Party's nomination—a party of diversity that renounces racism. It might be different if he were running as a Republican.

    The end of racism, or of any institutionalized discrimination because of a particular category one may find themselves in, requires seeing and treating everyone first and foremost as an individual, free from any association with a larger entity, other than the human race—like Martin Luther King's hope that one day his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

    How can we hope to end bigotry if we keep picking at the scab by seeing people in terms of stereotypes, and discussing or caring what color their skin is? Because they are white are all the other candidates asked if they are racists?

    Obama has the right take on this. By now it should be irrelevant the color or gender of a candidate for President, only whether they would do a good job. The less we call attention to such non-issues, the sooner they will lose their power to distract and divide us.

    Ed Bramson

    No! No! No!

    Bill Moyers, nor The Hoover Institute are going to made decisions for me by presenting Steele as a learned voice!

    If Mr. Steele, Phd English Utah, want to be a leader of Americans, black or white, let him stand for election.

    P.S.: From the interview, it is apparent Mr. Steele knows nothing about the black community- completely out of touch! Two kind of blacks- but He is different and more complex.


    Steele cloaks his words in a veneer of truth. Of course it is wrong to assume every white person is racist; I roll my eyes when I hear blacks with such extreme views of all whites. He is completely wrong when he refers to Oprah as a "blank slate that white people project their hopes onto." Oprah obviously opposes child abuse and has been very vocal about this issue (which is neither white nor black). She opposes the abuse of women (again neither white nor black). She advocates for the improvement of schools not just in America but in Africa also. Does it mean she is without conviction when she believes that people of all races can work together to solve problems? Obama believes in the same things that Oprah believes. That is why she supports him.

    I think voters in all nations are tired of divisions that lead to years of gridlock and inaction on serious issues (global warming, peace in the middle east, pollution, nuclear weapons, etc.). Change will require co-operation; it will require people of different races, different religions and different parties to come together and agree to work together. I don't know if Obama can make that happen but I hope that he can.

    My reactions varied as I watched and listened twice, and I would love to sit and talk with both Moyers and Steele.

    As one of the "niggers" of current politics, a liberal, I'm a bargainer, accepting conservative, white or black as individuals and not tools of the conservative cult of persecution and entitlement. I'm not a confrontational liberal who actively threaten conservatives, but seeks to reach agreement.

    Or, what of that nigger, the oppressed conservative held down by the jack boot liberals, like John McCain, who is a bargainer who doesn't threaten liberals like Hillary and Teddy, and seeks accommodation with them.

    Like liberals who are bargainers like Moyers talking with Steele, McCain is attacked by other conservatives, just as Obama is attacked. Many people are asking, who is the real John McCain; what does he stand for? And most have written McCain off as someone without any principle or identity or character, just as some argue Obama will be written off if he doesn't establish his identity as a either an angry black man, or perhaps as a conservative who knows his place in the conservative realm, half free, like the blacks in New Amsterdam. (Slavery and the Making of America followed the Journal I watched).

    What I find ironic about conservatives, black or white is their focus on oppression and entitlement. About how the black claim to be oppressed and from this they claim entitlement. And then they say, blacks need to get over the sense of entitlement of they want to stop being oppressed. But almost in the same breath, many conservatives claim to be oppressed by the liberals, and then claim and entitlement to special privilege. And conservatives who don't challenge their perceived oppression by liberals are then viewed suspiciously by fellow conservatives for not claiming entitlement, and for bargaining with white, err liberals.

    Now either Steele is a good actor, or he signaled a sincere sense that his discussion with Moyers was tongue in cheek, an intellectual word play, not to be taken too seriously.

    So, I'll accept Steele as an individual. Both as a black, or a conservative. Or am I bargaining, and he won't respect me because I'm not being honest? Maybe I should be an angry white liberal who challenges his for being the audacity of claiming to be a black conservative, and demand that he either identify himself as white, or as a liberal.


    Thank you Bill, I want to hear other opinion's. Same to reading this blog. Past post, Marianne reminds us of DNA mapping, we all have a drop of African "Black blood". I had my DNA mapped and after comming out of Africa, my genetic family traveled to the Middle East before going West. As a Women & Multiracial, I want to hear from Obama & Hillary, What Are They Going To Do? Mr. Steele brought forth some very profound Questions, that cannot be dismissed just because you may disagree with other parts of his opinions. Beam me up Darwin...

    I am a 79 year old white female and Democrat. I am voting for Barak Obama, not because he is black and I will feel "off the hook of guilt", but because I like his ideals. Having read "The Audacity of Hope" I came to understand him better, and gelled my conviction that he is the right candidate for our country. Hillary Clinton, to me, is too connected/obligated to the power brokers, and therefor, not really able to bring about this - now much maligned term - "change".

    And - because Obama is black, I pray he may bring some meshing of the races in this country.

    I was very much Interested in Mr. Steele's take on black Americans and their perceptions and agendas for white Americans. But he as well, is a "bargainer". Takes one to know one" , eh? Of course Obama has to "change his masks". The first black to reach for the highest office in our country! This in itself indicates very strong convictions and a very strong backbone! Shirley Wall

    I, fortunately, do not see color. I have always judged a person on the kind of job he/she is doing. But, I fully believe the media is insidiously trying to influence our vote from Obama to Clinton .They are constantly saying black man,african American, against a white women. To me they are both Americans period. I have always felt the only time race or color should be used is when the police need to find a criminal. It should be totally unnecessary to say the first black, or the first latino, or first any color to be entering a field of endeavor. I hope all Americans look and listen to all candidates and judge not by race,color, creed gender, or party. Also, lets remember to vote for a complete new congress, they too, come in all shapes sizes and colors. No president will be able to achieve anything without a bi=partisan congress, If we get a gov't for, by & of the people perhaps in 4-8 yrs. America will become again a nation we can all be proud of,

    If Mr. Moyer wants to ask the questions of Blacks that he stated on his program, then he should do so. The conversation will change when the journalist poses a different question.

    I so disliked Steele. I just wanted him to stop. I only watched to the end out of respect for Mr. Moyers.

    I think Shelby Steel made some very untrue assumptions about Obama, and the African American Experience in general. As I watched him on your show he appears to be an angry person himself, regarding his mixed heritage. Growing up in a segregrated situation, I think formed some of this anger in him. Frankly, I think he is also jealous of the success of Obama and the throngs of people wanting to hear and see him in person.

    When me makes statements about we don't know who Obama is, my question, do we know the other candidates? Do we really know the other candidates the way Steele says we should know Obama. George Will even wrote and op-ed piece on Steele's book stating how wrong he was in his book "A Bound Man". Although I normally do not agree with George Will, I have to say he is correct about his assessment of Steele's book.

    I am his age and an educated African American as well as my husband and we both thought that he was way off base. We both saw him with the problem of being black and white himself and has not come to terms with reconciling both. Also the fact that he works for the Hoover Institute, really explains him quite well. We are opened minded enough to see the all sides of an issue. We are not into making white people feel guity as Steele seems to imply, Africans Americans in general do. We also have a lot of white friends. For him to get on Public TV and denegrate successful black people as bargainers is beyond the pale. I think, Steele himself, is a bargainer.

    Bill I like your comments, but you should have challenged him more on some of his assumptions.

    Thank you for the introduction to Shelby Steele. I only knew him from book reviews.

    I think the discussion prompted by BHO's candidacy is great, if BHO can tolerate the nonsense. Steele diagnosed him as hiding behind a variety of public masks. BHO better have someplace to hide because the exposure he endures is beyond tolerable. There sits Steele with his Booker T. Washington mask on (and as a public figure he's entitled to it) passing judgment.

    Some of what may happen is that we will also sort out the critical styles coming from the academy. Steele's attempt to lump liberalism in with phonyness sounds like someone who prefers to avoid the people's struggle. I had to see it for myself.

    I am a 25 year old black male. I was not born into a segregated society. Blacks have probably treated me worse than whites. I don't like Shelby Steele's politics, but (on this day) Mr. Steele is absolutely correct. I know Mr. Steele is correct, because most of the same people who support Barack would not show Carol Mosely Braun half of that same support. A black female who was right on the war and campaigned on issues couldn't get the respect that she deserved. Why? Barack has policy positions, but he doesn't campaign on them. Black candidates that try to build support for their policies are seen as dangerous to the Republican and Democratic elites. Telling the people what you are going to do sounds too populist for some folks. Talking about "seats at a table" and "working with Republicans" is music to the elitists' ears. I didn't need Mr. Steele's analysis to know that Barack is a "bargainer". Barack has already told America that he is a bargainer.

    By the way: How is that liquid coal thing working out?

    I was shocked and disapointed by Bill Moyers interview with Shelby Steele.And you've had that racest on your show TWICE?Once is too many. the world is not just black and white. There are so many vitally important issues,war, global warming, health care, the widening gap between rich and poor,immigration, other races,e.g.latinos, the threat of recession, etc.,and all the media sweems to focus on is race.As I see it Obama is offering all races to leave that behind and live for now and the future. How can you venerate Dr King and his dream while you keep on digging up old bones and claiming "grievance" as a relevant position, and seeing it as important to "not let Whites off the hook". Shame!!The division in USA society, and your obsession with it, will destroy you.This possibly greatest of nations will go down to ruin if you don't take a different path IMMEDIATELY, to mitigate the dammage done during the last 8 years, never mind the residue of past errors.You presently have someone who could lead you into a new and healthy future, and you have enough people of all races who look like they are ready to forget about percieved colour, and give Obama a chance. He is, after all, both black and white, and he has VISION FOR THE FUTURE, it's like Dr. King's dream.
    You may wonder why I am responding to this. I am a 73 year old Canadian woman. Well what happens in your country affects us in Canada quite profoundly.If your nation collapses we'll be lucky not to go down with you. Besides we know and admire many many fine people and fine things that you have achieved.But you are on a knife edge right now, just don't blow it this time.
    And Bill, you owe Obama equal time to undo the harm of Shelby Steel.

    I don’t know much about Shelby Steele. What I do know is that I am a Black American and that he does not speak for me. When he says that’s Blacks are nervous because a sizable number of White Americans respond to Barrack in a positive way, I feel my tongue has been stripped from me. I wanted to tell someone who would here that’s not the case, but I’m at home in my living room. And he’s making statements on television. How dare he make such a statement. I’m happy that there are White Americans out there who understand that Barrack is more that just a skin tone. That he had parents from both sides of the racial divide and doesn’t represent one over another. Please stop making statements for “all” Blacks. If you’re going to make statements at least quantify it with “in my opinion.”

    I can't believe you talked to the ultimate black sell out about Barack Obama. This person works for the ultimate in white, good old boy networks. He is a token black in a racist society. A black republican in a republican think tank. Obviously intelligent, but equally obviously biased. His opinions on black society are suspect at best. Because Obama is not running on race, doesn't mean he isn't sensitive to his race. he choses to be an intelligent politician instead. It is time to let race go as a divisive issue in America. Barack Obama is attemting to do that. Mr Steel has no credibility on the issue.

    Shelby Steele's mention of the various masks that he believes Senator Obama to be wearing depending on the audience reminded me of the concept of "covering" as described in the book of the same title (Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino).

    See for an overivew of covering

    This topic deserves further investigation (not just in regard to presidential candidates) and I strongly recommend that you have Mr. Yoshino on your program to discuss it.

    Thank you.

    It isn't so much Obama and "this love affair he has with white America" as it is Steele's hate affair that HE has with white America. Steele is the most disgusting person I have seen involved in America's race issues. I believe he makes the situation much worse and enjoys doing so.

    It would be foolish to say you come to seek peace with a huge chip on your shoulder. And I am very certain that peace must indeed be sought, and that it will not be had easily. Sometimes people enjoy the fight so much, they fight not to resolve the problem but to perpetuate the fight.

    I am very disappointed in Bill Moyers and have lost a great deal of respect for him, which saddens me immensely. Is his show now going to be a place to go to hear wild opinions of hate-mongering zealots? CSPAN provides a more than adequate outlet for the right-wing "think tanks", thank you very much.

    In order to try to make certain that my local station and PBS realize that I will not support this kind of broadcasting, Monday I will call my station and tell them that, with difficulty, I not be contributing to the station at all during 2008, specifically because of this program segment. I encourage other viewers to do the same. I will not pay to provide Steele with more ability to spew his garbage.

    Here's complementary commentary from David Sirota and from a perspective largely opposite of that of the institution founded by Hoover (you know, the Depression guy):

    "Barack Obama is contending for the Democratic nomination as a candidate who avoids focusing on economic class. He asks us to believe--nay, to "hope"--that the interests of Wall Streeters underwriting his campaign can somehow be "brought together" with the interests of workers harmed by corporate America's wage, job and pension cutbacks."

    Stelle: "Whites know never tell blacks what you really think and what you really feel because you risk being seen as a racist. And the result of that is that to a degree, we as blacks live in a bubble. Nobody tells us the truth. Nobody tells us what they would do if they were in our situation. Nobody really helps us. They use us. They buy their own innocence with us. But they never tell us the truth. And we need to be told the truth very often."

    Mr. Steele, What truth will whites hide from blacks? Because of the "efforts and achievements" of blacks in this country the truth is told.

    Much of the privileges whites have are hidden from blacks. Remember Mr. Steele, actions spoke louder than words.

    Wow! impressive exposure of human interactions Bill Moyers. While people attempt to work out personal interrelationships; they still have to deal with personal biases.
    When dealing with other people; there are many psychological complications to consider. Nature is survival of the fittest and it is necessary to consider defensive and aggressive mechanisms.
    There is no difference between bias towards short people and tall people and bias between white people and black people. What is strange is that skin color and cultural back ground are basically neutral differences. We are all subject to biases for one reason or another. We can only assume that there is not a bias until it raises its ugly head.

    At the introduction of the clip mr. steele is receiving a metal from president bush, really after seeing that what else is needed to be said, but while I'm here let me say my first attempt to watch this clip was very unsuccessful just 1min. into it I was like what the (BLEEP BLEEP) and cut it off, but after I read some of the other viewers comments they gave me the strength to try to make it thru. the full half hour and I did and all I can say is why? why would you two supposly educated men, but obviously lacking common sense men do this to yourself and really try to insult Mr.Obama and the majority of American people intelligence, very unwise move. Oh and mr. bill I never watched your show before I just happened to stumble across it while viewing PSB website, mr. bill you look old enough to have owned African Slave, and I could see how Mr. Steele sneak attacks on Black's and Obama really excited you, also noticed how scripted this attack was from your note reading and quick acceptance of mr. steele hate comments. mr.bill talking about he’s tired of talking to Black’s about (RACE) and not about other topics, oh yeah, well last time I checked it’s your name on the show and you’re the one asking the questions, be for real man who do you think your kidding? This is all such nonsense, all the self hate mr.steele has for himself and jealousy for Mr. Obama is just unacceptable, just because your mixed like President Obama doesn't give you the right to carry on like this and then he goes on like he's speaking for all Black's and all White's like who do you think you are. What's the deal with the bargainers and challengers comments and masks and just attacking successful Black's in America. Well mr.steele won't you take off your mask because I can't really figure out if really under your tanning makeup if your bill clinton or george bush jr. I think g.bush thou. Stop targeting Mr. Obama and find something better to do with yourself. My Brother.

    From reading some of Obama's writings, I see him as having undergone a transformative experience, one that has brought about a liberation of his consciusness from a narrow ethnocentric and provincial view -- normal consciousnesss -- submerged in the classes, divisons, and subcultures of society. This state of enlightenment is based on a change in the direction and structure of consciousness, awakening him to meaning beyond his past social conditioning. It also liberates a cognitive potential locked in ideological cliches and makes him able to read and interpret life, its meaning, value, purpose, and quality as he lives and experiences it. This is a realm of being beyond believing and rational thought (deductive and inductive logic)-- what the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, called a state of understanding and knowledge.

    Shelby's categories and your discussion with him fascinated me. Although I have read only reviews of his book before your program last night, I'm inclined to think that Shelby's categories of bargainers and challengers embody some truth -- a partial and limited truth, to be sure, applicable to certain individuals -- but he fail to grasp the higher state of being of a person like Obama. Shelby seems to me to be at that high level of consciousess where his thinking is bound to inductive and deductive reasoning. But, in my judgment, he has not yet undergone a personal transformation to the highest level of consciousness. This is revealed in his characterization of himself as an individual, a monad, a non-divisible self, as opposed to being a human being whose individuality is intricately linked to the human condition, regardless of class, nationality, ethnicity, and racial divisions.

    This by no way means Shelby's ideas and writings should be written off. They have a lot to teach us about the human condition. This also means that there is an element of projection, an element of misconstruing Obama, in Shelby's use of his two categories of bargainers and challengers, as well as in his lack of understanding, in my judgment, of how Obama is really connecting to whites and blacks.

    Keep up the good work.

    Vince Lombardi
    Professor Emeritus

    Prior to watching this show I was predisposed to disagree with Mr. Steele due to my prejudices about his conservatism.To my surprise I found what he said to be thought provoking and as evidenced by these blogs has stirred a lot emotions. This does not mean I agree with a lot of his conclusions,especially having only two categories (bargainer or challenger) even though those may come into play under certain circumstances. His statement that because of Imus whites won't tell blacks how they are really feeling tells me he doesn't realize that is the reality now. Whites I know ( I am white) are two-faced when it comes to racism or sexism. They say and do what they think is the' right thing' to do or say in front of people they know may challenge them but the rest of the time their racism/sexism is very much a part of their lives/actions. It is true that much of the younger generation seems to be less color/sex blind but not in the small town where I grew up even though they do not see themselves as prejudiced. We have to face the fact that racism and sexism are still WHAT IS and that equality is only our idea/ideal.
    This presidential campaign is giving us the opportunity to admit and examine our prejudices.

