Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Shelby Steele

I have been following Justin Taylor's blog because he quotes a lot of interesting authors, possibly from a different perspective, but that's okay. Today he posted a quote from Shelby Steele. I am not familiar with this book but I have had to deal with similar issues many times. Both the quote and the accompanying comments on Justin's blog give food for thought. Here is a snippet.

    I’ll give you my bottom line: We’ve done worse in freedom than we did in segregation. It’s abominable that we made more advances between 1945 and 1965 than we have since, but it’s the truth.
The problem I see is that segregation, if voluntary, can be a way of sequestering a group and giving individuals within the group a chance to excel. This is sometimes experienced by women and First Nations' groups. They often want separate insitutions, Native schools and Women's hospitals. These things should not be made illegal or disallowed. At the same time, if they are coercive either from the inside or the outside then it is injustice.

The sequestered group becomes a ghetto and a dead end experience. This is very tricky issue. Should there be separate programs and schools for certain groups, if one can prove that they thrive under segregation, or should we all be treated in an identical fashion?

It seem to me that there is a role for a variety of different approaches. In some cases segregated institutions do offer more, but ultimately, if the minority group does not, cannot, interact as an equal with appropriate power, relative to its needs, then injustice ensues.

I have no doubt that institutional injustice exists in our society. However, I would hesitate to say that there is one clear way to deal with it. I think we need to look at how we can contribute to overturning power differences and unequal opportunity on every hand.

It is also as precarious to hold up the writing of one person of a particular nationality or race as an example of their group, as it is to hold up the writing of one woman who talks about her own experience, and extrapolate from that to the experience of women in general.

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