The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment

Shelby Steel, Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2013

The verdict that declared George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin was a traumatic event for America’s civil-rights establishment, and for many black elites across the media, government and academia. When you have grown used to American institutions being so intimidated by the prospect of black wrath that they invent mushy ideas like “diversity” and “inclusiveness” simply to escape that wrath, then the crisp reading of the law that the Zimmerman jury displayed comes as a shock.

On television in recent weeks you could see black leaders from every background congealing into a chorus of umbrage and complaint. But they weren’t so much outraged at a horrible injustice as they were affronted by the disregard of their own authority. The jury effectively said to them, “You won’t call the tune here. We will work within the law.”

Today’s black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers everywhere. This, despite the fact that nearly one black teenager a day is shot dead on the South Side of Chicago—to name only one city—by another black teenager.

This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful. Today’s civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious: The success of their forbearers in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr. or a James Farmer or a Nelson Mandela. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot write a timeless letter to us from a Birmingham jail or walk, as John Lewis did in 1965, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a maelstrom of police dogs and billy clubs. That America is no longer here (which is not to say that every trace of it is gone).

The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman.


The civil-rights leadership rallied to Trayvon’s cause (and not to the cause of those hundreds of black kids slain in America’s inner cities this very year) to keep alive a certain cultural “truth” that is the sole source of the leadership’s dwindling power. Put bluntly, this leadership rather easily tolerates black kids killing other black kids. But it cannot abide a white person (and Mr. Zimmerman, with his Hispanic background, was pushed into a white identity by the media over his objections) getting away with killing a black person without undermining the leadership’s very reason for being.

The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a “poetic truth.” Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: “America is a racist nation”; “the immigration debate is driven by racism”; “Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon.” And we say, “Yes, of course,” lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason.

In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument.


One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today’s civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman?

There are vast career opportunities, money and political power to be gleaned from the specter of Mr. Zimmerman as a racial profiler/murderer; but there is only hard and selfless work to be done in tackling an illegitimacy rate that threatens to consign blacks to something like permanent inferiority. If there is anything good to be drawn from the Zimmerman/Martin tragedy, it is only the further revelation of the corruption and irrelevance of today’s civil-rights leadership.

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  • Nick Gherz

    The “Establishment” is really the black civil rights mafia.

    They have ZERO moral credibility.
    When they go after feral blacks that violate the civil rights of other persons, please let me know.

  • bigone4u

    I never fell for the BS about the communist womanizer MLK, so I certainly would give no credence to the race hustlers BSing us today.

  • Spartacus

    “Hard to be a King or Mandela today…”


    I disagree – Sharpton and Jackson are every bit the imbeciles, hustlers and hypocrites Mandela and King were.

    • Spartacus

      I thought I deleted this post…

      • Sick of it

        Deleting them on Disqus leaves them listed under Guest for some reason.

  • Oil Can Harry

    Liberals : The Civil Rights Movement has always been great.

    Conservatives: They started out wonderfully under Dr. King but declined decades later due to hustlers like Jackson and Sharpton.

    Race Realists: They were rotten from the start.

    • Manaphy

      The so-called civil rights movement was always about one thing, and one thing only. White Genocide. Before the 1960’s black-on-white crime was virtually non-existent, whites were much happier and led better lives, the nation was politically and ideologically conservative, and the Democratic Party was the party of true patriots and race realists. That is until our government was stolen from us by the usual suspects, and the civil rights movement began. And it is how we got here today. The rest, as they say, is history.

      • Sick of it

        The usual suspects were all up in FDR’s administration. Big government gone wild.

      • Romulus

        We cannot ever forget what the usual suspects have done to every western country since their historic migration. Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly the case. White war 1-80 million dead; white war 2- 88 million dead. Abortion-millions dead;miscegenation- millions bred out of existence ; foreign adoption- millions putting their resources into another race; feminism-millions with no children;homosexuality- emasculation,deviate promiscuity,disease,and no children;destruction of the male-female Christian nuclear family-no babies; pervasive drug use-societal decay!!!