    I disagree with Shelby Steel that Mr. “Obama is not electable”, and the reasons
    he gave are vague!
    The presidential candidates speak for change. They do not provide
    a specific substance, other than that they have “experience”! Experience in what...?
    The “SPECIFIC SUBSTANCE” for many of us is to “express our will on
    [Main issues are,WARS, DEBT, LAWS, CONSTITUTION,

    There are some who believe and speak of only one or two ISSUE. Others revert
    to writing and stating: “ Traditionally, the so-called mainstream media has leaned left.
    Retired anchormen like Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw openly discuss their,
    liberal beliefs, attack Mr. Bill Moyer by stating he is flat-out ZEALOST”.
    These three veterans correspondent has inspired the world, the nation and gave us
    the truth as best as they could. The duties and responsibilities
    of the Congress should be and must be ”strictly construed”.
    Amend the Constitution for the people to “express their will”
    on ALL MAJOR ISSUES! We need that “change” now - today!
    The future destiny, liberty, freedom to live, work etc. should be in the POWER
    of the people to “express their will” on ALL MAJOR ISSUES!
    It is time to stop granting unlimited - absolute power to ANYBODY
    now – today, rather than to relinquish “HOPES” to express
    The Congress did not comply with their duties, responsibilities and accountability!
    The truth is the "Government is dysfunctional! There is no accountability today...”!
    A federal judge sentence an athlete to jail for perjury – lies. The ARTICLE III of the
    Constitution states, “The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one
    supreme Court .... as the Congress ... has ordain and establish”, It should follow the
    practice of the federal judge and sentence all the lairs for “lying to the public to
    go to war”!

    Mr. Moyers,

    Shelby Steele and his personal psychodrama that he tries to pawn off as scholarship is both embarassing and ridiculous. Your fawning acceptance of this right wing drivel made both of you seem old, irrelevant and pathetic. Your complicity in Johnson's war and now this; so much shame -- so little time left to atone.

    My guess is that Steele doesn't even believe the things he writes. However, as an academic he's trapped in a 'publish or perish' world so had to come up with something to earn his keep. Furthermore, having done so, he inches just a little farther into the white academic world allowing him to rest a while. It's just a lot of psychopathology.

    I have never heard such vacuous racial clap-trap parading as intellectual discourse.
    How can you expect a self-respecting man to reject his mother or his mother’s race?
    This Shelby Steele seems to be a throw-back to Franz Fanon and other such people who preach racial hatred and defeatism. At the end of the day, his message comes across as being no different from that of a white supremacist like P. Rushton. I prefer the Martin Luther King approach. He did not peddle such garbage. How can Barrack avoid doing business with whites – does he not live in a country where the majority of people are white? How can he expect to democratically lead such a country without their trust and support? Barrack is his own master. He has shown that people can join hands and work together for common good. Even if Barrack loses for reasons of race, that is hardly Barrack’s fault, or any reason he should not try to unite this country. He is a product of love between two people who happen to come from different races. He had no choice in the matter; but he has chosen to be a force for the good and positive in spite of the challenges his heritage might pose. The gains that black people have made in a white society have come about precisely because many black people implicitly have held to the belief and hope that white people have it in them to be reasonable, fair, and consistent with some of the positive values that the best of their race have espoused over the ages. Apart from America, is there any other country on earth where a member of the visible minority is potentially posed to win the presidency? It is not happening in Europe or Asia. Even in India, Sonja Gandhi had to cede the prospects of the premiership to a native Indian when the party she led won the majority of votes in an election over there. In Africa, minorities have dim prospects for leadership of their countries – look at what is happening in Kenya. The world is a bit more complex than the simplistic recipe offered by Mr. Steele.

    The media (big business), PR firms and other "professionals" are quietly shaping our thoughts. They know how to manipulate perception. It appears just as they attempted to distract us with the cost of John Edwards haircut they are attempting to distract us with Obama's race. They have this down to a science...first say something good before the attack. Mr. Steele states that despite his admiration for Obama he will not vote for him--and those reasons have to do with Obama's thin experience.
    Note how Hillary's teary moment was played over and over for days. It appears she is the Establishment candidate and could it be that the media has received their "talking points"?

    Whereas Bill Moyers is a valuable national resource and treasure, bringing uncommon intelligence, experience, wisdom and enlightenment to the public forum,

    Now let it be resolved that he should be excused for failing to puncture the helium-filled nonsense of Shelby Steele.

    To take only one of Mr. Steele's assertions, namely that Barack Obama is an "invisible" man:

    Senator Obama has written two deeply personal, revealing and candid autobiographies. He has make innumerable speeches. His campaign website offers many position papers with detailed critiques and proposals.

    By now hundreds of thousands of citizens have filled halls, theatres and open spaces to see and hear him.

    Mr. Steele, please see your optometrist.
    --Walter Friedenberg

    Mr. Steele had me, a white female democrat, from "Hello". At the beginning of the interview, he made a comment that reflected exactly my reaction to Mr. Obama. I was extremely impressed with Obama's oratorical skills - until I tried to summarize his brilliant speeches and could find no substance to summarize. As a retired university teacher, I saw in his speeches a similarity to students who could write beautiful "fluff" responses to questions they were unprepared to answer. I found him lackluster in the debates, and in some of his responses I saw knee-jerk reactions that a president cannot afford to make. I don't write him off as a candidate I can support in the future when he has had more experience in the U.S. Senate, but I do not support him as a 2008 candidate for President. I considered the rest of the Steele interview to be informative - the view of one man who has "been there" and who has made a study of the phenomenon he addressed. I abhor confrontational interviewers, so I do not fault Bill Moyers for not being more challenging. I thank him for respecting his guest's right to express his views. Isn't that what the First Amendment is all about?

    Not only was Mr. Steele's discussion interesting, I think he's hit upon nerves both within black and white races as well as the liberal status quo who tote the party line. His insights perhaps are off-base, however, he's seems to be very abject in his viewpoints and has keen insight on exactly who and what Obama is and could be - given Steele shares a similar childhood - albeit one mired in the civil rights movement. Not only was there insight - but the notion of "keeping whites on the hook" was so darned spot on, he basically identified exactly what is keeping race relations (or the lack of it) going from a black man's point of view. While there's too much to list on points I'd like to spot light from Steele's interview - I thought having an alternative point of view was refreshing - while you're supporters are desperately disappointed Bill that you didn't rake Mr. Steele over the coals and call him an Uncle Tom yourself as many have shared as feedback on this comment board - I thought it was an opportunity to get some insight on an alternative view point., and it was very well done. I don't agree with all of Mr. Steele's viewpoints and his professional think tank life or political bent as a Conservative is less than relevant unless character assassination is the motive. While Steele's voice is one among many who have opinions and insights as to race relations and Obama - it certainly was eye opening to hear his views. I liked it - keep up the interviews of both sides of the fence and I'll continue watching. Please do resist the urge to buckle under the strain of the loud mouthed uber-liberals who only want their cries of desperation to be heard over all others.

    Your first guest on 1/11, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, said that it was unfair for the media to be telling South Carolina voters that Edwards cannot win. Given that, how did you decide to follow her with a man who has written a book about Obama, which contains, in its title, this line: . . . WHY HE CAN'T WIN. Is that fair?

    Race is obviously important in this election but maybe not in the way that Mr Moyers indicates in his introduction to his interview with Mr Steele.

    This is because Edwards and Richardson did even worse than Obama in the NH primary, compared to poll expectations.

    Taking the average of the polling data as reported by , and comparing that to the primary results, Clinton went from 30.0 to 39.1%, Obama went from 38.3 to 36.5%, Edwards went from 18.3% to 16.9%, and Richardson went from 5.7 to 4.6%.

    In relative terms, Obama fell only 5% (that is, (36.5-38.3)/38.3), while Edwards and Richardson fell 7% and 19%.

    This may suggest that Obama’s supporters in the polls were LESS likely than Edwards’ and Richardson’s supporters to vote for Clinton.

    First of all I feel that Mr. Bill Moyers should receive the Medal of Arts for his work in journalism. My opinion is that he and Mr. Daniel Schorr are both on a very short list of individuals who with their contributions to journalism have brought the art form to new and refreshing heights of integrity.
    My opinion is that it is wonderful that all of us have the opportunity to consult in this country through the use of the internet. It is wonderful to see America in this cycle of growth if we are able to look at it as that without being attached to anything but spiritual truth.
    In watching this program I was able to observe the destructive effects that have been caused by racism.
    Mr. Steele and the rest of us seem to be looking out over the ruins of this society that have been caused by racism without having the proper tools with which to apply a solution.
    Perhaps the being of Mr. Obama should be looked at as an opportunity for us to consider that there is if I may, (socio-spiritual) work to be done in this country. America can be the first to set that example. As individuals we must search for the correct spiritual tools to do this and stop relying on preachers, evangelist, movie stars and other charismatic personalities to set our course. I challenge America to search for and apply the spiritual truth of our quest for Unity. God, The All Merciful, The All Wise is Sufficient to us to have provided us with a graduated spiritual plan if we are willing to detach from our greed, jealousy and imagined power beyond His to receive it. America we have work to do.
    Racism is a lie and always has been. We need to learn how to repair the damage that has been done on all sides. Politics is a diversion, the whole approach that we have had to electing a President is immature and juvenile the process seems only to endorse more division among us. Mr. Steele said that "Black people are in a bubble and need to be told the truth"., this is true in a sense and he seems to allude to the fact that they should be told this truth by White people. The intelligent question is why does he assume that Black and White people as individuals who have been created with the truth in their hearts can't on their own find that truth for themselves. What is the spiritual transformation that is required for this?
    From my observation it would seem that if Black people would expand their reach for discovery outside of the limiting boundaries of the churches in their community that seem to be controlled by their ministers ( who seem to use their power to control the masses to create wealth and power for themselves and therefore not allowing an individual to commune with God on their own.) and sincerely apply some of that "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
    (Matthew 6:14,15) that Christ talked about to their fellowship with Whites in their outreach perhaps we could gain some spiritual momentum. And if White people would take the time to learn why it is they feel superior (ie. social narcissism) and how spiritually sick that is and apply some of that "For there is no respect of persons" (Ephesians 6:9) that Christ talked about then we could make a hell of a lot more progress as the human race. As soon as we release the denial of our religious hypocrisy and division the sooner we will realize that it has been a deterrent in the growth of humanity. (America let us start with segregated our churches??)
    Mr. Steele came off as being a bit jealous of Mr. Obama which I feel is yet another negative result of the socio-physiological effects of racism. By spawning that individual who has been convinced by the oppressor that any progress that is attempted by the oppressed is futile.

    Dear Mr. Moyer,

    Your program is the best thing on PBS. However, your batting practice pitches to Mr. Steele did not show you at your best. You consistenly seemed to buy into Steele's black and white (not racial) world of good/evil, us/them, and bargainers/challengers. Pure Bushism! When Steele mentioned specific black people they were always entertainers or liberal politicians. Not once did we hear the names Colin Powell, Condeleeza Rice, or Clarence Thomas. Are they bargainers or challengers? What is Steele himself? Sadly, you never bothered to ask.

    Incidentally, the Hoover Institution is not a part of Stanford University. It is a right wing think tank that is located on the sprawling Stanford Campus. Most of the Stanford faculty are embarrassed by its presence.

    It is reported that you, Mr. Moyers, have had a number of Obama bashers on the show. If you aspire to be fair at all, you must have Mr. Obama on the show. And if you do, please adhere to your present custom of agreeing with and not challenging anything your guest says. That would be fair and balanced.

    ... I was gonna have a life or I was just going to be a kind of surrogate for blackness... but you enter an exile where the group identifies you as someone who is a threat, and part of being black is despising or having contempt for people like me."
    I too was deeply disappointed with the interview. The above quote suggests to me that Steele understands Obama more than he wants to admit. The easy categories of "confronter" and "bargainer" ignore pitfalls for genuine dialogue and change...treating everyone a priori as the enemy puts everyone on the defensive and closes them down to listening to "the other."

    A good exchange but Steele as well as all others in the Black community paradoxically do not want Obama to succeed. How strange. It's not that he won't succeed, but that Steele and others are so perpetually conflicted.

    Would we be having this same discussion if Condi Rice or Colin Powell were in the hunt? No.

    Here is one of the fundamental dilemmas. Sorry but Blacks in the country are not the only ones have have suffered great oppression.

    The Chinese suffered unspeakable offenses during the 19th century in California. The Japanese suffered interment and worse. Indigenous American tribes were systematically exterminated. And .. yes, Jews have suffered far worse for well over 2000 years. But all have risen and overcome past abuses and suffering.

    Steele is wrestling with his own demons -- a product of a bi-racial marriage. Bill Cosby has it right.

    Bill Moyers is still the best. This is an impossible conversation. And Steele hinted at the answer in the very end. At some point we will simply weary of all of this. New generations will arise who do not know the "sins" of their elders.

    Does Steel want a color blind society or not? Does he finally want what Martin Luther King espoused?

    He is a man of great intellect with whom I have met. But it is far easier for him to hide behind the walls of the Hoover Institute.

    I also was disappointed that Bill Moyers did not ask more challenging questions of Mr. Steele, but I don't believe that was because he was agreeing with him. I think he was trying to draw him out more. My reaction to Mr. Steele is that he is a sad, angry man stuck in his past. I don't understand his antipathy to Mr. Obama who in my view is reaching out to all Americans, regardless of race. I would think this would be acceptable if not appealing to most people.

    I thought it interesting that the Jamieson interviews cautions against journalists predicting this race and then the very next interview is Why Obama Can't Win. And the interview with Steele goes further to speak against both his own point: that Obama supposedly is invisible,a result of others' projections and a demonstrates the media's desire to talk only about style and not substance. And Mr. Steele then proceeds to project his identity onto Obama and talk only about his style. Um, can we say hypocrisy? Obama does have substance, does have detailed policy (go check out his website). The only people who are falling prey to that fallacy and people to dumb, lazy or biased to do five seconds of research.

    Whats up Bill? First you villify the media for slanting election outcomes by their pronouncements that McCain and others can't win. Then you turn the podium over to an author whose subtitle is "Obama can't win". Are you going to villify yourself next week for doing that?
    At least your discussion didn't pursue that subject.
    Fortunately, I believe the regular viewers of your show will recognize a shill when they see one. But you are still enabling them to open this as a wedge issue that will continue to divide the Democrats against themselves to the benefit of Republicans. The Republicans are hoping to watch Clinton and Obama bloody each other over the race issue.
    Instead, we should be looking forward to the possibility that Obama and Clinton will be possible running mates, making and unstoppable Democratic unity ticket. An overly nasty campaign would prevent that union.

    The "CHANGE" that Americans are looking for is to get this loose cannon out of the White House as soon as possible. That is why the primaries are pushed up. That is why the campaigns are in high gear so early. If they could, they'd push up the general election too.
    We can't wait to get rid of Bush, but apparently it seems impolite to mention the incompetence of the present administration, so the candidates use "change" as a code word for running GWB out of town on a rail.

    The interview with Shelby Steele left me feeling confused and frustrated. I also wondered why Bill Moyers did not challenge him on some of his contradictory statements. How can Steele imply that Barack Obama identifies too much with whites, when he apparently aligns himself politically with conservatives? What has the right-wing movement done to support the needs of African-Americans?

    If Senator Obama hopes to win this election, he obviously is intelligent enough to know that he cannot win by appealing only to black voters. So why does Mr. Steele criticize him for reaching out to other racial and ethnic groups? His comments seem racist to me, but I guess it is probably not politically correct for a white woman to call a black man racist.

    I hope that we can progress in this country from the bitter divisiveness of the current administration, and I see Barack Obama as the only candidate capable of leading the way. Mr. Steele can continue to criticize and predict outcomes, but then he remains part of the problem. What has he done to improve racial relations in this country? It is easy to sit in an office (or on a television program) and pontificate.

    After scanning through the vast number of comments, it is plain to see that this topic can be viewed, analyzed and twisted many different ways. The fact that this topic was even brought up reminds and amplifies the racial problem to viewers and stirs up emotions. (How many times was the word "racial" mentioned?) I would vote for Obama today based on only what is known about him at this time. I feel that this might just be the catalyst needed to unite the different races and to diminish the racial problem that we are reminded of constantly.

    Shelby Steele truly depressed me. He appears to be deeply conflicted, and will not recognize his worth as an American descendant of slaves.

    Mr. Moyers, your treatment of him was polite, but there did not appear to be any deep anylysis of remarks made by this Hoover spokesperson.

    My ancestry is purely Anglo Saxon; Adolph H. would have spared me, many years ago. Not so for Mr. Shelby; as a member of a "sub-human" race, Adolph's supporters would have eradicated him, along with Jews, Slovaks, homosexuals, gypsies, and other non-worthy members of this earth's population.

    Entering the eighth decade of life is depressing. With opinions such as Mr. Steele's, my soul writhes with grief. In my late teens, there was acceptance of others deemed unworthy of respect lodged deep within my soul. For that, many castigated me. It remains the same, to this day.

    If Colin Powell is able to move on with acceptance of his heritage, perhaps the troubled psyche of Shelby will awaken to the realities of this world.
    Barack Obama will not bring this country to rejection of racism, bigotry and hatred.

    Relatives of mine are still obsessed with "color" and assert the worst possible feelings in regard to those who have somewhat more melanin in their skin. For this, my mind cringes, during the wee hours past midnight. Would a just God prefer this? (The aforementioned in-laws appear to think there might be contamination if any type of social contact happens. Subservience rules the days for them. They laugh at "Amos and Andy," old cartoons from Disney, etc.)

    Mr. Moyers, if you do not speak to these issues, the evil will never disappear.

    Mr. Towsend, personal attacks often belie a political agenda. So, at the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing: Google me; Expand your reading list; Up your game and become a fan!

    I believe a Journalist IS TO BE NEUTRAL when it comes to politics.

    At no point did I see where you challenged steele, at no point!

    you don't like the guy , fine! that's your right and prerogative, but please, allow the interaction to be fair and equal.

    PBS is known for unbias journalism , and that's why
    I watch it.

    Now Mr Moyers you deceived me in a bad way and I think
    after this show you don't deserve to be on PBS got to Fox or something...

    We are going to vote for Obama not because he is black but because we believe in him just like you believe in someone else, now what's wrong with that?

    I see that Mr Steele has a problem with that, why write a book on him???

    I bet you can write tons of books about the actual President!?
    how about about you being a trouble man!?
    how about writing about you being a loser!?

    C'mon, I bet in your genius head you can find tons of things to write about mr steele?

    Bill Moyers, I am very disappointed in you after watching this interview with Shelby Steele. Obviously, he is a Republican talking head. You did not question nor challange any of his very simplistic labels he gives to Black People. So, according to him Oprah is a bargainer??!!! Much too simplistic for a show of your caliber. I hope this changes or I will be watching a different show on Friday evenings. Yes, I am a "white" woman and I support Barack Obama. When will this country stop putting race first? Senator Obama is intelligent, he knows constitutional law and can lead this country out of the mess we are in due to this current administration. I am extememly disappointed in you Mr. Moyers and your lack of questioning and your total agreement with this man's views. This is not what your viewers look for in your shows. Maybe some of your racism is showing by having someone who wrote a book on why obama cannot win on your show at this particular time and I for one do not appreciate it. Did you even ask if Mr Steele knows Barack Obama, has he interviewed him, or is he making these assumptions from 3000 miles away. Again, Mr. Moyers, what a disappointment, I expect better from you.

    What upsets me the most about this conversation is the majority of the posts here.

    Shelby deftly puts into words what we are all feeling on both sides of the divide and what so many of the posters came away with was anger and resentment - feeling in some way that they are being personally attacked.

    I have never once heard our unspoken feelings - the mechanism of the divide so perfectly stated.

    We are an interracial couple and I am of Jewish heritage as well. I have been singled out as a white man, a Jew, being with a "black girl" and her having been singled out as a "black girl", being with a white man and being with a Jew.

    This conversation really hit us both in a profound way.

    Thank you,

    Gideon Rettich

    My son, 13, is biracial. His father is black and I am white. His father only sees him once a year and has chosen not to be involved in my son's life. My son has been raised in a predominately "white" culture, although he is exposed to other cultures in society. My son "acts" white because that is all that he knows, it is how he was raised. The same situation happened to Obama. He was raised with his white mother and white grandparents. He was exposed to other cultures as he grew up. You are a product of your parents and your environment. If the black parent is not involved, then the child has no relationship with that group in society. I don't think Obama is a bargainer like Steele claims. I think Obama is exactly who he says he is, and is a product of his upbringing and environment. Plain and simple.

    The Hoover Institute where Shelby Steele is employed as back of the bus Republican neo-con exists entirely as think tank (a contradiction interms in this case) that has never, ever contrbuted one iota to the intellectual discouese of any merit in this country. They are far too busy trying to rescue the failures of Herbert Hoover and mantle of the Great Depression to ever be aware that Barack Obama is the NEW face of America -- one which I applaud. Why was nothing discussed about Obama in the previous interview, especially the fact that only 3 percentage points separated Hillary from Obama, that Obama received an equal number of votes as he did in Iowa and that he has energized the DEmocratic Party once more by bringing in the Independents, Republicans and discouraged old time Democrats. Also, the vote tallies in New Hampshire are being challenged as we speak. Moyer, you better keep you eye on the ball, on Obama. YOU OWE HIM AN INTERVIEW to be FAIR!
    Karsten Boysen

    reading through these 100+ comments I think most of the commentators have sadly proved exactly what steele had to say about racial identity being "totalitarian" in this country. since steele disagrees with the "we are the world" dream that young people have magically transcended race and presents an alternative explanation --- that DOES NOT GROUP ALL BLACKS INTO HIS CHALLENGER/BARGAINER MODEL, just presents a model to think about --- so many of you are quick to call him backwards, confused, an uncle tom, the worst interview you've ever seen etc. Don't you see that your actions simply prove what steele had to say, since you just summarily dismiss and mischaracterize him with hostility on account of his different views?

    WAKE UP, PEOPLE --- we want to see a "new reality" where young people "celebrate our differences" but while they might buy the same products or hope for the same outcomes, we still have huge racial divisions as far as living together, going to school together, speaking frankly to one another, etc. are concerned. When you say "i support obama because he transcends race" and say steele is projecting himself on obama you COMPLETELY IGNORE the possibility that YOU yourself are using obama as a "projection screen" on which to place your own hopes and dreams for racial reconciliation --- and you are naive to think that obama isn't playing off that in his campaign. check out his platform --- he has said almost NOTHING SPECIFIC about how he actually wants to lead the country, just lots of empty happy talk about "hope," "faith," and "unity."

    i bet steele is reading these comments somewhere and laughing at the complete lack of self-awareness exhibited by many of these small-minded and hostile posts. you're just proving that he DOES have some very good points... oh, and this is coming from an obama SUPPORTER!!! (anybody but hillary clinton!!!)


    Within the "Black" Community there continues to be no unity. The stanch positive reflection of the victim mentality is still alive in 2008! While we continue with the in-fighting, we are squandering a great opportunity to achieve. Achieve what? Never before in American History has the African-American culture had before itself the opportunity to be whatever we want to be.

    The scholarly among us ought to bring unity to the African-American diapora for achieve results. Results in education, living conditions, Entrepreneurship, and of course, Unity!!

    Mr. Moyer continue to bring the diveristy of point of view from the African-American perspective, cause this interview would never occur on BET.

    Mr. Wallace(blogger) what books and/or scholarly works have you published? I ask because I haven't heard of you before. If you haven't published back off with your scholarly babble and contribute. Intellectual elitism and egoism can not be tolerated! That's divide and conquer.

    What right do I have to write this. I what born in Montgomery, Alabama, in the late 1950's and have benefited from what was achieve then until now. I have traveled the world in my blackness, and represented very well.

    We are our own master, or we are our own slave.

    This was the worst interview that I have seen in Moyers Journal in a long time. He clearly failed to challenge Steele on several points. Steele made several contradictory arguments ("blacks only vote for Obama if whites vote for him" "blacks won't elect him if whites like him too much"). He then came up with dehumanizingly simplistic categorization of blacks as bargainers vs. challengers. Here are two questions that Mr. Moyers fail to ask last night:
    1. "Mr. Steele, are you a bargainer or challenger?"
    2. "Mr. Steele do you have similar categories for white people? How a categorization like racists vs. non-racists sound do you? How is this different from your categorization that treats whites as a reference point for black people but not the other way around."

    Steele said, "But then, he turns around and says that maybe things are so desperate for blacks that they don't need this model. That they can rely on black nationalism and blackness. Maybe it will give them, he uses the word an insularity out of which they can feel proud.Well, which is it? Is it your mama or is it Black Nationalism who's responsible for you being here? I want to know. I want-- I want you to-- I want you to-- what evidence do you have that Black Nationalism works? You know that what your mother did works. Why don't you give her credit? Why don't you build a politics out of that?"

    Steele misrepresents Obama, I think. Obama HAS created a politics out of what his mother did.

    In his memoir, Dreams of My Father, Obama wrote, “Nationalism provided that history, an unambiguous morality tale that was easily communicated and easily grasped. A steady attack on the white race, the constant recitation of black people’s brutal experience in this country, served as the ballast that could prevent the ideas of personal and communal responsibility from tipping into an ocean of despair…It contradicted the morality my mother had taught me, a morality of subtle distinctions – between individuals of goodwill and those who wished me ill, between active malice and ignorance or indifference. I had a personal stake in that moral framework; I’d discovered that I couldn’t escape it if I tried. And yet perhaps it was a framework that blacks in this country could no longer afford; perhaps it weakened black resolve, encourage confusion within the ranks. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and for many blacks, time were chronically desperate. If nationalism could create strong and effective insularity, deliver on its promise of self-respect, then the hurt it might cause whites, or the inner turmoil it caused people like me, would be of little consequence. If nationalism could deliver. As it turned out, questions of effectiveness, and not sentiment, caused most of my quarrels.” p. 198-200

    So I think Steele is wrong – Obama quite clear states that he does not embrace black nationalism exactly because he saw (like Steele) that it does not work, it does not deliver. That paradigm has not been effective.

    Obama intelligently asks the questions - asks, says maybe - but ultimately Obama doesn’t believe that nationalism has proven to be the answer.

    I went through a majority of the comments in this section. I am surprised at the sudden appearance of a large number of amateur psychoanalysts. Especially blacks that are criticizing Meyers and Mr. Steele need to wake up to the realities of this society. I am in my seventies and have been an ardent observer of the American political scene for the past 60+years. I agree with Mr. Steele in his analysis and I am a bit surprised at his intellectual honesty that is causing so many blacks to complain. Wake up you guys.
    Steele happens to be honest and capable of expressing himself very well.
    The Jim crows of this society are financially and politically successful and that does not change the deep and pervasive bigotry of this society.
    Obama is a “bargainer” and wears his “mask” very well. If the blacks on this comment section think that the white trash of this society will ever vote for a fake black man in a secret ballot, they need to change their medication.

    Democracy Now! had Glen Ford and Michael Eric Dysan. Bill Moyers Journal had Shelby Steele. The two programs are often comparable.

    Not this time, though. Despite all of Steele's intellectual pretensions, he remains self-evidently trapped within his own skin, his own personal anguish. Without an organized, hegemonic conservative ideological movement, he might have become a semi-interesting minor novelist, struggling with his demons. Instead, he tries to make grand theories out of ideas that have genuine validity only in terms of his own personal struggle. (What things mean to us personally has independent validity and consequences, even if we're tragically mistaken--see Othello).

    The ultimate hollowness of his schema was revealed when Steele remarked that "bargainers" can't stand for anything. Which, of course, immediately recalls the adage, that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. But it also recalls Elison's Invisible Man. If one bargains without standing for anything, one does not simply bargain away ones soul, but ones very identity as well.

    And how, then, can one represent anything at all--except illusion?

    I just want to point out that that Mr. Steele's convenient conceptual categories, into which he dumps and by which he divides blacks in America, are entirely artificial constructs.
    Flesh & blood people are infinitely more complex than that!

    I am also a b&w biracial 40-something year old who grew up in Hawaii. It was a psychic relief to hear Mr. Steele's views on last night's show. I have been a life-long democratic, but believe Mr. Steele is mostly right in his views expressed on the show, AND that he is currently going through a healthy (and apparently self-admitted) metamorphosis. It would be interesting to hear Mr. Obama's personal view on what really happened in N.H. I don't believe race had NOTHING to do with it -- this is relevant to realities that Mr. Steele has the courage to voice in his book and that many hopeful Obama supporters can't yet face. I hope (and I believe Mr. Steele actually hopes) America will prove Steele wrong.

    Mr. Moyers,

    Bravo. Your interview with Shelby Steele was excellent. As a Black man (with both a Black mother and father) I understand exactly the observations of Shelby Steele. One of the first comments made in the “What do you think?” section of your website was that his finds/position) did not offer any empirical data as support (said, in an effort to discredit the Steele conclusion). Need I remind the author of this comment that “observation” is a method of academic research and can support ones conclusions.

    As a Black man, I have nothing in common with Obama. Matter of fact, I see him as being more White than Black. The difference between that Black part of Obama and me can be summed up by this “observation.” His parent came to America on a cruise ship; my parents came to America on a slave ship. I can even relate more to Hillary Clinton, Shelby Steele and even John McCain because they have a generational knowledge of Black America.

    take a look at the web page for Obama's church - see where the racism really lies.

    I look forward to wathcing your show on Friday evening. But I am very tired of hearing from guests who attack Mr. Obama with little rebuttle from you. What gives? Are you planning to have Ann Coulter on to talk about Hillary Clinton? Someone like Coulter might be able to match the self-loathing that the string of Obama bashers have demonstrated.

    I think this Shelby Steele bullshit is the single worst thing I have ever seen on PBS. I am truly disgusted. Steele's arrogance/identity crisis is obviously clouding his ability to think clearly. It is unfortunate that he was allowed to deliver his questionable opinions as truth without any useful input from Moyers. WTF Bill?

    Facsinating interview, thank you. But memo to everyone, Moyers and Steele included: an enduring and insidious fallacy pervading this entire conversations is that I am "white" while others are "black", etc. These are false irrelevent racist skin color generalization words and as such are probably the heaviest fetters of all. Why then do you keep lugging them around at such a heavy intellectual price? For example, how could I possibly have "white" anxiety, as Steele asserts, when I'm not even white? As a result, the conversation and perhaps Steel's remarkable thoughts are thus so unnecessarily impoverished by unfactual anti-empirical building blocks. Make any sense? Got to run.

    i am a 46 year old,african american,german,french,cherockee indian man.i would like to see the day when none of that matters.are'nt we tired of this yet,dont we have other things to worry about .i listened to the broadcast tonight in it's entirety.i was not impressed by what the poorly educated proffessor had to say .i also read all of the comments that were posted here tonight,most of you feel as i do,and that is stop, letting these old established men and women run this country into the ground,and lets move on into a more positive future.if we dont find an individual among us to set things movung in the right direction,we will have failed our youth.they are our future hope,i for one have had enough of a congress that does not tend to the needs of the people.enough of a house of reps. that represents itself and not the people,enough of a government that wont tell the truth until it is no longer relevant.we all need to pay attention to what we have already seen for so long ,enough already.i hope that one day mr. steele finds the black america that he is looking for but i dont want to be a part of it.i want to see better days,i would also like to say something about the dis-honorable mention of the revend "i almost started ariot al sharpton"i have not had an ounce of respect for this simpleton since the tawana brawley incedent in new york some 19 years ago.thats what i mean by pay attention to what we have already seen.these two individuals are propably the worst influences that we can subject our youth to in this society.i am a happy man and for the rest of my life i will exept the responsability for my success's and my failures,and i will also vote for mr.obama. terence

    With new and unimagined aplomb, Mr. Moyer’s quixotic failing to critically examine Shelby Steele’s precepts regarding race, politics and their confluence in American public life left JOURNAL’s integrity in disrepair that will not soon be rejoined. Although we are given full disclosure about Steele’s institutional (Hoover) and fraternal (G.W. Bush II) affiliations, Steele will not be held harmless for offering an unlearned theoretical framework, lacking both scholastic rigor and empirical data, in which to consider the opportunities and challenges of an Obama candidacy. In great measure, Mr. Moyer’s professional journalistic, not personal, failure to offer thought-provoking questions and rebuttals betrayed the well-earned reputation of intellectual curiosity that rightfully distinguished JOURNAL and is altogether too disappointing. However, these failings, on all counts, are instructive for it is we, the people, who must be ever diligent in scripting our own narrative towards a more perfect union that necessarily includes race, politics and their relative importance in charting the future of these United States.

    Mr. Bill Moyers,
    I have a great deal of respect for you & your journalism, but I'm perplexed as to why you keep having guest on your program that are hell bent on dissecting Mr. Obama for the negative, concerning his candidacy.I believe Mr. Shelby Steele is the third guest of this order.

    I'm beginning to feel that you are working out some unresolved racism, or disbelief, thru these guest that you seem to have on your program, like Mr. Shelby Steele.

    You made a statement concerning being tired of always having to talk about race with your African American guest. Did it ever occur to you to have African Americans on your program that are knowledgeable on other topics, other than race ?

    Concerning Mr. Shelby Steele, I find a lots of what he has to say abhorrent, but in a way I'm glad that he was able to lay out his philosophical views on race & how he see's Mr. Obama. For most of what he had to say, sounds a lots like his own projections on to Mr. Obama. He did say some things that i believe could be useful in trying to craft a new paradigm on race in America, but little else.

    In my mind Mr. Obama is doing just that, by being who he is,& showing the rest of us the possibilities that we all can aspire too !

    Coming from my ethnic roots for the oldest living language in Europe, Lithuania, I find much of the "Permanent Victim" trap in North American tradition including today among the abused victims class, hard to accept: Our nation went through hell. And never sought legal remedies. Never sought retribution. Never lives in the past. But is ever grateful for a new day to start over and build for tommorrow and the future that it brings!

    Authentic living is the call to humanity, not hobbling with emotional crutches! May Divine wisdom break through our mental barriers and both inform plus transform our old selves, to let the new self flower!!!

    In every sacred place, eternity shines through time!

    Senator Obama offers both blacks and whites a new way, a different vision. It is a path NOT bound by the bondage of the past, the baggage of grievance or of the ghastly acts committed by non blacks against blacks as individuals and collectively. Senator Obama offers a different way to experience being an American and a human being, a way of being that transcends a particular heritage, racial or otherwise, so that one is not a prisoner of the past. Senator Obama offers a way of being that transcends the stereotypes and ghosts of the past. This takes courage, vision, emotional maturity, knowledge of history, focused energy, and intellectual brilliance.

    Let the bridge he offers from the past to the future endure and succeed. Without such a bridge, we are condemned to repeat the past ad infinitum, as the centuries of Sunni/Shiia and Palestinian/Jewish conflicts and warring tribes in the Middle East and Africa demonstrate. We need a new model for dealing with the interface between mutually-conflicting perspectives, be they of race, religion, economics, history, need for resources, politics, or gender. Senator Obama recognizes this need, connects with the desire for it in the people of this country, and I believe has the knowhow to help the country achieve it. He offers the best model of all the candidates. I say Right On, Cheers, and Go forth with hope! Let's help make it so.

    I, for one, refuse to be a prisoner of the past. I see in Senator Obama a person who can lead this country's citizens into being the living embodiment of the promises of the Bill of Rights. Yes, he can succeed. Neither the media nor pundits have the right to try to take that possibility away from voters.

    I am a 49 year old Mexican-American/Native American women. What box does that put me in? Is the fact that I am supporting Barack Obama due to my "white guilt?" Mr Moyers, I look forward to watching your program every Friday evening. I usually feel better informed after watching one of your programs. The one thing I felt like doing after watching your conversation with Mr. Steele was throwing a shoe at the television. I understand that every guest you have on cannot be a liberal. But, you let Mr. Steele put forth his agenda without much opposition,(I beleive Mr. Steele is a republican.) May I suggest a conversation with Dr. Cornell West or Micheal Eric Dyson? It is so unfair for Mr. Steele to reduce Mr. Obama's character and candidacy to a quest for white approval. It was more unfair for you to let him do so without challenging him.

    I found tonight's show thought provoking. Subsequent to the show and reading the blogs my 22 year old daughter and I had a stimuating discussion . No other news programs does this for me like Bill Moyer's Journal.

