Shelby Steele: Leftist ‘Grievance Industry’ Ignores Black Development, Pushes ‘Racial Victimization’


The left’s “grievance industry” pushes narratives of “racial victimization” in pursuit of political power, noted Shelby Steele, author and Hoover Institution senior fellow, sharing his analysis on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Jerome Hudson.

Steele highlighted left-wing and Democrat framings of the death of Michael Brown as illustrative of how Democrats and the left sell “racial victimization” to blacks.

“The poetic truth is that Michael Brown was shot by a white racist cop, who killed him out of racial animus of some kind,” Steele said. “That’s absolutely not true. There’s none of it that’s true. His death was a terrible tragedy, but it didn’t have anything to do with racism.”

Steele described “racial victimzation” as a political cottage industry used by Democrats and the left to demand expansion of government power.

“Black Americans, in the last 60 years since the sixties, we have made our racial victimization our primary source of power,” Steele remarked. “If we are victims of racism, then that gives us a moral leverage in society to ask for all sorts of things, to introduce political correctness here, to have diversity programs there, to have affirmative action, public housing extended, well on and on. We can ask for all sorts of things based on the fact that we’re victims of racism.”

Steele continued, “So [with] an event like Michael Brown, the simple actual truth of what happened is irrelevant. It had the look of racism, and therefore it is something that we seized upon, same with George Floyd and Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray and any number of other instances like that. We seize on them for the power they render up. … It’s a enough power to have changed American universities, and now we see it having an impact in corporate America, where the institution itself changes to accommodate this idea that blacks are victims.”


Perceptions of victimhood strip a person of his or her sense of agency and accountability, Steele warned.

Steele stated, “This is a dark thing, because if you define yourself as a victim, you define yourself as impotent. Every time you go out to to protest, you’re putting your fate in the hands of the people who you claim discriminate against you. You’re letting them run your life. You’re letting them say what is true and what is not true, and you continue to be in the same position that we were when we were formally oppressed in slavery and segregation.”

“These kinds of incidents where a young black is killed … where you have a white trigger finger shooting and killing a black, it duplicates that history of oppression,” Steele added. “So our leaders very often use it as proof that we blacks are still victimized and oppressed, and therefore we are entitled, and so we play this game because we think we’ll get something out of it, that white America [and] the government will respond, and they very often do respond with all kinds of social programs. … The real truth is up against all of that corruption.”

Former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder had a “smell of real power” upon learning of Michael Brown’s death.

“If Michael [Brown] is really a victim, then that gives moral authority to the black argument that we are victims,” Steele remarked. “You look at somebody like Eric Holder, [who] comes into Ferguson, trying to find some power, trying to find some victimization, doing his best. He wants to find victims and he wants to find racists, because that’s power, and that power is, in many ways, the central power of the American left.

Democrats and the left sell themselves as redeemers of America’s victimization of black people,” Steele stated. H added, “In 2016, 762 black kids were killed — shot and killed — just on the south side of Chicago, 3,000 wounded, and no attention was paid. Obama didn’t send anybody in, no attorney general, nothing. Year after year, thousands and thousands of black kids are shot dead, and there’s no examination of it all, because it brings no power to anybody. The trigger finger was black. It wasn’t white. You can’t evoke racism in it. You can’t get blacks as victims, and they’re busy victimizing themselves. That’s of no value in this sort of power struggle that race relations are mired in.”

Steele said whites are often defensive within a political culture of racial demagoguery casting them as oppressors.

“One of the biggest problems we have is the fact that our racial conflict threatens the moral authority of white America, by saying all the time, no matter what’s done, that you’re racist, and you are oppressing us, and you owe us,” Steele said. “So whites are vulnerable to being called racist. Without really realizing it, [whites] have to sort of prove to themselves that they’re not [racists]. They have to continue to have this sort of inner dialogue.”

Steele described government-run “social programs” such as affirmative action and public housing as attempts “to give white people back their innocence of racism” and “a way for a white America … to say, ‘We are not racist. We’re innocent of that. We support a world that is innocent of racism.'” 

Our politics, our grievance industry, keeps manipulating them,” added Steele. “It keeps demanding payoffs and entitlements,” yet there are people today to this very day will tell you that Michael Brown was killed by white racism, Steele said.

Ignoring one’s responsibilities through illusions of victimization does not exempt an individual from his or duties, Steele maintained.

“How do we get past this need to to make ourselves into victims to exploit America’s past of racism?” Steele asked. “America’s past was racist, no doubt about it, but how long do we get to just exploit that and to believe that that’s what’s going to get us ahead rather than development, rather than hard work, rather than education, rather than a healthy family life? Almost 80 percent of our black children are born without a father. How is God’s name do you overcome a deficit like that when all you’re worried about is whether Michael Brown was a victim or not? We’re getting to be a lost people, lost to ourselves for trying to believe that we are victims eternally.”

People must “understand that all the power to transform ourselves is within us,” concluded Steele.

Steele’s forthcoming documentary, What Killed Michael Brown?, debuts October 16.

Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.


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