Today, racial discrimination not only involves African-Americans. It includes Mexican-Americans, Chinese-Americans and the a lot more. America as a country has evolved to be a melting pot of races and cultures. As a result of this influx of various cultures, the problem of discrimination acquired a different face. It no longer existed against African-Americans but to different cultures as well.
Also, being a melting pot of races and cultures, a new problem of cultural diversity emerged. We want to be sensitive of cultural differences and yet we do not want to be discriminatory. Finding the balance is the challenge that we face now-a-days.
In a way, I agree with Mr. Freeman. By focusing on differences, on what is unique in one culture, the necessary consequence is division in groups. Of course people tend to gravitate on people who they relate to, who they have more things in common with.
However, I believe that cultural division is not always bad. Cultural division does not necessarily result in oppression of one group against another. If people have respect for one another, they would respect difference and they would be able to co-exist despite the differences.
Alexis de Tocqueville presented the argument that one of the reason why the abolition of slavery became difficult is because white men believed that by emancipating Negroes, they will revolt and take vengeance against those who enslaved them. Because of this fear of retribution, they became hesitant to give them any privilege whatsoever.
In my opinion, a cynical point of view would say that this fear of retribution is what actually caused the portrayal of black freedom as a white responsibility as discussed by Shelby Steele.
Slavery becomes universally abhorred and they free the very people they actually oppressed. The fear that the African race would rise up and avenge the hundred years of oppression is very understandable. To address that fear, I'm speculating that white people underwent various methods to rectify their wrongs. And they took to themselves the responsibility in 'freeing the blacks'.
In the words of Steele, America was transformed "into a self-consciously shamed society where race is concerned." There are racial preferences and charities to redeem the white race. It was the opposite end of the discrimination spectrum. If before, one is oppressed because one is black, now, one is favored because one is black.
Perpetuation of black dependency
This is the reason why I believe that there are civil rights leaders who may not want African-Americans to lose their grievances. To be able to further redeem itself, America as a nation still needs activities that are beneficial to African-Americans. It needs affirmation that they are taking care of African-Americans, rectifying the oppression they committed in the past. If African-Americans would lose their grievances, there would be nothing left to fix. America would not have anyone to take care of.
Steele pleads for blacks