    I'm not convinced by the blogs that racisim is receding into the past. There are deep divisions in America about many things: illegal immigration, English as the national language, and marriage as a union between a man and a women. The list of slurs gets reinvented with each generation and grows. Indians are "dot-heads", women are "bitches", and Asians are "chinks."

    Racisim is alive and well in our country. I appreciate that Mr. Steele took off his mask and gave us his theory.

    I was a bit shocked by the comments made by Mr. Shelby Steele regarding Senator Obama. When Mr. Steele said he worked for such a prestigious Institute, I had hoped to hear some enlightening commentary with regard to race relations and politics; mainly how the two could help America to truly become one with each other, thus making a great Nation even better. What I heard was the most vile form of jealousy, malice, self loathing, and what appeared to be a deep need to incite more division among our citizens, especially the white and black communities. How sad for him. I have read the threads posted here with regard to that broadcast, and I am so happy to see that most of us, regardless of our race or color, could see through Mr. Steele's pitiful ramblings. I have great respect for Mr. Moyers as I have watched, and listened to his broadcasts for many years. I am sure he could also see how tortured Mr. Steele seems to be with having to be a fair skinned man who probably had a hard time identifying with either of his parent's race.

    I am a senior citizen, and I am also of mixed heritage, and lived in both a white and black neighborhood while growing up. I have had issues with racial prejudice, and would be lying if I said it does not still rear its ugly head now and then. However, I would hope that people like Mr. Obama, who tries really hard to be “invisible” racially, can help all of us to do the same. How can that possibly be a bad thing? Why should anyone be made to forever feel guilty for what their ancestors did, and why should Blacks forever feel ashamed of their heritage or feel inadequate? It really is time for all of us as Americans to genuinely try to make this a better country for our children and grandchildren so they can enjoy their lives rather than fight over meaningless things like race and color. Shame on Mr. Steele for deciding to use his obvious educational opportunities to be a divider, although I am sure his opinion will sell a few books.

    For any "Black Man" to talk in codes about various" Masks" is a man who already is living or I should say "Masking" in contradiction. Mr. Steele needs to find out about his "Masks" before he could ever begin to explore Sen. Obama's motives with any sense of truth. For any "Black Man" in America to say that he really wants to know the truth from a White person is already living a "Lie" or worst the lies he's living everyday. The real "Deal" is that Black people even in chains, ignorance and profound intelligence have always "Spoken the Truth" in America. Does Mr. Steele believe that it has been White peoples' sense of truth that has provided for us all these years? It seems to me that Mr. Steele is still trying to choose his identity. His parents to me seemed to have chosen Love and at the tender age of 55 he's "Steele" struggling to find his "Mask"!!

    I found it a sad irony that on the heels of Kathleen Hall Jamieson sternly noting that when the media says a candidate can’t win, it makes it so – Bill Moyers gives a wide-open, uncontested forum to a man whose very book subtitle is “Why Obama Can’t Win.” It seems obvious that as a well-known conservative, Steele has his own agenda for releasing this book (with its provocative, talk-show-baiting title) at this very moment in time, yet Moyers never even raised that possibility.

    Honestly, I was surprised at what I considered to be a profoundly one-sided and unfair piece at the expense of Mr. Obama, who was psycho-analyzed, on a racial basis yet, by people who do not know him and found wanting without any means of rebuttal. At the very least, this interview should have been done in a debate like format with someone who knows Obama or has analyzed his campaign and come to a different conclusion, of which there are many.

    Race is certainly a factor in this election – but there are many ways to talk about it without pre-deciding the outcome of the voting or plowing the private crevices of one and only one candidate’s soul. I’m all for “challenging conversations with smart people” of all political stripes, so long as they aren’t simply adding to the partisan cacophony of this election, but are really helping people to face the vital issues that lie before us.


    I am an American veteran,educated-advance level, 62, of African & European (& some mo' people's) decent. I was in bed too (like somebody else said) and I had to get up in the middle of the night and come to my computer. I too feel that Shelby Steele seems to me (seems to me, I said) to be talking about a sense of reality that does exist maybe somewhere in America but it does not exist in something called "Americans" and "African Americans", Maybe it exist in something called "militant black" America and "militant white" America. Maybe. I don't know but Shelby didn't talk about the new Americans.

    Shelby seemed to have "issues" with his life that he seem to be dumping on Obama. (I asked myself if he was jealous of Obama?) Obama's mother taught him that he came from both his parents but by all accounts SHE DIDN'T TEACH HIM RACISM, like he would have been taught by some black mothers; she taught Obama that he is a person, an American person and he could identify as he pleased and decided. Obama seems to identify with highly educated people in powerful roles, earning six-figure-income. (Oh! Just like he and his wife -- now, ain't that something!)

    Obama has said from the beginning that he is not a black presidential candidate, nor a white one; he is an 'American' one. Shelby never used that word when he spoke of Obama. That means he is not talking about Obama; he is talking about a figment of his imagination.

    I think young 'Americans' hear that word (as their identity today) and all their senses get excited!

    I was so bored watching Moyers, who was a diehard Texas racist early on in his life, but like others he even mentioned he is tired and bored with the concept now. Bravo! There are people out there who are ready to move on and have moved on. That is the thrill and charisma of Obama.

    Shelby said he is tired of wearing the mask but he is right . . .there are some who are not tired of wearing the "black" mask and have their issues with 'white" people but if there is a (unified) militant black America out there . . . there is also some who are so into their individuality, so into their potentiality and so into their opportunity to fulfill their dream they could care less about sociopolitics involving "races" and "genders", which is obviously a crock! (Untruths!) Obama is no more running as a "black" president than Hillary is running as a "woman" president. They both are running as Americans. Shelby never said that word, not once!
    --Mildred Penn Lee

    As a former admirer (until this evening) of Bill Moyers, I watched with dismay, disappointment, and anger as he allowed Mr. Steele a platform from which to broadcast a facile, incoherent and contradictory criticism of Senator Obama and his capacity to lead our country. These two men showed their age. Young people do not see the world through their old lenses. Wake up to a new America! Or at least get out of it's way. Did the Clinton camp get to you, Bill?

    For years I have been a huge supporter and valued Bill Moyers work very highly.
    I am shocked and outraged at the interview with Shelby Steele (1/11). Mr. Moyers didn't really question him on any of his assertions and seemed to just go along for the ride, accepting his premises as fact. It didn't seem to occur to him that Mr. Steele is subjective, might have a limited view and/or his own agenda. Worst of all, Mr. Moyers volunteered "So, Obama is rejecting his blackness/being black." Mr. Steele of course agreed. Last time I checked, Mr. Moyers has no advanced degree in psychology. Worse, he based this solely on Mr. Steele's theory and announced it as fact, a done deal. What ever happened to "So you think that" or "So it's your opinion that" Obama is rejecting...?
    By the time the footage of Obama came up at the end, with all that had been said and/or unchallenged about him, it was inevitable that he seemed false and empty.
    I have to question motives. Why put on Shelby Steele to promote his negative book about Obama, not challenge him, and add your own negative conclusions about Obama at the beginning of the primary season, right before the South Carolina vote? I don't think there is any way to undo the damage.
    Thanks Bill Moyers for letting Shelby Steele work his magic against Obama unchallenged, and for your own negative comments.
    I have a suggestion. If Mr. Moyers wants to be fair at all, he should have Obama on his show. And he should ask Obama if he rejects his blackness. Otherwise, Mr. Moyers has no business making such a proclamation on the show.
    Why would it not occur to Mr. Moyers that there may be a third/fourth/fifth/(on and on) kind of black rather than just Mr. Steele's two; negotiating blacks and confronting blacks? That there may be a new way, another way, an advance beyond those? And how did this show help us get there?

    shelby I am a woman I dropped the mask, I also think I am from one of the greatest cultures in this country. Obama will win. You need to let it go. Life evolves it does not mean we leave our great heroes and sheroes of history.

    Mr. Moyers,

    I respect the fact that you brought Shelby Steele on your program to diversify the discussion of race. But for heaven sakes, if you're a long-time reader of The Nation, you should know that Adolph Reed, Jr. thoroughly debunked most of Steele's crackpot theories years ago when Steele released his first book. A strong progressive such as yourself should have been better prepared to battle it out with him, instead, you allowed him to spread a lot of propaganda without taking the time to discredit such nonsense. I was disappointed in you because you basically set back and allowed him to give unscientific theories of black people to a nationwide audience without correcting or even challenging him. A legendary journalist such as yourself should know better.

    This was not a great discussion regarding race. In fact, if you want a serious discussion on black politics and Barack Obama, invite progressives such as Glen Ford, Manning Marable, Bruce Dixon and Adolph Reed, Jr. on your program. Steele is pretty much a third-rate version of Thomas Sowell.

    Thank you, Mr. Swan.

    You sir, perpetuate hatred. You give no hope to "whites" and continue to alienate "blacks" from each other. I think that preserving the status quo serves your political agenda. Tears. That is all I have for you and your ideological agenda.

    It seems funny to me that just a few days after Colin Powell was seen on TV speaking very well of Mr. Obama that this idiot come back with a Judas kiss for Mr. Obama. This seems to me to be another of the Republican trick book to have their Fiddler give Toby a good whooping. While he speaks of liking Obama he crucifies him at the same time. And it appears that only those that vote Democrat are bargainers. If he doesn't like the label uncle tom just as alcoholics don't like being called alcoholics then don't practice being what you don't want to be called. As for racism being a thing of the past just check out the decisions of juries, judges, recent DNA results of past convictions or even better just pull up the news lately on Houston District Attorney Rosenthal. No one on this blog said all white people were racist and the votes in Iowa and NH represent the hearts of the working class for the most part and not that of those who generally in Administrative or Executive positions where the problem largely lies. I do not care for Republican or Democrat but try to vote for what I believe to be the best Candidate. And with all this talk about having experience, we have years and years of experience in the White House so why are we in so much hell if experience is the key. Tonight I also saw Al Sharpton on Jimmy Kimmel reminding people that this will be the 40th anniversary year of Dr. King while the hypocrite along with Jessie Jackson Sr. and Andrew Young fight the very thing Mr. King would probably stand in representation of. And I also wonder why there was no one to speak on Mr. Obama's behalf if this was going to be about Mr. Obama.

    Thank you for your time.
    And please do not discriminate FOR ME or AGAINST ME.

    I am an ex South African anti- apartheid activist. I consider myself a Left wing democrat. Shelby Steele dares to critically examine the Obama candidacy and in so doing my skepticism relating to it. The notion of an "Invisible Candidate" resonates, as does the reference to a hollow rhetoric of "Hope" and "Change". This Obama love fest is something more appropriate for a rock star than a serious contender for the presidency.It makes both the electorate and the media look foolish. Now will the Real Obama please stand up.

    On Mr. Shelby Steele, of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University (an ultra-conservative think-tank for those who may not know):

    Mr. Steele made the point that Sen. Obama is, basically, not a real black man. No, he was raised in Hawaii by a white mother and grandmother. He just does not understand black issues because - why? - he didn't grow up in a Jim Crow environment? Didn't live in visceral fear of white racism?? Mr. Steele says, essentially, that we white people (I'm half hispanic) like Barak because he relieves us of standing behind a real black candidate; it gives us relief from a real black man like Mr. Steele. For those who did not watch (listened to) the interview on NOW, Mr. Steele is slightly lighter in color than Fmr. Secretary of State, and Fmr. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. The experience of race in America, as I can attest from my personal experience, is as much an experience of identity as it is one of skin color. Mr. Moyers, WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE!?

    Mr. Steele had some very cogent observations and Ms. Jamison was spot on with what she said. A good program.

    If I may be allowed a political comment, Mr. Obama is a master at uttering sanctimonious platitudes, but fails to reveal any substance. Thanks to Mr. Moyers and his guests for aiding me in justifying my attitude towards this candidate in particular.

    Did the Bush administration or the Republicans dole out this book assignment to Steele?

    (A phone rings in Mr. Steele's home. He answers it like any other. The voice on the other end doesn't identify itself. It just starts talking): Mr. S, remember how you said, after we put that medal around your neck, that we should call you, should we ever need your assistance?

    (Mr. S is about to ask who is calling, when he realizes he should not. He gives a quick, yes, and the voice continues): Well, the time has come. Do your people, and this great country a favor, and see if you can find some seemingly sensical way to turn your people's votes away from this character Obama. It's not that we don't think your people could do a fabulous job running this country. But it's not Obama. He's too much of a "group" man. It needs to be an "individual" like you, who knows what he stands for, someone who believes in our capatalistic power more than he believes in his people. We thought maybe you could pull out that house n***** and field n***** predicament again. Label Obama the house n***** and we're all set --since most of your people, in your own words, carry a chip on their shoulder and act out of grievance today (about something that happened so long ago), you'll knock out a good majority of votes for him. Anyway, if you label him the house n*****, but of course use your scholarly metaphors and make it sound like you've come up with something new... this would be of great help.

    You get the idea, yes? We expect you'll have your scholarly material done by the time the primaries get rolling.

    (The voice does not wait for a reply):
    Great. We knew we could count on you, you are such an individual thinker. We trust you.

    (Mr. S hangs up the phone beaming with pride. He's been let in, they really trust him. He takes his assignment seriously and is extremely pleased with himself when he comes up with his "new" categories --bargainer and challenger).

    --this viewer thinks: how pathetic, and shameful.

    shelby steele is projecting his own confusions on sen. obama.

    sen. obama frequently talks about the need for strong families and fathers in homes. he's accusing obama of race politics simply because obama is a democrat(or liberal). obama is a "both/and" democrat.

    Oh Bill! How disappointing. I generally love your show but Shelby Steele's interview was a real coup for the Hoover Institute. This think tanks whole purpose is to disseminate misinformation on such topics as the myth of global warming, the virtues of pre-emptive strikes and now Why Obama Can't Win. The fact that Donald Rumsfeld is the Institute's "Visiting Scholar" should call into question how much they think or how scholarly they are. Clearly Barracks vision and mass appeal is a threat to the right wing and must be neutralized.
    It is OK to have conservative guests on your show, but it is not OK to neither challenge his blatant contradictions and hypocrisies, nor have a guest with an opposing point of view.

    Where to begin? I will and keep this short and to the point. Tonight was the second time I heard Mr Steele express his views on race in America and Mr Obama's campaign hopes, and both occasions have left me wondering more about Mr Steele than about the topics he addresses. We all heard what he had to say, and at the risk of playing into his calculated plan to sell more books by casting himself as the voice of caution, I have to conclude that Mr Steele is nothing more than your classic garden variety intellectual terrorist posing as some kind of sovereign individual. This is a guy who looks at Barack Obama and sees himself and wonders 'how'. How did this man [Barack] do what I could never do or ever see happening in my lifetime? If I had to employ just one word to describe Mr Steele that word would be pessimistic. He simply doesn't believe it. Well, we all know how history will judge such outlandish and misguided attempts to outsmart the will of the people. My only question for Mr Steele is if not Barack...then who? I understand that life may have dealt you a few emotional scars along the way but perhaps now is a good time to reexamine your bruised and battered world view and write 'another' book. Everything you see is real [Mr Steele], this is really happening. Vote Barack Obama, vote for change.

    Brooklyn, New York

    I enjoyed this episode BUT either I am an exceptional person or the basic premises used about white people are wrong. First of all, I did not support O'bama but it was due to a perceived lack of experience.
    Second, I do not agree, for myself, with the statements made about the "sins " of Cosby. I and my father and many friends had a new respect for Mr Cosby when he started to state that young black men need to speak correct english and clean up their appearance etc etc in order to put down the negative stereotypes of them. It is true. Sometimes I feel that blacks have done the worst job of all immigrant groups in assimilating.
    I respect men, black or white, much more when they tell it like it is.
    Oprah to me is just a lot of fluff and feminizing influence, with nothing real to stand for.

    I also took offense to the statement made tonight ( quoted from O'bama ) that white people love a black man who isn't angry. The truth is for my own circle, we do not so much like that as loathe the ones that ARE angry. I personally had nothing to do with any segregation, lynchings, slavery or any other unfair treatments of any black people and so I have NO feelings of guilt of responsibility.
    The whole notion of O'bama helping to relieve the " anxiety of being white " is complete nonsense to many of us. I am proud to be American, proud to be white, Proud of my state and family and I take no blame for anything done beore my time or even before my family immigrated here. I feel that any white person who feels guilt just for being born white is either a namby pamby momma's boy, OR simply not bright enough to see the illogic of it all.

    Steele's whole premise that this decision revolves around race is flawed.

    Hillary voted for the war.
    Edwards voted for the war.
    Dodd voted for the war.
    Biden voted for the war.
    Richardson wasn't in Congress but supported the war.

    Kucinich, bless his heart, can't sell himself as presidential.

    Obama opposed the war.

    I support Obama because we share worldviews.
    This race crap is pure distraction.

    Mr. Moyers,

    In the name of free speech, having Mr. Steele on your show is fine, however I must say that his comments were pointless propaganda from a very conservative view point. He is not a "bargainer" but a slave of the upper class spouting their rhetoric.

    It is not surprising as he is currently at the same institution where the war-criminal Donald Rumsfeld now works, the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

    Instead of having another one of these shows, I suggest putting on the BBC documentary The Century of the Self. This discusses the history of propaganda and propagandist, which with no surprise includes Stanford University spinoffs.

    I expect more from you.

    Mr. Steele is obviously a brilliant man. While this country's shame is its treatment of African Americans, perhaps the greatest tragedy is this good man's completely jaded view.

    I appreciated the first comment about Dietrich Bonhoeffer's concept of "cheap grace," and I also liked James Cone's quote:

    “…if America could understand itself as not being innocent, it might be able to play a more creative role in the world today. And you see, America likes to think of itself as innocent. And we are not.”

    Mr. Steele mentioned that black people in general sometimes find themselves "in a bubble." I think that many white people are in a bubble, too. Enjoying "white privilege" cuts us off from endless chances for lifegiving interactions and rich opportunities -- that is, from real life with our neighbors. Our history in relation to African Americans is a kind of original sin. I never understood that theology (why am I a sinner because of something someone else did long ago?), but it has helped me form an identity I can live with as a white American. The overwhelming crime of slavery happened before we were born, but we are still paying for it and we have a role to play in the continued atonement that is needed.

