Moralism and Compensation in Shelby Steele’s White Guilt Theory: African American Economic and Academic Performance under Preferential Policies

Sami Chedhli Nighaoui


This paper revisits Steele’s claims about the politics of social equality and justice by interrogating some of his postulates about the allegedly ineluctable effects of preferential policies on African American social mobility. The discussion of the potential impacts of preferential policies on career building among African Americans shall herein draw on the wider debate on the “moral politics” involved in the practices of victimization and compensation. The paper also demonstrates that preferential treatment is currently the only effective assistance that the government could provide for students from this disadvantaged community in the absence of concrete political solutions to the problem of unequal educational preparation by which it seems to be most affected.


African Americans, preferential policies, academic gap, economic performance

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