Shelby Steele was born in 1946 in Chicago to his white mother and Black father.
Growing up, he said, he faced many experiences of racism.
“When I was a kid they would tell me get used to it, learn to use a wheelbarrow,” said Steele.
In the 1960s Steele and his wife applied for an apartment and were turned down. Steele and his wife turned around and sued the landlord.
Through their decision to fight, they won in court.
“I knew I’d be fighting in this life and I knew it would not be for money or for certain other things,” said Steele. “It would have to do with morality, so my attentions were directed that way.”
College of the Canyons hosted Steele on Thursday for a conversation on the impact of contemporary social programs such as affirmative action.
Steele is a race relations scholar and author of many publications such as “The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America” and “A Dream Deferred.”
The conversation was spearheaded by Lena Smyth, a graduate of California State University Long Beach, with a double major in journalism and political science.
Steele identifies himself as a Black conservative and discussed his viewpoint on the presence of racism, white guilt and the Supreme Court choosing to end race-conscious admissions.
“Racism is over with,” said Steele.
In modern America, Steele feels free now.
Smyth asked Steele what conservatism meant to him and he answered by saying that conservatism is a devotion to that freedom.
“I say this to Blacks, you can be free, if you are not afraid to be free,” said Steele.
Smyth: “I want you to kind of define this idea of white guilt, just kind of break it down so that our audience can understand what you mean by that.”
Steele: “White Guilt is not actual guilt. You don’t feel it, unless you are alive during slavery … It is simply a knowledge, not a piece of information, in and of itself, that America participated in slavery … America (has) participated in the subjugation of an absolutely innocent people.”
Smyth: “Let’s talk about the Supreme Court decisions to disallow race as a consideration for university admission. What are your thoughts about that? And what is your advice for diverse students seeking admission?”
Steele: “Leave me alone. Really, really, really stop it. Stop calibrating and taking statistics and looking for some gap and whether I fit. Treat me exactly like law, the Constitution, requires that you treat every other citizen. I’m a citizen.”