Sugary excerpt of the month from Shelby Steele's article on Trayvon Martin:
In fact Trayvon's sad fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America's civil rights establishment, and throughout the mainstream media as well. His death was vindication of the "poetic truth" that these establishments live by. Poetic truth is like poetic license where one breaks grammatical rules for effect. Better to break the rule than lose the effect. Poetic truth lies just a little; it bends the actual truth in order to highlight what it believes is a larger and more important truth.
The civil rights community and the liberal media live by the poetic truth that America is still a reflexively racist society, and that this remains the great barrier to black equality. But this "truth" has a lot of lie in it. America has greatly evolved since the 1960s. There are no longer any respectable advocates of racial segregation. And blacks today are nine times more likely to be killed by other blacks than by whites.
If Trayvon Martin was a victim of white racism (hard to conceive since the shooter is apparently Hispanic), his murder would be an anomaly, not a commonplace. It would be a bizarre exception to the way so many young black males are murdered today. If there must be a generalization in all this—a call "to turn the moment into a movement"—it would have to be a movement against blacks who kill other blacks. The absurdity of Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites.
So the idea that Trayvon Martin is today's Emmett Till, as the Rev. Jackson has said, suggests nothing less than a stubborn nostalgia for America's racist past. In that bygone era civil rights leaders and white liberals stood on the highest moral ground. They literally knew themselves—given their genuine longing to see racism overcome—as historically transformative people. If the world resisted them, as it surely did, it only made them larger than life.
I can't disagree with Shelby Steele (I don't even want to because I like him even when I disagree with him, he is often right on 'race' but almost always wrong on international politics issues ). In this case, I don't fully agree with him for I would nuance some of his assertions. That said, he is right on one essential point: the 'we shall overcome' narrative cripples America's present and future by making the past sacred, thus omnipotent and precisely impossible to overcome because it would mean taking responsibility and accepting that justice can't be absolute for freedom to be meaningful.