On Being Black and Middle Class by Shelley Steele

Topics: Black people, Race and Ethnicity, African American Pages: 1 (275 words) Published: August 22, 2013
Shelby Steele's "On Being Black and Middle Class", discusses the concept of victimization. Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest encumbrance for African Americans. In Steele's perception, white Americans see blacks as victims to ease their guilty conscience, while African Americans attempt to turn their status as victims into a kind of currency that will purchase nothing of authentic or continual value. Hence, Steele firms that blacks must seize "buying into this zero sum game" by adopting a "culture of excellence and achievement" without relying on "set asides and entitlements". By victimization, Steele is referring to the fact that humanity transforms their historical experiences of injustice into the centerpiece of cultural and group identity, for example blacks today are freer than at any other point in history, yet the identity is more acquainted with victimization than ever before. Steele's usage of the term affects his argument through his thoughts of why black middle-class Americans are unintentionally expected to celebrate the black underclass as the "purest" representation of African American identity. Steele presumes that the mistake that grew out of America's desire to fix the racial problem was that it inadvertently made victimization itself a kind of currency of power. Victimization now brings certain benefits, preferences, and entitlements. Steele claims that by "rewarding" victimization, the human population encourages blacks to think of themselves as victims. Other terms that could be used to counter Steele's argument would be every group that's seeking atonement from society - Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, even women. The "victim" mindset causes these groups fall farther and farther behind in American mainstream. The tragedy of victimization clutches much power.
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