“Since the social victim has been oppressed by society, he comes to feel that his individual life will be improved more by changes in society than by his own initiative.” These words belong to conversative author and social critic Shelby Steele. Steele is often criticized by the Black community for his right-wing views on ideas such affirmative action and multiculturalism. In Steele’s short essay, The Age Of White Guilt, Steele discusses how the black community has been and still is losing their sense of individuality to the “mob mentality,” and how the modern-day black community is a victim of no-racism. Although Shelby Steele is a wonderful writer with senseful rhetoric, his stance doesn't cover the whole, true scope of Black America. Steele’s view on the African-American community is a broad, straightforward take and Steele’s take on a less-racist community is incorrect, for racism has only become more subtle.
While Steele’s main argument is faulty, the techniques that Steele uses to convey his ideas form a coherent and senseful essay. Steele opens his piece with an anecdote about him growing up as a black child in segregated Chicago. In the dying days of rhetoric, Steele not only uses this story to keep up with the times, but to also establish ethos with Black readers and others who would criticize Steele as an “Uncle Tom” who can’t relate with other Blacks. His black experiences depict him as a black man instead of someone who kisses up to white people. Steele’s second anecdote is about his experience and
inspiration after watching Paris Blues, a movie starring African-American actor Sidney Poitier in which a young black man seeks to find his identity in Paris. Steele uses this story to illustrate Steele’s idea about black individuality and to introduce the topic of African-American individuality in America. Another truly important rhetorical technique used in Steele’s writing is proper diction. Steele proves that he has a high vocabulary and uses it with words such as: avarice, anathema, contrite, and enmeshment. Steele’s diction also establishes ethos with the reader because a high vocabulary shows Steele’s intelligence. The final rhetorical technique that Steele rides on for support is allusion. Steele alludes to multiple events such as James Baldwin’s move back to America from Europe to support the Civili Rights Movement and Lawrence Summers’ decision to not hire Cornel West as a Professor at Harvard .Steele uses allusions as examples to support his argument of the loss of black individuality and the submission to the ideas of the black community and the age of white guilt.
Despite Steele’s effective use of rhetorical techniques, his argument is flawed because the African-American community promotes individuality and overlooks the present racism in America. Although it is believed that African-Americans have pledged allegiance to the group rather than themselves, the community originated from a need of individuality....