See For Innocence

In this controversial essay collection, award-winning writer Shelby Stelle illuminates the origins of the current conflict in race relations–the increase in anger, mistrust, and even violence between black and whites. With candor and persuasive argument, he shows us how both black and white Americans have become trapped into seeing color before character, and how social policies designed to lessen racial inequities have instead increased them. The Content of Our Character is neither “liberal” nor “conservative,” but an honest, courageous look at America’s most enduring and wrenching social dilemma. (synopsis from Google Books)

seeing for innocence-a form of seeing that has more to do with one’s hidden need for innocence (and power) than with the person or group one is looking at…Seeing for innocence is the essence of racism-the use of others as a means to our own goodness and superiority…For whites seeing for innocence means seeing themselves and blacks in ways that minimize white guilt…Seeing for innocence pressures blacks to focus on racism and to neglect the individual initiative that would deliver them from poverty…With our eyes on innocence we see racism everywhere and miss opportunity even as we stumble over it.”[1]

“”Innocence is ignorance”, Kierkegaard says, and if this is so, the claim of innocence amounts to an insistence on ignorance, a refusal to know. In their assertions of innocence both races carve out very functional areas of ignorance for themselves-territories of blindness that license a misguided pursuit of power. Whites gain superiority by not knowing blacks; blacks gain entitlement by not seeing their own responsibility for bettering themselves. The power each race seeks in relation to the other is grounded in a double-edged ignorance of the self as well as of the other.”[2] 

[1][2] Shelby Steele, The Content of our Character, (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 8, 16-17.