    Whether or not black identity is tied to grievance, as Mr. Steele suggests, it would certainly be understandable if it were. Whether or not blacks in politics are hindered by the requirement of "not letting whites off the hook," it would certainly be understandable if they were. All I can say to my black brothers and sisters is that I understand my people to still be on the hook, unable to get ourselves down.

    In Bonhoeffer's theology, the antidote to original sin is grace. Not cheap grace but real grace. The African American community is constantly offering us real grace -- by "bargaining," (using Mr. Steele's term), challenging, organizing million-man marches, getting elected, buying homes in all-white neighborhoods, getting jobs in all-white places of employment, and getting in our faces. I think we should accept this grace with joy. Real relationships are always better than bubbles. And real grace requires a response.

    Barack Obama may just have some of this real grace up his sleeve. Whether he hangs out with Oprah or Al Sharpton, my identity is ready for him.

    I can't take Mr. Steele seriously. Previously,he has suggested that problems with the Iraq war stem from white guilt. (
    How do I put myself in a position to write a book full of critical-speak about someone I disagree with and do not want as president, blame it all on white guilt and make tons of money for myself? I'll put on my Shelby Steele mask, that's how.

    Please, no more interviews with folks who have a new book to sell - and especially not with individuals who are as stuck in their own stereotype as Shelby Steele seems to be.

    I'm not only disappointed in Bill moyers but also disgusted because he could have asked Mr steele more challenging questions or invite someone who disagrees with this impostor so it can be balanced ...

    This phony got serious issues that need to be dealt with God because at this point, not even a doctor can help... truly sad!

    At least have the courage to come and say who you support. It clearly shows who you support... but I'm not going to go into that...

    It was not only unfair to Barack Obama but to all of us Americans.

    How dare you bring a race issue in this election when it was never about race.

    Senator Obama accepts who he is , he knows where he comes from,he is proud of who he is, he is not a confused man like this Mr steele.

    FYI mr steele Senator Obama has nothing in common with you!!! He is talented, intelligent,knows who he is,he is for the people even the confused ones like you, he doesn't see the world around your colored glasses, he is just Obama ,not white, not black, not blue , not green but just Obama. Why can't he be just Obama , why does he have to be closed in a shoe box?

    you on the other hand mr steele you have a problem with yourself , you are the one with the white complex and the sad part about it is, it shows when you talk.

    He seems like you are jealous and bitter that he can accomplish great things in his life without putting on masks like you ALWAYS DO.

    Please go pray to at least save your soul.


    First of all, New Hampshire has been Clinton country for a very long time, with much of the party establishment lined up behind her. She was 20 point ahead only 4 weeks ago. Some of those voters drifted toward Obama after Iowa, and then some went back to her when the media threatened to give him the nomination. The final result was very close. The polls were behind the trend. (Rassmussen actually showed a trending back to Clinton on Monday evening.) This was not racism.
    Second, I found Mr. Steele's perspective to be annoyingly trapped in another era, and confusing in his contradictary critique of Obama. Barack Obama is an American and a global citizen, which is an aspect which Mr. Steele doesn't get. His comments that Obama is somehow hiding himself or his positions is simply incorrect. The Senator has detailed positions presented with detailed clarity on his website, and in his policy speeches. Is Mr. Steele supporting Clinton? It certainly seems so.
    The Economist writes: "Mr. Obama has three great themes- change, reconciliation and hope. America is broken, he argues, ruled by lobbyists and hated around the world. The polls show that many Americans agree. The way to fix this is not by fighting the partisan political wars even harder but by creating a national movement for reform that embraces independents and disillusioned Republicans."

    Is this so difficult to understand? Obama is of mixed ethnicity and cultural background but identifies himself as a Black American. So what? For crying out loud, can we please move forward now?!

    with all due respect,


    Shame on you Bill Moyers for allowing a hack like Steele to spread his venom. What exactly is Steele's intellectual background? What makes you think that he is an authority on black America? I don't think Steele even knows any blacks outside his family. What were the bases for his claims other than his own slave mentality? Is he a sociologist? Has he collected any data? Done any regressions? Has he ever had a conversation with Barack Obama? Is he a historian? A psychologist? What is the concrete basis for his conclusions? He's at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, but I don't think he has a doctorate. Talk about affirmative action.

    You say Bill Moyers that you're tired of having to ask black people about race. That makes two of us. I'm tired of watching your program and the only time you have a black person on is when you need an expert on race. And judging from your interview with Steele, any disgruntled, self-hating political hack with an axe to grind passes as an authority for the black community.

    Black identity is too complex, too multivalent to be reduced to grievance. Steele was simply projecting on to blacks white hostility. Whites don't owe black people anything except the same opportunities that they enjoy. If that means having programs like affirmative action to reverse centuries of racial policies that gave whites an unfair advantage over blacks and other people of color, than so be it.

    On the issue of blacks and Obama, please stop asking your black guests if he is black enough. Blackness is not the only yardstick by which blacks judge a candidate--give us some credit. From what I can see, now that blacks know that Obama can be a viable candidate, they are fully ready to support his candidacy. The real question for patronizing white liberals is not "Is Barack Obama black enough?" It's "Is he white enough?" Can we count on him to maintain our privilege? My guess is that you can. So don't worry--it's safe to vote for him.

    The point of programs like this is to allow intelligent and articulate people to present their opinions so that we as viewers can compare them with our own and with the opinions and ideas of others- they are not intended as instruction on how to think. Although I do not necessarily agree entirely with Mr. Steele, I found some points he raised very interesting. Of course all prominent black figures can't be labeled as a Challenger or a Bargainer, but the idea that those dynamics exist at least to an extent shouldn't be dismissed. His point about white guilt leading to whites' fear to openly and sincerely offer advice or guidance was very eye-opening for me personally. As a woman working in a traditionally male field, I have experienced various hardships and have managed to overcome them. The wisdom I've gained from these experiences could be applied to many different contexts; however, I would hesitate to offer my insights (as ideas for a solution) to someone who was dealing with racial discrimination. I am guilty- I fear being accused of insensitivity, ignorance, irrelevance or racism- and it affects my actions. What is the solution? I don't know- but at least I am closer to reaching one with this fresh look at my own impetus. I hope that even those who disagreed with every word that Mr. Steele said can find value in the realizations his dialogue with Moyers may have brought to some thoughtful viewers.

    Mr. Steele's esoteric,
    pathological, racial, and societal conjectures are reflective of an individual imagination and in no way intersect with the multi-facted lives of African-Americans.

    White guilt is not on our radar screens.

    We have lives. Consequently, we are just as self-absorbed as others.

    OBAMA '08 !

    I am a white female who would love to see a female in the White House, but I choose to judge people by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. By this standard, I choose Obama over Clinton. Mr. Steele clearly does not believe in Dr. King's dream. I do.

    Kay Hughes

    I much prefer the analysis of Obama by Glen Ford here:

    He wonders why Obama calls for increasing the military budget and the number of armed forces personal.

    He wonders why Obama thinks blacks are 90% of the way to equality when there's no evidence they're even close to that.

    He points out the huge problems with Obama and Michael Eric Dyson has no legimate reply.

    I just want to commend Shelby Steele for not using the term, African American," It is a term I sincerely dispies.
    If you are identified by the country of ones birth, then I am an American; and since this conversation is partly about race and since I am a challenger when necessary, you can refer to me as an American of African decent or a Black American. One thing I am not is an African and I have plenty of friend from Africa that make that point very clearly.
    I know that Black Americans call themselves African Americans and for me that is the rub. For it is true today that there are Africans living in this country today who are white, but are not referred to as African American thereby making the term racist.
    Many thanks to Shelby Steele.

    I found it a sad irony that on the heels of Kathleen Hall Jamieson sternly noting that when the media says a candidate can’t win, it makes it so – Bill Moyers gives a wide-open, uncontested forum to a man whose very book subtitle is “Why Obama Can’t Win.” It seems obvious that as a well-known conservative, Steele has his own agenda for releasing this book (with its provocative, talk-show-baiting title) at this very moment in time, yet Moyers never even raised that possibility.

    Honestly, I was surprised at what I considered to be a profoundly one-sided and unfair piece at the expense of Mr. Obama, who was psycho-analyzed, on a racial basis yet, by people who do not know him and found wanting without any means of rebuttal. At the very least, this interview should have been done in a debate like format with someone who knows Obama or has analyzed his campaign and come to a different conclusion, of which there are many.

    Race is certainly a factor in this election – but there are many ways to talk about it without pre-deciding the outcome of the voting or plowing the private crevices of one and only candidate’s soul. I’m all for “challenging conversations with smart people” of all political stripes, so long as they aren’t simply adding to the partisan cacophony of this election, but are really helping people to face the vital issues that lie before us.

    Recently on C-Span, Dr. George Lakoff said the following:

    1. 98% of thought is unconscious.

    2. The Enlightenment definition of Reason is conscience, universal, logical, literal,
    unemotional, disembodied, and interest based. [Current research makes this definition
    to be false in every word]

    3. There is no ideology of middle.

    4.Lie is made of three component: believe, deceive, and whether it is true.

    Given the above and that Racism and Tribalism is based on Genetic Evolution.

    Bill, please talk to a scientist. It is really embarrassing that you
    keep talking about this other subject without asking what does
    the current knowledge of science about the particular subject.
    I know it is hard may be you could start by hiring producers who
    actually understand scientific knowledge.

    So racism can only be eliminated by evolutionary means by changing
    your genes not by talking about to death.

    Your airing of this ridiculous man solidifies why I have ignored him for years. I would have prefered if you had guested Mr Keyes. He would have been more en tertaining

    Mr. Moyers,
    My wife & I are white, age 50, possess graduate degrees, are former educators, now small business owners, and consider ourselves to be politically "progressive"...just to give you an idea of our personal profile.
    We have appreciated your journalistic endeavors since we can remember. But, this episode with Shelby Steele left us confused and appalled. Not because Mr. Steele's viewpoint was convoluted and condtradictory...but because YOU in essence validated several unfounded and outrageous accusations about Senator Obama, that serve to undermine his character and his candidacy.
    This kind of 'obtuse' psychoanalysis of Obama is what we might expect to see on FOX --- was very far from fair and balanced --- and leaves us wondering, WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH in this interview??!! You have a moral obligation to invite Mr. Obama on your program to set the record straight and allow him to unravel some of the ridiculous, confused assertions made by Shelby Steele.

    I found the Steele interview to include critical contradictions that seriously weakened his thesis, even if, superficially and mechanically some of the points about "challengers" and "bargainers" likely have limited utility and truth-value, despite the simplistic dichotomy they establish (I think the world is more complex than Mr. Steele says he believes). Mr. Steele at one point made the statement that Blacks' very blackness is a sort of false power ("I don't think it is [our power], but that's what we believe."), yet at the same time he went on to indict Sen. Obama for having the temerity to (yes) challenge what Steele himself calls chimeric. Mr. Steele cannot have it both ways. By seeking to transcend race, Sen. Obama would seem to be attempting precisely that which Steele would like done: dismantling the (false) notion of "blackness"-as-power and instead setting the example of an extraordinarily gifted young man rising to the top levels of American society.

    All told, Mr. Steele sounded like a man whose thesis is rooted in another, earlier generation. That's fine, except that he then would have us believe that we all must remain tethered, with him, to that unfortunate time. Nothing about Sen. Obama suggests to me that he is a candidate looking backward. I think it's time for America to transcend the evils of its past and take steps to regain our standing in the world while we also heal the wounds of a bitterly divided nation at home. No one man can do that alone, but Sen. Obama, with his inspirational message, suggests that together we can achieve our dreams. He's got my vote.

    Thank you very much indeed Mr. Moyers for inviting Mr. Steele onto the program. I thought it was a great interview.

    Hopefully Mr. Steele's ideas and assesments will be given a hearing instead the shoutdown uncommon analysis is greeted with, even in the Physical Sciences, let alone social analysis.

    So much of what he had to say resonated with me and my own experiences. I'm a gay male and I know it can tweak people to compare but I cannot but relate to the essential truth of so much of what Mr. Steele presented. Some doesn't apply, obviously, but so much hit like a hammer.

    Navigating to a fully realized conception of oneself is hard enough for anyone without the highly charged forces of Identity Communities and Politics imposing definitions, self-conceptions, politics, patterns of behavior, etc.

    I won't prattle on but so much of it very much was an echo of my own experience.

    Cheers to Mr Moyers and Mr Steele thanks for a great discussion!

    Dear Blogger Mike,

    You posted at approximately 12:03 am. Mr. Steele is not a professionally trained psycho-analyst. He is qualified to present his opinion.

    That's it! He can only speak from his experiences as a African-American person.

    His conjecture and opinion cannot be representative of what I've experienced in my 52 years as an American and secondly as a person of African-Anglo descent.

    I never saw hard core Jim Crow. My children never experienced segregation of any kind.

    Even though I raised them, they had somewhat of a different experience than did I.

    As I stated earlier, Mr. Steele is entitled to his opinion. He is not Senator Obama's or my spokes person.

    CHANGE is constant,CHANGE is inevitable...

    Mr. Moyers:

    I am appalled and outraged by Shelby Steele's comments and that you did not challenge him or have another perspective presented by another guest. He obviously knows nothing about Barack Obama. I hate to identify myself as a white woman, age 65, but I must here, only because Mr. Steele insists on promoting racism and continues to divide us. He hasn't gotten beyond it like Senator Obama has. I will be voting for Barack Obama because he is fully qualified for President and has explained his many viewpoints, idealologies, plans, and goals for his Presidency if elected; not because "he is letting whites off the hook" as Steele states!!!!! Mr. Steele needs to read Obama's THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. I certainly hope that you will present Barack Obama himself next week or someone else who has transcended this negative perspective on racism. How could you end your usually uplifting and brilliant program by leaving us with the denegrating and frankly, disgusting words of Mr. Steele???

    Tracking the history of commentary on the Steele show, I wonder if we have all watched the same interview.
    I admit I was surprised to find myself agreeing with Steele, because in the past I have found myself being turned off by what I thought of as his neoconservative or republican views--I thought he was discounting racism in emphasizing that we should all be judged by the "content of our characters"--a phrase I found obscurantist or obscure, another abstraction to apologize for being an apologist for right-wing refusal to see (refusal to acknowledge the way American race, class, gender, or privilege and money, work) or an apologist for plain right-wing self-interest.
    But although I like much about Obama and although I consciously came to this particular conversation with my acknowledged anti-right-wing prejudice right there between the tv and myself, I had to agree that Steele had put the tail on the donkey correctly.
    But reading a couple of these posts, as I say, I can't believe that some of those who criticize Steele's arguments (and some of the criticisms are just ad hominem) here saw the same show or heard the same ACTUAL words, the same ACTUAL arguments that I revisited in my earlier post.

    Just one example (and I am not picking the most egregious criticism of Steele). Most recently, E. Snyder mentions that "It is clear Mr. Steele is not a political supporter of Sen. Obama"; Steele clearly says this in the interview, and offers reasons why DESPITE his admiration for Obama he will not vote for him--and those reasons have to do with Obama's thin experience, for instance. Among other reasons Steele clearly states are that Obama keeps saying he will bring change, but does not SPECIFY IN DETAIL change from what or to what. Is he going to change the way business is done? Is he really going to change the way health care is offered? Is he going to hold the Bush administration accountable for robbing the taxpayers to enrich the oil-theocracy-money-industrial complex? It is clear that Obama will not threaten to hold it so accountable, and that is precisely the kind of thing Steele is fingering in talking about "bargaining."
    It think it might be more profitable here to consider what Steele actually says, not some fanciful reconstruction of what he is presumed to have said. And one can agree or disagree with Steele. E. Snyder only echoes the empty jingle of “change” as if it were an insight into what’s new and different about Obama. By the way, this term had become a cliché already among the Democrats before Richardson decamped.

    But perhaps I am guilty of recycling the old-fashioned divisive rhetoric, not listening to the new and glittering happy talk and good news the man from home is bringing us? No wonder there are some elite interests, conservatives and neocons who would like to see Obama in office rather than (god forbid) the avenging angel Sen. Edwards. Of course many others also like to see and hear the nice-nice Obama offers, for other reasons. Can't we all get along? Now where have I heard that before. . . . .


    I tried to follow what was being said by Mr. Steele, and I just couldn't. I don't consider myself in racial terms nor do I anyone else. What is wrong with NOT considering a person a racist until he demonstrates that he is one? Isn't that like considering a person innocent until proven guilty? I could not tell what Mr. Steele was implying about unracially motivated people like me. Are we good or bad? Is it good that I love my racially mixed grandchildren or is it some kind of illusion? Is it good or bad that I, like Mr. Obama, explore my diverse roots and am enriched by them, or am I stretching myself across some sort of chasm of indecision between challenge and bargain?

    I was so inspired by the results in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It looked like a wonderful way for this country to redeem itself in the eyes of the world, to finally grow up and be America.

    I think trying to make race a negative and divisive issue is like trying to explain what is funny about a joke. The more you look at it, the less it is there. So, let's get on with the important discussions, please!

    The fact is that Shelby Steele generalizes, and doesn't understand that everyone does not come from his or Obama's background. Thus, when Obama speaks about African-Americans and the causes he is passionate about, he is showcasing his understanding and broad knowledge of problems that exist in this country, that he may or not have been exposed to, but are still sensitive and aware of. He should be applauded for this, not criticized.

    Steely tried to temper his Republican Conservatism but failed miserably except for Bill Moyers' accommodation. Stake in the heart of an objective media. PBS is now as devoid of objectivity -- and objective interviewers -- as FOX News and CNN. Shameful.

    Mr. Steele, in both presentation and context, seems to be a somewhat troubled man, in conflict with his choices in life. Being a conservative Republican seems to have made him resentful of most other black people who are not.

    He flipped back and forth between black identity being part of who he is and not part of who he is. He said he "wore a mask" but also said he didn't subscribe to living that way. Again and again, one contradiction after another.

    It also came off as denigrating to group all voters for Obama as supporting him for one superficial reason and all black people being either "bargainers" or "challengers". He criticized Obama for helping to erase racial lines, I thought that's what MLK meant by judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin? Would he define MLK as a "bargainer"? His thesis is too simplistic and seemingly more about him than reality.

