"Letters to the Editor"
The Wall Street Journal
While I can find little to dispute in Shelby Steele’s column, there is one thing. Steele says that “in the 1960s, when American finally accepted that slavery and segregation were profound moral failings….” I would suggest that if much of America had not “accepted” that slavery was wrong, the Civil War would not have happened. Read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
As for the “moral failing” of segregation, if people like Woodrow Wilson had not believed the opposite, it might not have survived as long. With both slavery and segregation, the problem was always what was politically possible, regardless of one’s moral judgment. Lincoln said he would not touch slavery, as long as it was kept out of the Territories. That wasn’t good enough for the South; and as a result, the slave holders helped make its abolition possible.
More importantly, Steele implies, like many on the left, whom he ought to be rebuking, that somehow the existence of slavery was America’s fault. Barack Obama had said that slavery was America’s “original sin.” But as a moral failing, slavery was the problem of the human race that had always tolerated it, not America that ended up abolishing it. The rage now for condemning everyone who ever owned slaves would eliminate most people in history; and certainly few in Mediaeval Islam, at a time when there was little slavery in Europe, would make the cut. But this is a modern problem of only selective outrage and indignation, especially the self-hating kind, without any sense of history or perspective.
Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.