A Bound Man by P-SimonSchuster


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									A Bound Man
Author: Shelby Steele
Table of Contents

Part I: The ManChapter One. The High PossibilityChapter Two. PlausibilityChapter Three. Search for the
FatherChapter Four. Becoming an Authentic BlackChapter Five. BelongingChapter Six. Two WomenPart
II: The SocietyChapter Seven. MaskingChapter Eight. Bargaining and ChallengingChapter Nine. The
Iconic NegroChapter Ten. Born to BargainChapter Eleven. Bind I: The DisciplineChapter Twelve. Bind II: Is
He Black Enough?Chapter Thirteen. "The Visible Man"Index

In Shelby Steele's beautifully wrought and thoughtprovoking new book, A Bound Man, the award-winning
and bestselling author of The Content of Our Character attests that Senator Barack Obama's
groundbreaking quest for the highest office in the land is fast becoming a galvanizing occasion beyond
mere presidential politics, one that is forcing a national dialogue on the current state of race relations in
America. Says Steele, poverty and inequality usually are the focus of such dialogues, but Obama's bid
for so high an office pushes the conversation to a more abstract level where race is a politics of guilt and
innocence generated by our painful racial history -- a kind of morality play between (and within) the races
in which innocence is power and guilt is impotence.Steele writes of how Obama is caught between the
two classic postures that blacks have always used to make their way in the white American mainstream:
bargaining and challenging. Bargainers strike a "bargain" with white America in which they say, I will not
rub America's ugly history of racism in your face if you will not hold my race against me. Challengers do
the opposite of bargainers. They charge whites with inherent racism and then demand that they prove
themselves innocent by supporting black-friendly policies like affirmative action and diversity.Steele
maintains that Senator Obama is too constrained by these elaborate politics to find his own true political
voice. Obama has the temperament, intelligence, and background -- an interracial family, a sterling
education -- to guide America beyond the exhausted racial politics that now prevail. And yet he is a
Promethean figure, a bound man.Says Steele, Americans are constrained by a racial correctness so
totalitarian that we are afraid even to privately ask ourselves what we think about racial matters. Like
Obama, most of us find it easier to program ourselves for correctness rather than risk knowing and
expressing what we truly feel. Obama emerges as a kind of Everyman in whom we can see our own
struggle to accept and honor what we honestly feel about race. In A Bound Man, Steele makes clear the
precise constellation of forces that bind Senator Obama, and proposes a way for him to break these
bonds and find his own voice.The courage to trust in one's own careful judgment is the new racial
progress, the "way out" from the forces that now bind us all.

CHAPTER ONEThe High PossibilityThe first thing I ever heard about Barack Obama was that he had a
white mother and a black father. Interestingly, the person who informed me of this spoke only matter-of-
factly, with no hint of the gossip's wicked delight. Yet this piece of information was presented as vital, as
one of those all-important facts about a person that, like the first cause of a complex truth, plays a role in
everything that follows. Apparently, it is Barack Obama's fate to have notice of his racial pedigree precede
even the mention of his politics -- as if the pedigree inevitably explains the politics. And I suspect that
some people would feel a bit defrauded were they to hear his political ideas and only later learn that he
was racially mixed.Of course, I am rather sensitive to all this because I, too, was born to a white mother
and a black father, though I did not fully absorb this fact, which would have been so obvious to the outside
world, until I was old enough to notice the world's fascination -- if not obsession -- with it. To this day it is
all but impossible for me to actually stop and think of my parents as white and black or to think of myself,
therefore, as half and half. This is the dumb mathematics of thinking by race -- dumb because race is
used here as a kind of bullying truth that pushes aside actual human experience. So I never know what
people really want to know when they ask me what it is like to be -- and here come the math words --
"biracial" or "multiracial" or "multicultural." The self as the answer to an addition problem.But, as best as I
can surmise, what people really want to know is what it is like to have no race to go home to at night. We
commonly think of race as a kind of home, a place where they have to take you in; and it seems the very
stuff of alienation to live without solid footing in such a home. If this alienation is not nearly as dramatic as
the old "tragic mulatto" stories would suggest, it nevertheless does exist. How could it not in a society
like America where race once meant the difference between slavery and freedom? Racist societies
enforce the idea of race as home by making race an inescapable fate. So, still today, this fundamentally
odd -- even primitive -- idea remains embedded in our democratic national culture, the legacy of our past.
People who are the progeny of two races have a more ambiguous racial fate and, therefore, at least some
feeling of homelessness. They stand just outside the reach of that automatic racial solidarity that those
born of one race can take for granted.So, people like Barack Obama and me are always under a degree
of suspicion. The "one drop" rule formulated in the days of slavery -- one drop of black blood makes you
black -- consigns us to the black race (happily so for me and, I would imagine, for Obama as well), but
the fact of an immediate white parent differentiates us and interrupts solidarity with blacks. And all this is
worsened by the fact that whites are historically the "oppressor" race. Thus, by the dumb logic of racial
thinking, our very mother's milk comes through a collaboration with the enemy. More literally, this
"collaboration" may mean that we enjoy more exposure to the dominant culture, more advantages in a
color-conscious society. Mistrust and even resentment from other blacks often ensues. And from whites
come the sneers one commonly hears in reference to Obama -- "he's not even really black."Our
vulnerability is that both blacks and whites can use our impossible racial authenticity against us. Both
races can throw up our mixed background to...
Author Bio
Shelby Steele
Shelby Steele is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the author of the
New York Times bestseller The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, which won
the National Book Critics' Circle Award. Steele's most recent book is White Guilt: How Blacks and
Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. He is a contributing editor at Harper's
Magazine, and his work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New
Republic, Newsweek, and The Washington Post. For his work on the PBS television documentary Seven
Days in Bensonhurst, he was recognized with both an Emmy Award and a Writers Guild Award. In 2004,
President George W. Bush, citing Steele's "learned examinations of race relations and cultural issues,
"honored him with the National Humanities Medal. He lives in California.<br/>

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