Davenport, Jr on Shelby Steele

I sure wish that yesterday’s N&R column by Charles Davenport, Jr. was posted somewhere, anywhere.  There is much to discuss in what he wrote about Greensboro’s black leadership and how The Declaration Against Intolerable Racism squares with Shelby Steele’s latest book, ”White Guilt“.

I have read his 1999 Harper’s Magazine essay by the same name, and Steele makes some excellent points.  Of course some will label the black author an “Uncle Tom”, but I think he has important things to say.  He, like Bill Cosby, is trying to speak truth to black power and doing it in ways that others can’t or won’t.  Among the things he has said, is that black people can be racists just like their white brethren.  He flatly states in this interview, “For every white racist, I’ve met a black one.”

That’s got to cause some people to go into kinniption fits.

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  1. Posted July 17, 2006 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard him interviewed. Great stuff. Of course, Ed and all the left don’t just disagree with Davenport, they resent Davenport- enough to insult his intelligence, writing, research and column space. That said, Steele will be discounted like Sowell, Raspberry and Walter Williams.

    Williams- by the way- supports Beth’s posted theory about American blacks being grateful for being slaves in America. Why? Because today Black America alone represents the world’s 7th largest economy- far greater than the entire continent of Africa.

  2. Mr. Sun
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Wonderful. Perfect. We wouldn’t want to lower the volume and simply do the grunt work of learning the most obvious lessons of the Crayton, Wray and Best cases. No, we don’t want to do a quick and dirty cleanup of personnel policies that moves us forward, even if only a little bit, when we can retreat to the broadest possible theoretical level and just absolutely bathe in it. This is a fabulous opportunity to stay grouped and glaring on opposite sides of the room and debate.

  3. Posted July 17, 2006 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    What is missing is the difference between racism as a personal experience and racism as an institutional one. Of course you will find that people of color with experiences as different as white people’s and therefore a difference in opinion of both the definition and way it is played out in their/our lives.

    As I have said before, the broader issue of institutional racism is where everyone seems to get stuck.

  4. max
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Hope I’m not repeating anyone here but Davenport is not that intelligent, doesn’t write very well, uses one sided research, and shouldn’t have a column.

  5. Posted July 17, 2006 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    max, That has been said many times, both here and elsewhere – just not today. Davenport, Jr is, for the most part, a hack – no argument there.

    Chip, I’m not familiar with the Theory of Beth, or whatever… but from what you wrote about it, I’d say this Beth is a hack, too. And I have not yet heard anywhere that “Ed, and all the left” have discounted Steele’s writing.

    Sun, I don’t see why a discussion of Steele’s book should hamper moving forward on reforming our personel practices and other local racial progress – but you are right – it probably will because it gives people a box to jump into and cover themselves with. (Witness Chip’s jump, above)  But I’m not going to pretend the box is not there for the jumping.

  6. Posted July 17, 2006 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Beth is not a hack- she just listed the theory as notable. I’d heard Williams say it- he’s a brilliant guy who is always trying to provoke healthy debate. His point is that Africa’s resources have always been manipulated and plundered because of its people. I can’t argue with that.

    I would think that if a notable amount of black Americans would move to any one area of Africa, they’d raise the continent’s 3rd world stature within two decades. But such speculation is pure science fiction.

    Now Hogg- I know that Davenport is a rival of sorts- you are both writers competing for space- but surely there is something personal going on here.
    He’s conservative- is that it?

  7. Mr. Sun
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    David — I completely disagree. I see this community in the same predicament that my children have been at certain times in their life — locked in fear and inaction, unable to move forward. When that happens, they will happily talk endlessly about the larger issue, if only to delay doing the difficult thing that they are avoiding. As a father in those cases, what you have to do can be expressed in one word: start. You have to help them start. You have to create the safest place you can, and do the first thing you can do. On the highly polarized issue of racism, this community is stuck in fear and inaction, and it’s time to find some places to start. Let’s begin with the issue of performance evaluation/termination of highly paid public officials. For the time being, let’s turn down the heat on the larger societal debate and instead start on the job of developing agreed-upon policies which work. Please?

  8. Posted July 17, 2006 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Was browsing at a bookstore and came across John McWhorter’s”Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America.” I began reading it, which was not unlike the types of things that Sowell and Steele write. It appears to be an outstanding work, and is on my list.

    The question is how to bridge the gap between the insightful, trenchant views expressed by these prodigious intellects, and those at the grass roots who are influenced and led by much lesser figures. I believe, however, these writers are likely influencing many college-educated and professional African-Americans who do not have anything to gain from perpetuating the status quo.

  9. Posted July 17, 2006 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    No, Chip. … well, …maybe.

    I read Davenport in the same light as Atrios, Molly Ivans and his other counterparts on the far left, which is to say – I don’t… often.

    I don’t have much use for writers that inhabit the far wings of both conservatism and liberalism because they are intractable in their world views.