    I was left with the feeling that he is a bit jealous of Obama.

    Just watched the interview with Shelby Steele. I thought he seemed intellectually confused and dishonest trying to justify his resentment of Barack Obama. Barack has transcended race to a great extent (though certainly not entirely). Shelby Steele has learned that you can hate blacks and whites equally. Barack has grown to a different conclusion. Steele was self contradictory in constructing his resentment, but erudite (in that George Will, David Brooks pseudo intellectual fashion). God help him for having been embraced by the reactionary right.

    I have just looked at the many responses to this segment. You have touched a nerve mr. moyers with this guest.
    In many ways we have just been told that Mr. Obama is a politician trying to win a presidential race and doing what is necessary to succeed in a country where illusion holds more promise for people than the truth of our daily lives.
    I think the irony of this interview was the mask Mr. Steele wears but denys without question as he gains acceptance in the illusions he calls home. It is so funny what we can see from our towers that often says more about us than those whom we claim such insight upon.

    Bill, I thank you for the shows that give us such perspective on people of interest and on the people who study them to an end and on you who ask such questions and get such answers.

    I was terribly disappointed in Mr. Shelby Steele using your show as a platform to air the "chip on his shoulder" that another Black man, i.e.Barack Obama has the ability to run and perhaps become the next president of this country. He, as a Black American that he calls himself should be proud of that. I was totally confused by the inconsistencies in his comments. He seems to be totally in denial of who he is...except an angry mixed up individual. I am disappointed that you did not have another Black american who feels good about who he/she is on your show to set Mr. Steele on the correct path. He is totally entitled to his obscure opinion, but he is totally wrong.

    Age :55
    Race :Black

    Background college educated ,native of Virginia ,resident of Philadelphia and Detroit .

    Life experience on race :
    * Whites :some good & some
    bad .
    * Blacks: some good some bad .
    Most Blacks & Whites I know feel the same .

    Shelby Steele paints with a broom. Brooms portraits give you a really poor picture quality but are good for moving books .

    Suggestion : Alvin Pousant or Cornell West -will surely give a moret realistic portrayal on the questions you ask Mr. Steele .

    Shelby Steele is a divider. GW Bush is a divider who uses emotional issues to divide, Steele uses intellectual arguments.

    It was obvious Steele had an axe to grind here, so many of his observations sounded intelligent on the surface, but were meaningless at base. For instance, his criticism that Obama sounds, at different times, like famous orators that appeal to different segments of society, and that this indicates that his words lack substance, is ridiculous. The style Obama chooses to use in aiding his communication is an asset, and has nothing to do with the content of the words spoken. It is the actual words themselves, not their delivery, where one will find the meaningful philosophy that we look for in our leaders.

    Hey Bill M, you're a smart dude, how come you let Steele slide on this?

    I was in bed when I turned on the TV to the interview with Shelby Steele. I was so disturbed by what I was hearing I had to get up and go to my computer to send this post. I am an American woman of African decent and I do not agree with what Mr Steele had to say about Blacks in this country. I am not saying that Mr. Steele is not intelligent but confused. Couldn't believe what I was hearing. Some of what he said I agreed with but the majority of his presentation was not true. The propagada Mr. Steele is spreading is his attempt to take Sen Obama down. He paints a picture of Blacks to the world which isn't based on truth but his opinion which to me is somewhat crazy. If he believes in all that he is saying and not just trying to sell his book, it is obvious that his reality is quite different than mine.

    My support for Sen. Obama is not based on what Whites will do but my strong belief that Mr Obama is the one. Even if no one else see in him what I see and miss out on this blessing for our county just because of his color, than it will just have to be our loss, period.

    I will vote for him because I think that he will be good in the healing process, the rebuilding and security of our country and our standing in the world. America at this time in history needs healing. America needs Sen. Obama.

    i think many of you who so angrily attack shelby steele are simply upset that he refuses to say that the way we all would all LIKE the world to work is the way it actually IS.

    At no point did he say that ALL blacks fall into the challenger/bargainer framework, simply that it is a useful framework you can use to view various PUBLIC figures. Unquestionably there is a basic cleave at least in the national mind between "angry" or "conscious" black people (adjective depending on who you ask) and the Will Smith, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington people who occasionally pay tribute to the civil rights movement but are hardly militant or accusatory in their public personas, versus danny glover, lauryn hill, al sharpton etc. who seem to always have "oppression" on their minds.

    obama HAS made himself invisible in this campaign. While whites are swooning at the chance to have a "fresh" minority face and blacks are happy to see someone with dark skin running, obama has taken basically no specific policy stands and when he has it's been under the radar stuff that would scare many liberals, including his approving of going into Pakistan and voting to keep the war going in Iraq. People are too blinded by his race and blank rhetoric about "hope" to ask the tough questions to figure out where this blank slate really stands. And THAT is "the soft bigotry of low standards" --- if we believe in equality, then let's hold people to the same standards!

    It would be great if everyone came together and agreed to see things as one common human race, but that's not the way things actually work. Until then, dismissing Shelby Steele's arguments because they talk about trends we would prefer did not exist is just going to make things worse. Wishful thinking doesn't solve problems.

    And it is stupid to say Steele is too close to the situation by being biracial himself just because you disagree --- is someone who is 100 % black too close to the situation when they judge another 100 % black in a way you AGREE with?

    The moyers show is supposed to be about challenging CONVERSATIONS with SMART PEOPLE, not just inspiring liberals you already agree with (and lord knows there are already too many of those!!!!) It is re1lly depressing to see moyers viewers (who i would hope would be some of the smartest watching tv) summarily dismiss someone just because he says things that don't immediately sound pleasing.

    Racial groups still squabble amongst themselves for power and political influence, usually with much more for the rich leaders than any regular folks --- but our recognizing that fact and hoping for something different is not enough to mean that things are changing or even CAN change. In the meantime, it is far better to provocatively discuss race in a multifaceted way than to paper over all the complications in hope of smothering away intractable ethnic insularity, misunderstanding, and often hostility.

    As a (frustrated) liberal myself, I can say that you can't blame all the problems of the world on conservatives and other people you disagree with. That's intolerant and no better than what the o'reillys of the world do, and far below how shelby steele classily behaved tonight.

    Mr Steele comes across as the biggest rasist himself. He seems to assume all whites are rasists, because if a white person acts or speaks without rasist bias, he interprets it as "lying" or not being honest to "protect themselves". He shows a lack of understanding that many people have moved past race as a factor in dealing with other people.

    I'm so tired of people like Mr. Steele, who keep fanning the flames of division between people with comments like "Because whites are for Obama, then blacks should should not back him". I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically what his message is.

    Why can't we support someone irregardless of that person's race? The younger generation nowadays care less and less about race. If we let that trend continue, without trying to torpedo it, we will finally arrive in a society that cares about peoples' character not their color.

    In my view, Shelby Steele, who like many blacks have lived to through the transition from de jure segregation to the society we have today, and is unable to trust the fact that Obama has a view of American society that is not crippled by America's segregated past. That is why he, Mr. Steele is unable to see Obama in the light that younger people, who were not reared in the past see Obama differently. I do not know whether Obama wll be president, but I am greatful to see him and and the many others of his age (of all races and gender) compete with such confidence. MLK's dream is coming to fruition.

    Mr. Steele’s black identity may be “grounded in grievance” A great part of that grievance is the perception that his black father was a victim and he was raised in a segregated society. Mr. Obama’s father was not a victim of injustice in America. He was raised and grew up in Africa. Mr. Obama does not carry the same baggage that Mr. Shelby does, so he perceives things differently than Mr. Shelby. He has seen injustice and prejudice in our society but he is not a victim of it. My great grand parents came to America in the 1880s from Norway and Sweden. I feel slavery was wrong, but I don’t feel that I should feel guilty about it. I’m not on the hook. Do I have prejudices I’m sad to say I do. I don’t think very highly of Green Bay Packer or Dallas Cowboy fans. I don’t believe much of the commentary of Fox News or the Christian values of our President, I can find anywhere in the bible where Jesus supports preemptive strikes. Mr. Shelby says that 95% of blacks vote democratic, this may be true, maybe it's because they didn't get much out of the Bush Tax cut.
    I do think my prejudices show a weakness in my character and I’m trying to overcome them.

    It is unbelievable to read from some whites folks commenting, sometime fomenting, that they believe in the assumption and "rhetoric" of Shelbee who foolishly believe that white America is redeeming themselves by following Obama. I almost fell over my chair if it was not, fortunately, for the quick reflection of knowing that there are still a few hundred million white folks whom opinions are not part of this discussion. I do believe that given opportunity, they would defend themselves against the concocted "argument" of Shelbee who has now identified himself as the product of compassion from the America the guiltily".
    I will be very happy to know the circumstance surrounding the childhood of this man. As a black man, let me say on behalf of all brave white men and women who are not aware of this discussion that I absolutely believe that you guys are NOT that cheap! I have great white friends and I know that if they knew about "Mr. Hoover Institution", they will simply laugh on his face. How shameful will I look in that kind of circumstance! We can now have a glimpse of those "experts" from the "Hoover". Unfortunately, Darwin is not alive. However, I do firmly believe now in the theory of evolution. The question is what type of specie is Shelbee?
    Shame on me!
    PS: I truly hope that Bill Moyer, a man that I truly appreciate and admire, will reach out to Sen. Obama and give him a chance to rebuke this shameful and devilish remark.

    This program on race should have taken place after the election, if at all. It appeared to clearly attempt to bring down Sen. Obama and disect him down to a race issue. I am a white person who will vote for Sen. Obama because he will bring a refreshing change to this country. Truthfully, his race never entered into my decision. Further, if people listened to Sen. Obama they will know where he stands on the Iraq war, Iran, Pakistan, health care, etc. It is clear Mr. Steele is not a political supporter of Sen. Obama and I question why this program at such a critical time in the primary election.

    Mr. Moyers,
    How strange that Obama is getting it from both the left and the right when it comes to the race question! Both "Rush" (recall his taunt, "Barak the Magic Negro")and some blacks on the left(though by no means all) portray him as a straw-like conduit for all America's projections and hopes. Dr. Steele psychoanalyzes him and finds a similar problem: lack of essential identity.All these critiques (left and right) perpetuate a set of tropes that function to regulate expectations and norms when it comes to African Americans (e.g. challengers, bargainers). Perhaps we should look to more basic properties (like integrity, profundity, adroitness,diplomacy, and policy) when evaluating presidential hopefuls. Given the competition, it could be argued that Obama measures well. Even Kuccinich spoke of his evident sincerity and integrity, despite some policy differences. He endorsed Obama for the Iowa Caucus on that basis. Is it really wise to reduce Obama to a sociological category ? I believe we do so at our own peril. He has the potential not only to benefit African-Americans,but Americans generally.

    Poor guy! His blackness is grounded in grievance. Maybe Steele should read "Audacity of Hope", it would give him some hope. The man is confused!

    Mr. Steele is fortunately in my generation and his feelings and thinking are a thing of the past. I am a 62 year old black women and it has been my observation that the people 50 and under do not see color as we did. In fact I would go as far as strongly defending the position that the majority of people 50 and under in no way feels the way Mr. Steele does. They grew up in “desegregation” and have a much stronger sense individual accountability and not condemning any group as our generation. I am not in any way stating the racism in the year 2008 is not here in the US. I see the generations 50 and younger are more “economical prejudice”

    Mr. Ford in Tenn lost the senate race however; he received the same percentage of votes that the polls showed in the final days of the election of ’06. This was more confirmation for me to see that the country has finally moved on and my generation has just about lost its hold on all “whites are” or all “blacks are”

    His and my generation is content with the divide and conquers mentally. This in my opinion is why the Hispanic communities is now the new group for divide and conquer. School desegregation worked.

    I am an independent voter and if the elections were held today I would vote for Edwards or Hugabee. I strongly oppose charter schools.

    Mr. Moyers your perception of the change in the white and black relationship is closer to the reality of today than Mr. Steele. Mr. Steele perception is still higher in the “poor” areas (economics) but not in the rest of the population. The difference is not only that blacks see individuals but the whites also. Once my generation has gone the color issue will be gone. The economic prejudice will be larger and hopefully not as long to overcome.

    Kensington, MD

    Mr. Moyers,

    I am so disappointed that you did not challenge Mr. Steele. He obviously has a personal agenda that is driving his negative comments regarding Barack Obama.

    Everyone who knows Obama well says that he is a man comfortable in his own skin. What the pundits, and certainly Mr. Steele, don't understand is that the new generation of Americans are not tied up in knots over race. I taught high school and I can assure you that the younger generation is comfortable with people of all races. And as far as not knowing who Mr. Obama is, why not read one of his books or visit his web site to read his many, many speeches on all the major issues of the day? Mr. Moyers, you need to get a younger African American on your show to explain the new reality. Why not Governor Deval Patrick?

    Congratulations to Lance Dandridge on an incisive post. At least Mr. Dandridge makes sense, whereas Mr. Steele is inconsistent to the point of being obtuse. I also with the poster who said Mr. Moyers should afford Sen. Obama the opportunity to rebut the illogical and ultimately mean-spirited remarks made by Mr. Steele on the program this evening. Clearly this evening was not the program's finest hour.

    Shelby Steele, in his interview on PBS with Bill Moyers, stated that to fit into the current and popular definition of Blackness, that many Blacks live an existence of betrayal to their own desires, ambitions and dreams while simultaneously subordinating themselves to a group identity that is at its core “grievance-driven.”

    He went on to say that many Blacks manipulate and prey upon “white guilt” or the perceived need of absolution by many Whites because of America’s racist history. Viewpoints such as Steele’s have always been a perplexing to me and I believe there is a reason why such viewpoints are out of the mainstream of Black thought. It is not because we as Blacks have a herd mentality or that we by-and-large expect something for nothing, but rather it is because it runs counter to the historical record, the facts, the numbers and our own personal experiences.

    Additionally, if there are whites who are guilty of racism and bias; if there are whites who are guilty of enjoying the benefits of white privilege without examining the damaging consequences of that privilege, then I believe they should feel some guilt. If one is guilty of something, then they should feel some guilt. By guilt I do not mean a pit of despair and hopelessness; or that whites should be beholden to me as a Black person in any way, but rather a guilt that spurs action and real personal and societal transformation. Guilt, at its core, is just another word for conscience.

    Dietrich Bonheoffer, in the Christian classic The Cost of Discipleship, talks about and details the phenomenon of “cheap grace.” His central point was that cheap grace represented forgiveness without requiring repentance (or a change of heart and conduct); an enjoyment of the consolations of absolution without restitution. I believe this is where we find ourselves today in the struggle against racism and the quest for racial & social justice. Americans, for the most part, want an easy route to change or societal transformation in regard to race and racism; a “cheap morality” if you will, that pays lip-service to the virtues of equality and justice without any serious challenge of white privilege. It is a cheap activism that says “fight the power,” but avoids self-examination and an honest accounting of American history. James Cone, in his interview on this same program, made a profound statement that lends itself to this paradigm: “…if America could understand itself as not being innocent, it might be able to play a more creative role in the world today. And you see, America likes to think of itself as innocent. And we are not.”

    I was very disappointed with Bill Moyer's segment in which two men who probably have never met Barack Obama tried to analyze and second-guess what deep-seated motives and life experiences make Obama the person he is. Leave this type of hyped, silly journalism to that huge majority of run-of-the-mill journalists! I expect a much higher standard when I watch Bill Moyers. This portion of the show sounded just like the very folks criticized in the first segment.

    In addition, do not try to analyze the motives of the large number of Americans, of all colors and shades, who admire and strongly support this highly intelligent, innovative Barack Obama! I'm a little old granny in a mid-South state who has lived a long time and I have never seen the country in such a miserable situation. What we must ALL focus on in this critical presidential race is electing the most intelligent, most articulate, most culturally sensitive, people-inclusive person to help lead us out of this mess and also improve our pitiful standing in the rest of the world.

    I am hoping Bill Moyers goes back to factual, balanced journalism next week!

    When I first heard Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention, I put down what I was doing so I could really concentrate on what he was saying. He continues to make me proud to be a Democrat and gives me reason to hope again. Isn't that enough reason to vote for someone?

    Shelby Steele does not relate to the fact that Sen Obama's father was from Africa. He doesn't share the history of his family on his fathers side has a heritage from Africa not a Africa American heritage that refers to slavery in the USA. It would be the same to expect Winston Churchill to have the same perception of the American Revolution as a member of the daughters of the American revolution or the son's of liberty. Race is view very different in Hawaii than it is in Mississippi or Minnesota

    A response to the following letter:

    Ah, Bill,

    The thick (paternalistic) fog of racism which misted your eyeglasses during your "liberal" political heyday in the 60s still prevents you from recognizing one simple fact and, hence, renders your discussion with and by Shelby Steele irrelevent in 2008: Obama is neither white nor black. He is both and currently recognized as and by both by the 30 and under crowd. This is a complex phenomenal concept one in your and Shelby's generation cannot accurately interpret nor effectively appreciate. One might perceive that the contexts of your discussion with Shelby Steele are anachronistic.

    Posted by: James | January 11, 2008 09:50 PM


    Ah, James,

    Consider the possibility that if one believes that one has triumphed over racism, one no longer has to be an activist.

    I am a 55 year old white female raised in the deep south. My upbringing taught me to be racist. I distinctly recall at the age of 13 being hurt and offended at how black school bus students were treated by whites. I also distinctly remember desegretation. I have made conscious choices to live my life and raise my children to be fair to all and appreciate the differences in race and culture as precious and valuable.
    I cannot understand how we will ever become a society that is not racist if people continue to draw attention to our differences in negative ways. We are all human beings. We need to come together and work together and STOP resenting and hating one another - be it race, religion, culture, wealth, whatever...but we DO need to continue to celebrate our differences - how boring would life be if we were all alike?

    I am white non-practicing Christian.

    Shelby Steel captured the dynamics of black/white relations brilliantly. The same concepts apply to Jews' approach/relationship with Christians. Whites are always on guard and can't be 100% open with Blacks or Jews because there is always that mortal fear of being labeled racist or anti-semitic. This is a real shame since it robs both sides of a real genuine relationship, and it does make both jews and blacks live in a bubble.

