37 Best Shelby Steele Quotes on Success and Racism

Shelby Steele, a political commentator and essayist, was born in Chicago in 1946.

His parents, involved in the Civil Rights Movement, introduced him early to its activities.

With a mixed-race heritage, Steele saw race from a unique perspective. He met his wife Rita at Coe College in Iowa, where he was involved in SCOPE, associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

After graduating in 1968, he pursued an M.A. in sociology at Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in English at the University of Utah.

Facing racial hostility in Utah, he declined a tenured position there and joined San Jose State University in 1974.


Steele earned an Emmy in 1990 and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991.

By 1994, he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, studying race relations, multiculturalism and affirmative action.

Here is a top collection of quotes by Shelby Steele.

Top 10 Shelby Steele Quotes


1. “I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


2. “My individuality is my gift to my people.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


3. “My experience in life tells me that the values that are now being labeled ‘conservative’ are the only way that blacks can get ahead.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


4. “A black conservative is a black who dissents from the victimization explanation of black fate.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


5. “It is time for blacks to begin the shift from a wartime to a peacetime identity, from fighting for the opportunity to the seizing of it.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


6. “There also comes a time when he must stop thinking of himself as a victim by acknowledging that—existentially—his fate is always in his own hands.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


7. “The most striking irony of the age of white guilt is that racism suddenly became valuable to the people who had suffered it.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


8. “From this point on, the race’s advancement will come from the efforts of its individuals.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


9. “The promised land guarantees nothing. It is only an opportunity, not a deliverance.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


10. “Do not hurt your neighbor, for it is not him you wrong but yourself.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

Best Shelby Steele Quotes

11. “I do not like the Confederate flag. It excludes me, profoundly. And if many good people fought honorably to defend it, I still experience the sight of it as a little racial aggression against me.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

12. “Normally, ‘black responsibility’ is a forbidden phrase for a black leader – not because blacks reject responsibility, but because even the idea of black responsibility weakens moral leverage over whites.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

13. “America still has a race problem, though not the one that conventional wisdom would suggest the racism of whites toward blacks. Old fashioned white racism has lost its legitimacy in the world and become an almost universal disgrace.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

14. “Opportunity follows struggle. It follows effort. It follows hard work. It doesn’t come before.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


15. “My rule is, whatever is the most urgent is what I do next.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

16. “Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

17. “My father bought three ramshackle houses, rebuilt them, rented them out, kept clawing his way up the ladder. A man with a third-grade education from the south.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


18. “Hatred is a transformative power. It can make the innocuous into the menacing.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

19. “No matter how accomplished we may be, just any little white person can come up and say, ‘Well, you wouldn’t be here, if it weren’t for Affirmative Action.’ You put power in white people’s hands, and then they use it against you. It’s a trick bag.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

Famous Shelby Steele Quotes

20. “Every single progressive education fad of the past thirty years has hurt poor black children.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

21. “The Great Society wanted to make America look like a country in which Little Rock could never have happened. It failed because it was a venture in denial rather than in realistic social transformation.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

22. “If you are a minority, it is important that you have legal ways to defend yourself in the society in which you live.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


23. “You will be far more likely to receive racial preferences than to suffer racial discrimination.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

24. “In certain quarters, conservatism is simply racism by another name. And minorities who openly identify themselves as conservatives are still novelties, fish out of water.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

Inspiring Shelby Steele Quotes

25. “Freedom always carries the burden of proof, always throws us back on ourselves.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

26. “I would love to see us, as blacks, get to the place where we say, ‘I’m not going to play race games with you. Here I am. This is who I am. Take it or leave it.’” ~ (Shelby Steele).


27. “The fact is that we blacks are free.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

28. “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

29. “Racism and bigotry generally are the great driving engines of modern American liberalism. Even a remote hint of racism can trigger a kind of moral entrepreneurism.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

30. “When blacks become humanly visible when their true beliefs are known, their mask shatters and their symbiotic bond with whites is broken.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

31. “I’ve tried to be graceful and I’ve tried to make sure my arguments are grounded in reason and insight.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


32. “Innocents don’t learn from their sins; the chastened are informed by them.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

33. “I know personally that being a conservative minority is a test of character. Identity, after all, is an integral and cherished part of the self.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

34. “But blacks make little to no progress and, worse, the preoccupation with injustice only leaves them eternally inconsolable and cut off from their own best energies and talents.” ~ (Shelby Steele).


35. “There’s a little racism out here, always was, and always will be.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

36. “We are a nation with a powerful investment in the idea of our own fundamental innocence. Our can-do optimism and ingenuity are based on the faith that we are a decent, open, and generous people. This is our identity.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

37. “The problem is that this “place” is in the past. And it does no good to adapt to a past that is only an echo now. There is no refuge there.” ~ (Shelby Steele).

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar