Shelby Steele

Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow

Shelby Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action. He was appointed a Hoover fellow in 1994.

Steele has written widely on race in American society and the consequences of contemporary social programs on race relations.

In 2006, Steele received the Bradley Prize for his contributions to the study of race in America. In 2004, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 1991, his work on the documentary Seven Days in Bensonhurst was recognized with an Emmy Award and two awards for television documentary writing—the Writer's Guild Award and the San Francisco Film Festival Award.

Steele received the National Book Critic's Circle Award in 1990 in the general nonfiction category for his book The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America. Other books by Steele include A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win (Free Press, 2007), White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (HarperCollins 2006) and A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America.

Steele has written extensively for major publications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He is a contributing editor at Harper's magazine. He has also spoken before hundreds of groups and appeared on national current affairs news programs including Nightline and 60 Minutes.

Steele is a member of the National Association of Scholars, the national board of the American Academy for Liberal Education, the University Accreditation Association, and the national board at the Center for the New American Community at the Manhattan Institute.

Steele holds a PhD in English from the University of Utah, an MA in sociology from Southern Illinois University, and a BA in political science from Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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Recent Commentary

Affirmative Distraction

by Shelby Steelevia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 9, 2009

How the language of discrimination hurts blacks. By Shelby Steele.

Analysis and Commentary

From Emmitt Till to Skip Gates

by Shelby Steelevia Wall Street Journal
Saturday, August 1, 2009

If the Henry Louis Gates imbroglio makes anything clear it is that, in 2009, the mere implication of racial profiling in the arrest of a black professor...

Analysis and Commentary

Affirmative Action Is Just a Distraction

by Shelby Steelevia Washington Post
Sunday, July 26, 2009

America's war over affirmative action has gone on longer than any of the country's military conflicts, and over the decades each side of this debate has spawned a vast literature of argument...

Nothing More Than Freedom

by Shelby Steelevia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why minorities are estranged from conservatism. By Shelby Steele.

Abraham Lincoln

Better Angels

by Shelby Steelevia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why Abraham Lincoln matters—even now. By Shelby Steele.

Analysis and Commentary

Sotomayor and the Politics of Race

by Shelby Steelevia Wall Street Journal
Monday, June 8, 2009

President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court points to a dilemma that will likely plague his presidency: How does a "post-racialist" president play identity politics?...

Analysis and Commentary

Why the GOP Can't Win With Minorities

by Shelby Steelevia Wall Street Journal
Monday, March 16, 2009

Today conservatism is stigmatized in our culture as an antiminority political philosophy...

Analysis and Commentary

Pride and Compromise

by Shelby Steelevia New York Times Book Review
Thursday, February 12, 2009

To belong to an oppressed group always meant that you could not pursue your self-interest by acting directly on the world...

Obama Unbound

by Shelby Steelevia Hoover Digest
Thursday, January 22, 2009

Looking for a revolutionary, finding yet another bargainer. By Shelby Steele.

Peter Robinson interviews Shelby Steele

Shelby Steele on President-Elect Obama

by Peter M. Robinsonwith Shelby Steelevia Uncommon Knowledge
Monday, November 17, 2008

Shelby Steele asserts that Barack Obama won the presidential election by successfully basing his candidacy on race, “Obama’s special charisma … always came … from the racial idealism he embodied. … This was his only true political originality.” Steele holds that whites voted less for real “change” than for documentation of a change that has already occurred in race relations in America. But will four or eight years of Barack Obama free whites from the taint of racism or make them still more complicit in it? (37:40) Video transcript