    There are always exceptions (the bargainers) but in general what he said is very true.

    I just wanted to explain the one drop of black blood thing. This isn't Shelby Steele's belief, it was the rule in segregated states and cities. From Alabama to Philadelphia. If there was a black anywhere in your past and they knew, then you were considered black. (Or, for the racist above who made fun of names used for descendents of slaves dragged over here and sold and owned for cnetiries, they weren't blacks when they had to step to the gutter when a white man walked by, they were at best called Negroes, or "colored".

    Unless they didn't know and you were light enough to "pass" any ancestor being black or having the same "one drop" made you also have to sit in the balcony in movie theaters, use the smaller filthier bathroom, the less cleaned water fountain out back

    come on! What is this? Steele is a very confused man who thinks that he is trying to represent the very same people/race that he is running away from. Steele does not speak for black people. Black people did not elect him to be their spokesperson. I think he has a lot of pain and he is using this opportunity to vent out his personal frustration.

    Shelby Steele is a man who has made his career offering absolution from racism . His "hustle" has been to tell White America that any discussion of racism is some form of extortion by Black Americans that is simply used to intimidate Whites. He is the "bargainer" that he accuses Barack Obama of being.
    One behavior that appears consistently amongst these Black conservative commentators is that their comments are rarely based upon any real study, scholarship or interviews with the persons upon whom they project these views. Their "analyses" (I am being generous when I call it that) is always based upon some personal anecdote that they then project onto African Americans.
    Shelby Steele describes such conduct in his book "The Content of Our Character" when, as a young person, he accused an adult white female of racism after she corrected his speech.
    Steele contends that Obama's standing amongst blacks is threatened by the acceptance that his campaign has received from White Americans, but then, at the same time, Steele says that African Americans are waiting for White approval before Black voters will give Obama support. He ascribes to Obama the role that Steele has played throughout his public life - offering White America absolution for a legacy of racism. If anyone is threatened by Obama, it appears to be Shelby Steele. Obama, by any standard was quite accomplished, long before his election to the United Stated Senate. He has not reached the Senate by attacking what Shelby Steele derisively refers to as the "Civil Rights establishment". Rather Obama has embraced the civil rights movement and the African American community which Mr. Steele views with an obviously simmering contempt. Perhaps the threat Mr. Obama poses to Mr. Steele is that he has achieved a level of acceptance amongst a significant percentage of Whites without projecting some deep seated contempt Black Americans.
    Shelby Steele is projecting his own personal issues on to Obama. Obama rather than wearing a "mask" has embraced the community for whom Shelby Steele routinely expresses contempt. I suggest for Mr. Steele's own personal well being that, rather than trying to de-construct Obama, Mr. Steele should go directly from Mr. Moyer's desk to a psychoanalyst's couch. Then perhaps he will understand why he is so threatened by a talented young man with whom he, on a superficial level, appears to have a great deal in common.

    Dear Shelby,
    I am very disappointed that an " educated black man" like you or so called, is self-describing his life and the complexity of slavery in America. Yes, the complex issue and lingering effect of Slavery in America. On one hand, we have Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and company who throw their anger and their illusion of black power in the face of white people. Because they are just so blind by this anger, for certain reason that I am not aware of (good or bad) that they seem not willing to get over with it. I can see the perfect definition of the word "grudge". It is holding them down! No one, include any black man in his right mind, does not want to be around someone who complain all the time. On the other hand, are people like you and a fellow, I can't remember the name, who has been fighting affirmative action on behalf of white people, and who simply can't believe in themselves. You said it well " you have a different experience because you lived or grew up in a different time in the history of America."
    Let put it in blank:
    1. Do you believe that being hired by the Hoover institution is a symbol of white guilt redemption?
    2. Do you believe that Collin Powell rise in the military is the result of white guilt redemption?
    3. Do you Believe that Condolizza Rice rise in political arena is the result of white guilt redemption?
    I can go on and on.
    Well, the real question is who are you trying to portray? I have the feeling that you have not come to term with your own identity. Even though Bill Moyer is desperately trying to help you, through revers psychology, so that you can see your own image.
    Good job though. But the question is would you see it someday?
    If Obama is making use of this condition of "white guilt" for political gain and improve the image of black man who has suffered so much stereotypes in this country, I bet you yourself are putting it in a better use: Self gain.
    Please remember, Obama is just not a relief against Al Sharpton. If you have not seen the news recently, I just want to remind you that many people rush to vote as well because they can't stand the idea or trauma of having the Clinton, especially Hillary, in the White House again (Even though I personally don't have any problem with that).
    Oh, one quick advice: Please, sell your book quickly and you don't have to trash your race for few bucs.
    Thanks for reading.
    Allen T.

    Mr Moyers,

    I think it only fair to invite Senator Obama on your program so that he can tell his story. As one of the previous bloggers pointed out, I believe that Shelby Steele is telling his life long story of masking, bargaining, and challenging onto Obama.
    Why so much contradiction on the part of Steele?
    On one hand he argues that African Americans reject (resent Obama) for his appeal to White America. Then he states that African Americans will accept the Senator once we sit back and wait for White America to validate him.
    Why is Barack Obama being reduced to this type of rhetoric? Why have you made Steele an authority on how Black people think? You seemed enthralled as if to hang on every word of his opinion.

    I don't profess to be "the voice" for all African Americans. We are not a monolith. I feel concerned when someone else trys to tell my story.

    I will tell you why I'm voting for Senator Barack Obama. 1)He has the Global appeal that we all need. 2)He seems to be coming from a humanitarian perspective. 3)He serves to represent the voice(s) of the under-served and has a proven track record that speaks to helping the down-trodden.
    4) He is saying to me and those coming from a humble background like me around the World, BELIEVE!!!
    5)He inspires, is a visionary, and will serve to treat people with dignity and respect.

    Mr. Steele is entitled to his opinion and to his dis-ingenious attempt at projection.

    When he can sit down, debate and dialogue with Barack Obama, then he'll have my repect.


    I'm a southern white. I don't want to be bargained. I don't want to be comfortable in the presence of blacks. I want a world that is moving forward. I want to move beyond the ludicracy of racism. It is the only issue for Americans in the new "flat" world. And its not just threatening white power, its threatening black power as well isn't it? Oh what interesting times.

    It really puzzles me that people continue to state that they don't know Barack Obama and what he stands for. For those who are still unclear, look at what he did with this life when the cameras weren't on - a Columbia University graduate who, instead of going for the money, became a community organizer; a Harvard Law School graduate who very well could have been Mitt Romney, but became a civil rights lawyer instead. The facts are there if voters just do the work.

    Since I am white, my comments come with assumptions I don't even know about. To the first question above -- Professor Steele's contention that today's black identity is "grounded in grievance"-- I think this is still true where I live in America but that the quality of grievance, or grudge, has changed over the past forty years. (I'm not being specific because during these years since the sixties, insights have lead to strength and hope but also to regression, fury, and despair.) I am unable to answer the second question because I am not black. The third question enters the realm of social class. Subtle and imaginative, intelligent, interesting and learned as was the discussion between Bill Moyers and Shelby Steele, the phrase "social class" was never spoken (or, if so, I didn't hear it). That, to me, is the key. I believe that this is why a white person like me can be so positively interested in Barack Obama and, for that matter, in Shelby Steele. These people made it through. They act like anyone else who accepts and even welcomes the tension between one's image of oneself and how one believes one is perceived by the people who matter most. Serene looks and inner toughness hide probable impatience -- "Why is it taking so long? History, wake up!" -- and hurt. As a white person, I know that the impatience and hurt are there and bless them for giving me a break, for wanting to believe -- as I do -- that they and I are dreaming of exactly the same future.

    Dear Bill:

    I am writing after watching your show hosting Shelby Steele. It was refreshing to hear Mr. Steele discuss Barack Obama's candidacy—if not the content of his character. I found myself agreeing enthusiastically with Steele's analysis. Few other people in this election season have expressed so well both a deep admiration for Obama, a sentiment I share wholeheartedly, while at the same time delivering such a clear-eyed critique of Obama's self-positioning as another man from Hope. This man of hope alas is a bit of a "bargainer," as Steele observes, in the tradition of Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby, rather than challenging mainstream America in the manner of Al Sharpton, or Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Many observers of his campaign, including myself, agree that it is a source of great hope, not to mention surprise given recent electoral experience, that a candidate of Obama's excellence can come to the fore in our system, which is far from perfect. Still, it is frustrating that there is not more substance under the shine. Obama, says Steele acutely, offers white America relief by presenting himself as a Black man who is not angry; he promises to let that America off the hook. He never challenges the hypocrisy with which racial issues are approached in this country. He averts his and our eyes from the shameless lies that everywhere define the reigning power politics of that old unholy trinity: oil, money and religion. Obama does not offer specifics as scaffolding for all his pretty talk about "change." Steele rightly criticizes him for vacillating between reciting his special naive mantra of happy talk and good news on the one hand and on the other giving his "good impression" of challengers such as King or Stokely Carmichael—depending on the audience. It is possible I believe to use even stronger language to criticize Obama’s style of appeasement and bargaining, but Shelby makes his argument scintillatingly and in an exquisitely balanced manner. His analysis of Obama’s disappointing reluctance to take on the hard issues (the war in Iraq, or the real force of race and class issues in America), in any rigorous or specific way was far more compelling than anything Obama has yet offered us. Yet Steele is generous enough not to deprecate the real hope for a future that Obama represents.

    Thank you for your consistently rewarding show.


    I am a black woman in America and I disagree with Steele's contention that black identity is grounded in grievance. Shelby Steele has created a box; a false dichotomy to sell his book. Black identity is based on work, family, faith, and other values that all humans hold dear. There are times when a grievance against some racist act (murder of Emmett Till)brings us together in a fight for our life and our childrens lives but this does not in any way mean that our identity is grounded in grievance.

    I respect Bill Moyers and am shocked that he did not include a counter view to Shelby Steele. I think Barack Obama wants people to take a look at "the content of his character". I think Barack has always wanted people to take a look at his hard work first. He is not asking to be elected because he has African blood. He is not offering redemption to white america.

    It is really interesting to watch this debate on Obama.

    Shelby Steele discounts much in his single minded pursuit of his theory (with which he identifies himself with), but rather than a scattershot approach to marking all the gaps in his reasoning, I would rather ask :

    If all black people must be sorted into two categories, where has he now landed? What is his true self? Accomodationist or extortionist-beggar (the only two choices he allows in his cosmology of race relations)?

    If every impulse and interaction of a black towards a white person boils down to holding guilt over the whites' heads or asuaging them (not that maybe they are just friendly or in need of finding directions to the bathroom, perhaps), then which is Shelby Steele? And does he no longer use masks.

    Is he claiming that the only way for a black to be an "everyman," to be melted into the pot, is to be conservative? As if obsessing over excess fertility clinic embryos or economic theories or eradicating welfare safety nets has much to do with inter-racial behavior and the supposed manipulative or subconscious reasons behind these interactions.

    And avoiding the subject of racism in this country is cute. No, every white is not racist, but some are, a lot of somes are. Petty, ignorant, stupid racism, mean-spirited, even evil racism. Conservatives tend to ignore this, ignore subtleties in thought and existence; they rather boil everything down to supposed verities, absolute truths that many times are hardly self-evident or even true under examination (or during this past 7 years going on 8 where all their pet nonsense has shown to be quite lacking in content, results and verity) and sort of simplistic. No wonder they thrive in our reductive corporate news, celebrity-distracted, utterly reductive, imbalanced, biased, manipulating, dishonest media.

    Oh, and does he have categories for white folk?

    This interview has me puzzled.Obama is just as black as he is white. He speaks of a unity in order to accomplish important and essential goals for our country which, if failed to be addressed, will result in the demise OF US ALL. I cannot understand what Mr. Steele objects to in this worldview except that it is not as polarized as his own. And I cannot see how Obama's stance is inferior to the Clinton's, who after all, are white people...even if they make political concessions (or seem to) to the so-called challengers. Please give me a concise replay that sorts out these obvious contradictions in Mr. Steele's remarks which were not challenged by Mr. Moyers.

    Shelby Steele is exactly like Al Sharpton and other so called leaders in the Black community who want to profit from and propigate the racist history of our country. As a middle aged, middle class, white american, I resent his attempt to drag the Obama phenomena into his us versus them world. His type won't allow themselves to concieve of the possibility that some of us, even some Black Americans, would like to move forward.
    Black or white, Obama is a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of what I hope our future holds. Shelby Steele is an old smell I wish would just go away.

    I must say, I'm disappointed and am now exhausted with this race dialogue. It takes me back to my early years in college. People like myself identified as "border crossers." I was born "Negro," I grew up in and was nurtured in a culturally African American environment. My father's family is tri-racial and independent when it comes to how they "self-identify." Maybe there were some "bargainers" mixed up in there, revolutionaries too, and a totally mix of a lot of things. It's complicated, that's for sure. But I was raised to be a "border crosser." Maybe Mr. Steele sees it as bargaining. I'm hearing the same criticisms of Senator Obama that I heard coming of age in the 70s and 80s (as he did). He doesn't seem lost to me in terms of his identity. I think we're lost in terms of all these little boxes we've got to put people in. I'm questioning him on more important matters - policy for example; his ability to not be hostile to global, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American perspectives, and the concerns of the economically disenfranchised. Identity is fluid especially for African Americans. It's so unfair that Obama is the only candidate who has to walk the race plank. What about the others? Why aren't they being asked the race question? In Senator Clinton's words this "hurts my feelings."

    Dear Shelby,
    I am very disappointed that an " educated black man" like you or so called, is self-describing his life and the complexity of slavery in America. Yes, the complex issue and lingering effect of Slavery in America. On one hand, we have Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and company who throw their anger and their illusion of black power in the face of white people. Because they are just so blind by this anger, for certain reason that I am not aware of (good or bad) that they seem not willing to get over with it. I can see the perfect definition of the word "grudge". It is holding them down! No one, include any black man in his right mind, does not want to be around someone who complain all the time. On the other hand, are people like you and a fellow, I can't remember the name, who has been fighting affirmative action on behalf of white people, and who simply can't believe in themselves. You said it well " you have a different experience because you lived or grew up in a different time in the history of America."
    Let put it in blank:
    1. Do you believe that being hired by the Hoover institution is a symbol of white guilt redemption?
    2. Do you believe that Collin Powell rise in the military is the result of white guilt redemption?
    3. Do you Believe that Condolizza Rice rise in political arena is the result of white guilt redemption?
    I can go on and on.
    Well, the real question is who are you trying to portray? I have the feeling that you have not come to term with your own identity. Even though Bill Moyer is desperately trying to help you, through revers psychology, so that you can see your own image.
    Good job though. But the question is would you see it someday?
    If Obama is making use of this condition of "white guilt" for political gain and improve the image of black man who has suffered so much stereotypes in this country, I bet you yourself are putting it in a better use: Self gain.
    Please remember, Obama is just not a relief against Al Sharpton. If you have not seen the news recently, I just want to remind you that many people rush to vote as well because they can't stand the idea or trauma of having the Clinton, especially Hillary, in the White House again (Even though I personally don't have any problem with that).
    Oh, one quick advice: Please, sell your book quickly and you don't have to trash your race for few bucs.
    Thanks for reading.
    Allen T.
    (An African young man who has lived long enough to experience the real problem face by African American and yet never been addressed. Please, research more and do it quickly before the Spanish take over the African American community).


    Great show tonight! Steele's comments were informative, enlightening, and well grounded in reality. Obama winning or not? I don't know. What I do know was that Steele's comments accurately reflected what I've heard of Obama; a lot of comments on "highly abstract change" (Jamieson) and a fine line walked between races. Thanks again for making PBS truly substanitive.



    Next week on Bill Moyers: Rush Limbaugh analyzes the Hillary Clinton candidacy.

    Huh? Bad dream! Oh, I must have dozed off there for a minute.

    I have so many disagreements with the Shelby Steele interview I just witnessed, I hardly know where to begin.

    First, his categorization of blacks into the two categories of bargainer and challenger is simplistic. My blackness is not grounded in grievance and I am not a bargainer. Nor am I in exile. (Please see my memoir The Time and Place That Gave Me Life, Indiana University Press for more on that.)

    Also, he said that Bill Cosby had been a bargainer, but recently became a challenger. What is he talking about? When Cosby had his show featuring the Huxtable family, he insisted on including a "Free South Africa" poster on the set even though NBC was opposed to it.

    Oprah Winfrey is not a bargainer. She has had a number of shows on racism. I'm willing to bet more than all the other talk shows combined. What Steele cannot seem to understand or accept, is that many black folk are able to maneuver as easily among whites as among blacks without wearing a mask of any kind and while maintaining their personal integrity. This has not always been the case, but it is becoming more so and people like Oprah and Barack are contributing to that change. Apparently he can't see or understand that so he has to create a category for them that in some way denies their black identity.

    Is this because he's unable to do it himself?

    He sounds bitter, as if he's projecting some of his own feelings onto others, Barack Obama in particular.

    I agree with Mr. Steele that, when Bill Cosby spoke his mind, I recoiled in horror. However, I did so because, in my view, Mr. Cosby's condemnation of inner-city black culture betrayed his insensitive attitudes, given his lack of connection with that community. I didn't find Cosby's comments at all constructive and would have been offensive coming from anyone. If I made the same kinds of comments about poor white people, I would offend people too.

    Mr. Steele is correct when he points out that Mr. Cosby had withheld his beliefs from public view and, thus, allowed his fans to fill in the blank with all sorts of wonderful things. Many public figures do this and the public often recoils when they reveal their true thoughts... does anyone remember what happened when Tom Cruise went on his tirade against the mental health profession?? I don't see how race is a pivotal factor in this. Further, I don't feel that Barack Obama and Oprah Windfrey have held their tongues. Does Mr. Steele ever watch Oprah's show??

