Shelby Steele to NFL Anthem Protesters: ‘Oppression of Black People Is over With’

Anthem Protests
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Hoover Institution Fellow Shelby Steele has a message for NFL players who are protesting the supposed oppression of black people during the national anthem. Steele says that the “oppression of black people is over with.”

During an appearance on the Fox News Channel Sunday night, Steele told host Mark Levin what he thinks of the anthem protesters cause.

“I think the central issue is the fact that oppression of black people is over with,” Steele told Levin. The Fox News host replayed parts of the Steele interview on his national radio show Monday night.

When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the anthem-kneeling movement in the summer of 2016, he said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

The 72-year-old Steele knows what the oppression of black people looks like from having grown up around it.

“When I grew up, we never thought there would be an end to oppression,” said Steele, a Chicago-native. “I remember being a teenager, I never thought that I’d live in a society that wasn’t segregated. It happened.”

Many players say they are protesting “social injustice.”

“We’re using our platform and our space to do our part, to raise  awareness [on] the social injustices that are going on in our country,” New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis said recently.

Steele isn’t sure what “social injustices” the players are protesting.

“You’ve got all the social justice you need,” Steele told Levin. “Again, I’ve lived through segregation. The freedom we have today is absolutely remarkable and as a people have not yet absorbed, we have not absorbed the fact that our problem is no longer racism, our problem is freedom. We have to learn to deal with freedom and the only way to do that is we have to be grounded in individual responsibility, that is the only chance you have freedom is take charge of your life and make a life for yourself.”

What does Steele mean by “we have to learn to deal with freedom?”

“We lived under oppression and adapted to dealing with the fact that freedoms were going to be cut off. They had to somehow make a life within all those restrictions and they did. Black American culture is nothing less than heroic. They evolved. Look at the contribution in music and so forth, achieved great things.

“The one thing we never had to do was deal with freedom. That was precisely the thing we were denied. So that isn’t in our culture, a vivid, clear sense as of what it would have been if we were truly free. But we are free now and freedom is a burden, as existentialists rightfully say, it’s a difficulty. It puts the individual in the position of being much more responsible for themselves, their own development as individuals, and that’s new for us.”

So why does Steele think players are protesting?

“They’re just stuck,” Steele said. “One of the ways we adapted to not being free was to think that our group identity, being black and being down with the cause, that’s the way we’re going to get it. Unity was everything. And if you are authentically black, you are going to do what blacks have always done to one degree or another – you are going to protest. Well the irony is you are making $15 million-a-year, you are making vast amounts of money, successful in every way.

“There is nothing for you to protest, nothing.”


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