Saturday, May 27, 2017

Insight

So, in effect, my young nemesis had spoken out in order to bring the conference back into alignment, to enforce the boundaries of the new liberal identity. He wanted this friendly, upscale, and overwhelmingly white crowd to see me as a snake in the garden of their liberal identity, enticing them with the "apple" of an escape from white guilt. He wanted them to understand that the price they might pay for listening to anyone like me could be much higher than they thought: they could lose their liberal identity itself and, along with it, the good opinion of themselves as decent and socially concerned people. I wasn't just a threat to their politics. I threatened them with a kind of moral disgrace - since their agreement with any part of my argument would open them to charges of racism. Of course, he never said it, but he wanted no serious discussion of ideas or of public policy. Arguing thoughtfully would only make me less a snake, and, above all else, he wanted to mark me as an outsider.

- From Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country by Shelby Steele

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