    I can't help but wonder if Mr. Steele isn't projecting his own experience as a right-wing black man onto all black figures. As a gay man, I've seen just how bigoted the Republican base is and how Republican officials use that bigotry to their advantage in elections. Perhaps Mr. Steele has rationalized this away in his own mind and it doesn't bother him, but I can't help wondering how honest he is being with himself.

    In that sense, his argument about a member of white America not showing respect for his views and reacting with disdain for them because of race is correct. I can't see how he could be a right-winger, black and intellectually honest.

    I don't see the same problem with Mr. Obama... but maybe Mr. Steele is correct and Barack is keeping his real beliefs secret. After all, that's exactly what Bush did in 2000.

    Edwards, Huckabee and Paul no doubt belong together as I wrote here last week. Why they are for the most part totally ignored by the press is I think because of the enthusiastic and optimistic evangelical-Liberal bias of this country that cannot accept anything that impolitely tells us that we are inherently selfish hypocrites. The reason for this is that our self-image is based on covering up deep shame at being "broken" in childhood. This fuels our insatiable desire for love, credit, consumption and all the things that flow from that and gives everyone abroad the sense that we are self-destructive.

    I don't quite buy Steele's distinction and have felt that both Oprah and Obama have chips on their shoulders like most blacks or Afro-Americans (or whatever is they want to be called these days). Yet I don't think they are really any different from most whites and their "political correctness." In Steele's terms, we are most all of us "bargainers." I agree tho, that this is "totalitarian" or simply Fascist. The Fascists, Malaparte wrote, longed for normalcy, and I think that pretty much describes us.

    I would not count out the fundamental conservatism of NH, which I still recall as the stronghold of Curtis Lemay, as an explanation for why the two most conservative candidates won there.

    I haven't read Shelby Steele's book; having heard him (twice) on your program, I find his arguments are specious and full of glittering generalities. And, from Mr. Moyer's challenges, I think he must have noticed that as well.

    I was lucky enough to grow up in a somewhat integrated community in the forties and fifties and was not aware of racial discrimination until, around age 12 (1954), I went traveling (on vacation) through Virginia and the Carolinas. I was appalled at what I saw there!

    What Barack Obama has that Shelby Steele lacks is intelligence, education, and the ability to communicate unequivocally. That is why he was chosen to address the last democratic convention. It was then that I and, I'm sure, many other people first recognized those qualities and began yearning for him to run for this nation's top office.

    Obama's race is irrelevant. He has recognizable leadership qualities, including oratorical skills, that this country desparately needs.

    Many people would like to brag about this being "the greatest country on earth." Obama is simply the first candidate in nearly half a century who one can imagine living up to the role of leader of such a country, first, by restoring this country to a position of respect and pride, and secondly by defying the vacuous and cowardly politics of his less worthy opponents to unite this country in attacking the real problems that we must deal with.

    He is part of the problem in the cycle of hate. I am not responsible for what went on 200-300 year ago. My great, great uncle died for t he cause.


    Mr. Steele seems even more conflicted about race than Barack Obama. But to speak to his point that Obama changes his message depending on the population he is speaking to - I must disagree. When he was running for the U.S. Senate here in Illinois, I (a white retired teacher) heard him speak in Peoria several times. The first was a small gathering in a black church & probably 2/3s of the audience was black, the 2nd occasion, the audience was probably 3/4 black, the last was a union gathering (3/4 white) and he spoke in the same voice and to the same issues in all three settings. And to know who he really is, all you have to do is read his two books. I feel I do know him and do trust him!

    I have to disagree with Mr. Steele's thoughts on Senator Obama. My first issue is that of bargaining. I am guessing that Mr. Steele has bargained for most of his career and whether one is black or white, each person bargains in some way. How many of us could apply bargaining to a work situation? For instance, maybe it is the younger employee who has to somehow mask his or her own talent to keep his or her boss from insecurity and paranoia.
    I feel that Mr. Steele is projecting his own feelings onto Mr. Obama as if they are the same. While they may have similar experiences they are not the same person.

    Also I disagree with his characterization of black culture. He speaks of black culture as if it is monolithic in nature. He seems to be characterizing black culture in a very narrow way.

    I have read Mr. Obama's first book and it seems as if he were grappling with identity in the way that we all in some ways do. From reading his book he seems to reflect and open the world to his thoughts long before he started this campaign for the presidency. If people feel as if they do not know him, it is probably because he transcends the box in which some would use to define him.
    I don't think he is afraid of a challenge...he was a Civil Rights attorney.

    And in regards to the comment about his speaking style, sometimes being MLKJR or Bobby Kennedy we all do that. The way one would speak in a meeting is not exactly the same way that one would speak on the basketball court. Stump speeches and debates are not the forum for deep discussion. Go to one of his town hall meetings.

    I just had to write in again to ask what could Shelby Steele have meant by, " true black" ? He did state that one drop of black blood was all that was needed to be considered Black.
    I couldn't help but feel for him because he really doesn't know how to feel about Obama because he couldn't pigeon hole him even though he stated that he shrugged off any stigma of himself as a personal choice so he could be his own person. I congratulate him on that. Why can't Obama be his own person as well?

    THANKS again,
    sincerely, Dean and Denise Codgen

    I listened very carefully to your conversation with Mr Steele. I think I understand his points intellectually but do not agree with him vis a vis the character of Barack Obama. What contentious points of view Mr Steele espouses! Has HE been on the street lately?

    My background: a white female one month younger than Hillary, born on a western Illinois farm, educated at a progressive liberal arts college with post-graduate study in state universities, and a 30-year career serving state government in front line and management positions with the welfare department. I have known about and supported Sen Obama since his election to the IL State Senate in the late '90s.

    I've had black friends throughout my life and most of them would not agree with Mr Steele at this point in history. I think Mr Steele is using divisive language. Why does he think he has to 'squeeze' himself into the Black identity? Because he feels squeezed by where he is in life, based on his personal history. I submit Sen Obama doesn't feel these things and is attempting in his rhetoric and actions to convince everyone, all races, to move ahead, the 'transformation' as Mr Moyers put it.

    To answer your questions, I don't think that many in the black community are now grounded in grievance identity. Only the angry who haven't figured out how to move on past it. The concentration of these folks are in the older generations based on those I know personally. Sen Obama likes to bring the voices of history to his speeches; they are all part of him and I don't take them as masks but motivators. Obviously, Mr Steele cannot see HIM as he has admitted.

    In my experience only the academic and intellectual black cohort is interested in not letting whites off the hook and they love to debate the 'hooks' they want repaired, restored and returned. I suggest that positive thinking gets one past dwelling on and living one's life in equations of paybacks.

    Unfortunately, classifications and divisions do influence group identity - for everyone not just blacks. That would follow basic sociological theory. What we don't need is contrarian theorists who explain these factors by way of excusing them.

    I am watching Shelby Steele talking about Barack Obama and I feel appalled at his comments - with friends like these, who needs enemies? This person has no idea what he is talking about. It is the FIRST TIME that I watch a program on PBS and I feel this way. You always bring people who make sense, but this gentleman must be from another planet...

    I was really shocked to hear Bill Moyers say that he was tired of asking Black people about race instead of about other stuff like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I would like to be one of Shelby Steele's "bargainers", but my knee-jerk reaction has to be, "Are you freakin' kidding me?!" You couldn't find any Black people to about New Hampshire with?

    As a fan of Bill Moyers, I know that he's been around long enough to know better than that.

    Shelby Steele's words are a fresh breeze into the dank trunkspace of Bill Moyers' blather. How many times can Moyers betray his white guilt? Steele calmly replies "Oh boy", and disagrees with Moyers' inane deposits one after the other.
    Integrity of action, self-knowledge and perseverance of character - what joyous, hopeful ideas.

    I found Shelby Steele extremely interesting and informative. However, I don't agree that Obama is wearing several masks depending on where he speaks and to whom. Given the breadth of his experience with different cultures, it makes more sense to me that he has a number of aspects to his personhood, and different aspects come forward in different environments. He responds to where he is and with whom he is interacting, based on his knowledge and experience of different cultures. This will make him a superb actor on the world stage, which a president must be.

    No - I think this man is off the mark. He is mired in the mud of the perspective of his own history and age. The point he is missing is evolution. In the same way that the picture of the Earth created a symbolic massive shift in how we view our world the knowledge derived from DNA mapping tracing ALL of us back to Africa shifts dramatically how we must view race. It just takes some of us longer to pass through the shift. It brings to mind that line from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? - Poiter to his father - you see yourself as a black man - I see myself as a man.
    He says this from the (blessed) evolution even a generation can bring - but nothing can shake his father out of the mud of his own history and perspective. Both perspectives are true but one will die out before the other. Thank God.

    I'm not sure if I submitted a comment on your talk with shelby Steele.
    I have not posted a comment on a blog site before.
    I just had to comment on what Shelby Steele said about being a, "true Black". I couldn't help but wonder what he meant by that and was hoping you would have asked him. It seems like he wasn't being completely fair about his opinion concerning Obama as he did state that, "one drop of blood" was considered enough to verify that he was black. Also that he had personally shrugged of any stigma to claim the right to be his 'own person and an individual and to do what he felt compelled to do with his life. This I congratulate him on and must ask, why doesn't he give Barak Obama the same right. Why can't he see that this is the 21st century and that a person is a human being no matter what the color of their skin, their gender or even sexual preferce.
    I couldn't help but feel he was a bit confused by what the world is today and becoming more and more each day.
    THANKS for the opportunity to make a comment.

    One last thing. The main stream media definitely doesn't reflect the sentiment of the populace. It is actually more akin nowadays to the Pravda of old in the USSR with the Govt. and corporate control that exists today. It is really a sad commentary on what America has become thanks to the fear mongering which the Bush administration relies upon.
    I do feel that America is slowly waking up, Thank God. I just don't understand why it took so long.

    Shelby Steele is a poseur. If he is unwilling to recognize Barack Obama as someone who is trying to create a new paradigm beyond traditional racial politics, it is hard to imagine that he would so recognize anyone, ever.

    Rather, he is more interested in pushing his own product: an unforgiving brand of right wing conservatism from an African-American. The right wing must thank providence every day for someone like him.

    I can't believe Bill Moyers would give him a voice for what amounts to demagoguery.

    I was really disgusted with tonight's interview with Shelby Steele, who labeled Barack Obama as "bargainer" while he claims individuality for himself. I don't know why Steele doesn't want Obama to succeed, but he couldn't have done a better job in undermining him. Nothing about this discussion was enlightening, just a bunch of double-talk that stymies growth and movement forward.

    Steele is a relic of the past and should be utterly dismissed. Who is he to enumerate the opinions of anyone other than himself? He should have the blessed insight that Obama has. I suppose his generational and age difference clouds the reality of the present.

    Shelby Steele condemns Obama for being a liberal, not for being black. Shelby Steele is an ideologue who plays the race card--that's his shtick.

    Not worthy of time on a serious program.

    Ah, Bill,

    The thick (paternalistic) fog of racism which misted your eyeglasses during your "liberal" political heyday in the 60s still prevents you from recognizing one simple fact and, hence, renders your discussion with and by Shelby Steele irrelevent in 2008: Obama is neither white nor black. He is both and currently recognized as and by both by the 30 and under crowd. This is a complex phenomenal concept one in your and Shelby's generation cannot accurately interpret nor effectively appreciate. One might perceive that the contexts of your discussion with Shelby Steele are anachronistic.

    I am a white American and I totally agree with Mr. Steele. I will not vote for Barack Obama, but not because he is black, but because he doesn't have enough experience, IMO. I love Obama's speeches. They are inspiring and the best since the Kennedys. However, if Hillary and Edwards were not running, I would vote for him, not out of "guilt" or "redemption" - in fact I think Mr. Steele is racist towards whites. In his statements, he says to automatically not trust white people.

    Steele's comments are idotic. It is an either or thinking you can either be right or wrong, black or white but there is always a third and fourth and many other ways of negotiating once identity. Obama isn't the bound man, Steele is. I think he is trying to resolve his unfihised business with his identity through Obama. That is not fair to Obama. Go see a therapist, talk to your brother.

    Shelby Steele makes no sense to me.

    No wonder George W. Bush likes him.

    US Corporate Elite Fear Candidate Edwards
    By Kevin Drawbaugh

    Friday 11 January 2008

    Washington - Ask corporate lobbyists which presidential contender is most feared by their clients and the answer is almost always the same -- Democrat John Edwards.

    The former North Carolina senator's chosen profession alone raises the hackles of business people. Before entering politics, he made a fortune as a trial lawyer.

    In litigious America, trial lawyers bring lawsuits against companies on behalf of aggrieved individuals and sometimes win multimillion-dollar settlements. Edwards won several.

    But beyond his profession, Edwards' tone and language on the campaign trail have increased business antipathy toward him. His stump speeches are peppered with attacks on "corporate greed" and warnings of "the destruction of the middle class."

    He accuses lobbyists of "corrupting the government" and says Americans lack universal health care because of "drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists."

    Despite not winning the two state nominating contests completed so far, with 48 to go, Edwards insists he is in the race to stay. An Edwards campaign spokesman said on Thursday that inside-the-Beltway operatives who fight to defend the powerful and the privileged should be afraid.

    "The lobbyists and special interests who abuse the system in Washington have good reason to fear John Edwards.

    "Once he is president, the interests of middle class families will never again take a back seat to corporate greed in Washington," said campaign spokesman Eric Schultz.

    Open attacks on the business elite are seldom heard from mainstream White House candidates in America, despite skyrocketing CEO pay, rising income inequality, and a torrent of scandals in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street.

    But this year Edwards is not alone. Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, sometimes also rails against corporate power and influence, tapping a populist current that lies just below the surface of U.S. politics.

    One business lobbyist, who asked not to be named, said Edwards "has gone to this angry populist, anti-business rhetoric that borders on class warfare ... He focuses dislike of special interests, which is out there, on business."

    Another lobbyist said an Edwards presidency would be "a disaster" for his well-heeled industrialist clients.

    After this week's New Hampshire primaries, where he placed a distant third behind New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Edwards might not seem so scary. He ran second in the Iowa Democratic caucuses last week, trailing Obama and just ahead of Clinton.

    Edwards suffered a blow on Thursday when Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry snubbed him and endorsed Obama. Edwards was Kerry's vice-presidential running mate in Kerry's failed Democratic bid for the White House in 2004.

    Business's Favorite Unclear

    Asked which candidate their clients most support, corporate lobbyists were unsure. Clinton has cautious backing within the corporate jet set, as do Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, they said.

    These candidates represent stability to executives who have much to lose if November's election brings about the sweeping change some candidates are promising.

    Obama and Huckabee register largely as unknown quantities among business owners, both large and small, say lobbyists.

    "My sense is that Obama would govern as a reasonably pragmatic Democrat ... I think Hillary is approachable. She knows where a lot of her funding has come from, to be blunt," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Stanford Group Co., a market and policy analysis group.

    But Edwards, Valliere said, is seen as "an anti-business populist" and "a trade protectionist who is quite unabashed about raising taxes."

    "I think his regulatory policies, as well as his tax policies, would be viewed as a threat to business," he said.

    "The next scariest for business would be Huckabee because of his rhetoric and because he's an unknown
    Varda Burns
    Norwich vt

    I think that when Shelby Steele talks about Obama, he is projecting a lot of himself...

    I am tired of african americans tagging all whites as racist or ashamed of being white. My paternal ancestors did not enter this country until 1900, long after the importation of africans for work on plantations, and on my maternal side my ancestors were forced to leave their quaker faith to fight for abolition. Whites are not all the same just as african americans are not all the same, gang bangers or whatever. Please give me the right to have an opinion independent of stereotype

    oh, come on!!! in nh it had nothing to do with race. if the voters wanted "white", there were 5 other guys they could've, and would've voted for!!! no, they want either obama or clinton. can't the media deal with such a simple truth, or are they just muck-racking for the sake of job security????? the media has been issued a "firewall"...don't try to tell us, esp in nh, who is going to win!!!!

    To paraphrase Shelby Steele:
    I am white and ashamed to be so, but my identity is not my master. I’m my master. And I despair over the way racism in America --so virulent, so unabated-- has been whitewashed (so to speak) and given the lie by the obvious success of so many black people. As Randall Robinson put it when Charlie Rose pressed him to explain Sen. Barak Obama's viable candidacy in light of Randall's contention that racism continues to smother the hopes of black Americans: "He's so anecdotal."
    Not only are the bright African American stars in our firmament generally anecdotal, they can't seem to understand that they are not in any way archetypal. Walk into any largely black school in a large American city, enter the second or third grade classroom, stay there for a month or two, and try to predict an upswelling of opportunity for this generation of black American children.
    I don't "subscribe to the idea that the essence of blackness is grounded in grievance, and if you vary from that you are letting whites off the hook." I don't consider whites to be on the hook. Far from it. We're by and large free to ignore the wriggling lives caught on the real hook of smoldering, unquenched racial destructiveness in this country.
    The archetypal warriors who have for well over half a century challenged racism in its den --people like Ruby Dee, for example-- look unblinkingly into the eye of reality that peers through the mask of supposed modern white enlightenment in the U.S. Dr. King, they can recall (as he did) faced the greatest color-rooted hatred, not in the avowedly racist South, but in places like Boston and Chicago, where blacks had been, like the slaves, freed.
    Now, a truly anecdotal African American, Justice Clarence Thomas (similarly resentful of what he considers "reverse discrimination") sits in judgement on a voter ID program loaded with potential racial abuse in the state of Indiana ...with nobody remembering that this great state provided the virulently unapologetic Klu Klux Klan its safehome. Nor is it generally recalled that, when Thurgood Marshal stepped from the chair Justice Thomas occupies, he answered a reporter's question about the color of the seat's next occupant by recalling his father's warning, "a black snake will bite you just as fast as a white snake will." Apparently, anecdotal progress had not dimmed his vision of this country's way of fattening up the opposition to it's benighted racial policies.
    White America doesn't owe a debt of grievance to it's black children, it owes them a new day of equal opportunity. Then, Dr. King's dream that a child would be judged, not by the color of his skin, but the content of his mind might, just might, be realized.
    Does Mr. Steele think this infrastructure of promise has begun to be built? These old white eyes, too blinded with tears of remembrance and despair, can't seem to see it.
    Christopher Swan

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