Just as African Americans were betrayed by slavery and the establishment of the Jim Crow system following Reconstruction, Steele holds, a “second betrayal” has been the failure to treat them the same as other citizens. In particular, he charges that they have been denied full equality by public policies such as affirmative action preferences, multiculturalism, and Afrocentrism. Rather than concentrating on improving educational standards and insisting on equal competition, in his view, the civil rights establishment has chosen to encourage African Americans to harbor bitterness and resentment for the injustices of the past, which has tended to result in an unproductive culture of victimization.
A Dream Deferred deals disproportionately with issues relevant to institutions of higher education. Time and again, Steele returns to the issue of affirmative action programs that utilize race or gender preferences in an attempt to increase the members of underrepresented groups in education and employment. From his perspective, such programs represent an appeal to white philanthropy rather than African American achievement, an attitude that he believes is incompatible with the goal of first-class citizenship. The emotional tone of his analysis gives the impression that he takes the existence of racial preferences as an insult against his personal competence.
Steele’s writings are extremely polemical, and, not surprising, they have...
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