    As I have written many times, I’m not a black and white guy – I live in the world of the gray. I’m neither deep blue, nor vivid red… I love purple. Some say that that means I am unprinicipled – the neo-con name for my type is RINO. But I say it means I am human and inquisitive and think there is good to be found in both ideologies.

    And also, Davenport is not a very good writer.

  10. Samuel Spagnola
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    He’s at least as good as Ed… Davenport’s world view may be very narrow according to some and perhaps much of what he says is not original thought, but at least he does read and cite his sources as opposed to merely throwing out knee jerk reactions and party lines (like, say, Sean Hannity does). I detect a subtle snobbery against him. Is it because he does not have a 4 year degree or because he dare speaks from the Right (as he sees it anyway). For someone to say he shouldn’t be published indicates liberal elitism to me. Give the credit for studying history even if you disagree with his interpretation.

  11. Posted July 17, 2006 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Samual, If the above was directed at me… my snobbery, if that’s what think you are detecting, doesn’t come from his lack of “a 4 year degree” (which I didn’t know , but could care less about) because I don’t have one either. And I have never said he should not be published. I’m just saying his writing style and history selection don’t agree with me.

    As for Ed, well… I believe he has a “4 year degree”, but in my opinion his writing style was not sullied because of it.

  12. Samuel Spagnola
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    They weren’t directed at you, and I’m not suggesting Ed can’t write. I just don’t find anything spectacular about Ed anymore than I find fault with Davenport. That last bit about college not ruining Ed’s writing style was a good one. Many a college professor has ruined an open mind despite their stated contrary objectives.

  13. Posted July 17, 2006 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I have my moments.

  14. jeff
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    I say Davenport shouldn’t be published because he doesn’t write well enough and he never tries to write an honest or balanced article but rather one that intentionally polarizes and provokes hostility. There are far better writers who can project a conservative point of view without picking scabs.

  15. Karl
    Posted July 18, 2006 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    If you want to read an example of white guilt please read Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace about the children of Mott Haven in the South Bronx. The book will anger you through horrific descriptions of poverty, unemployment, and inescapable life in a community that is almost entirely black and Hispanic.

    Kozol leads us to believe it is our fault for being successful while these folks live the way they do and we should all be ashamed. There are a few stories of success and perseverance, but for the most part these citizens are locked down and its our fault. No personal responsibility. No desire to succeed because it is quelled by the efforts of the individual to seek Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

    I guess I made it out of poverty because I am white and that makes it predestination and I had nothing to do with it?

    The argument cintinues.

  16. Posted July 18, 2006 at 1:34 pm | Permalink


    Your whiteness AND your hard work and perseverance is what made you successful.

    Your spelling had nothing to do with it.

  17. Mike K.
    Posted July 18, 2006 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got to agree with Jeff concerning Charles Davenport’s intentions in his articles. I make it a point to try and read every editorial column with the News & Record, even if I disagree with what they’re saying, because that’s the only way to truly evaluate various issues. However I struggle to get through Charles’s columns specifically because many of the columns he has written have been aimed at starting verbal fights and don’t add much to the dialogue on whatever topic he’s discussing. I’ve had trouble making myself read Cal Thomas on occasion after he so vehemently stated we should torture anyone we feel threatened by to protect ourselves (a completely un-American position in my view) but I still read it. Molly Ivins gets to be too much with Bush and Co. causing everything that has gone bad in the country and world but I also read her too just to see if there are any valuable nuggets in her regular diatribes. David as I’m sure you’ll agree it’s tough being in the middle sometimes but frankly that’s where we can get things done collectively and where most folks are if they seriously stop and consider things. It’s definitely a gray world and nothing’s as simple as some people want to make it seem.

  18. Judith Abraham
    Posted July 19, 2006 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Davenport is just more than tiresome…I cannot claim to be a literary critic, but have been told by many that his writings are inaccurate with little substance of facts. And I agree that he just seems to try to engage in controversy. So be it and then I can read whom I feel compentent to write on things about which I care. This my first time blogging…sorta feels good to vent!!!

  19. Posted July 19, 2006 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Welcome Judith!

    Keep on blogging, as long as you agree with me!

  20. Samuel Spagnola
    Posted July 19, 2006 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    George Will analyzes Steele’s book here:


    Two keen observations from Steele’s book pointed out by Will:

    “White guilt, Steele says, is a form of self-congratulation, whereby whites devise “compassionate” policies, the real purpose of which is to show that whites are kind and innocent of racism. The “spiritually withering interventions of needy, morally selfish white people” comfortable with “the cliché of black inferiority” have a price. It is paid by blacks, who are “Sambo-ized.”

    “By the mid-sixties,” Steele writes, “white guilt was eliciting an entirely new kind of black leadership, not selfless men like King who appealed to the nation’s moral character but smaller men, bargainers, bluffers and haranguers—not moralists but specialists in moral indignation—who could set up a trade with white guilt.” The big invention by these small men was what Steele calls “globalized racism.” That idea presumes that “racism is not so much an event in black lives as a condition of black life,” a product of “impersonal” and “structural” forces. The very invisibility of those forces proved their sinister pervasiveness.”