        • David Ashton

          This is a good summary of our problems, but with respect Factor X is overstated as their single driving force in my view, especially WW1 (at least until Balfour & Bolshevism). “They are men, not gods”. Will try to include relevant references in the booklist promised in an earlier thread (q.v.).

  • Spartacus

    “Hard to be a King or Mandela today…”

    Not true – Sharpton and Jackson are every bit the imbeciles, hustlers and hypocrites Mandela and King were.

  • sbuffalonative

    The Martin/Zimmerman case was clearly a power play and they lost. They thought all they had to do is scream ‘RACISM’ and they would get their way. It was an effort to cower white people with shame and guilt and drum up sympathy and pity.

    They overplayed their hand pushing a case that was weak and jumped the shark by turning this into a white/black issue instead of what it was, a Hispanic/black issue.

    I do hope this is the beginning of the end but these people and their handlers are crafty people. They will try again.

    • MBlanc46

      I’m not so sure that they lost. A guilty verdict certainly would have been a victory for them. But they’ve been very successful in framing the innocent verdict as yet another in the long-line of racist outrages perpetrated upon them. With a guilty verdict, the case would soon have disappeared from public consciousness. The innocent verdict will allow them to march and demonstrate and pray and petition about St. Skittles for weeks or maybe months more.

      • sbuffalonative

        While I see your point about blacks milking their victimization status as a result of the verdict, I believe it would have been worse if Zimmerman was convicted.

        Had Zimmerman been found guilty, blacks would have seen it as a victory in controlling the outcome and they would have had ammunition to flex their muscles and their agendas. That all their political pressure failed to influence the verdict in their favor knocked the wind out of their sails. They, more than anyone, are stunned that their ‘narrative’ didn’t sway public opinion or the jury.

        Had they won, they would have claimed yet another self-proclaimed ‘moral victory’.

        Blacks like to tell us that they’re the conscious of America and by not siding with them, we are morally weak.

        This time, America didn’t agree with them and that shows they’re losing influence.

        • The verdict also means that their petulant demands do not always trump the law, not even when a sitting POTUS decides to weigh in on the matter and run his stupid pie-hole.

  • Puggg

    I don’t agree that Sharpton and Jackson are irrelevant. Both, especially Sharpton, are getting more face time than they ever have, and making more money than they ever have. Sharpton has an hour a night on talking head TV – Sure it’s the Crackpot Channel, but the concept of him having an hour of prime time talking head TV a night back in 1987 or so was unfathomable. And before Al Sharpton got his show on the Crackpot Channel, was a guest on the cable news station with actual ratings, Fox News, all the time.

    Where you could say they might not have that much steam anymore is that they, the media in general and Obama couldn’t provoke full scale riots. But I think mainly because the potential rioters know that compared to 1992, the last time a major city had major riots, the cops are far better equipped and prepared, and many more individual civilians are the same: Think of all the states since 1992 that have passed conceal carry, stand your ground, castle doctrine.

    • MBlanc46

      Jackson and Sharpton are dangerous. Whatever they want to make headline news becomes headline news. And what they want to make headline news is not good news for white people.

  • Does anyone think the corpse with the 35 year old wife is relevant?

    • willbest

      Well he is relevant as further evidence that women dig jerks.

      • And men near death.

        He is 58, yet looks like in his mid 80s and nursing home material.

        • Jefferson

          Al Sharpton does look extremely old for a 58 year old. He disproves the myth that in every case Black never cracks.

          My father who is a White man, just recently turned 61 and he looks considerably younger than Sharpton.

          Most people think my father is either in his late 40s or early 50s. People rarely say he looks like he is in his 60s.

          • Sick of it

            The above is a common phenomenon in my family as well. My people usually live up into their 80s/90s.

          • Romulus

            What’s your other half? Since you brought it up, im curious.

          • Formerly_Known_as_Whiteplight

            I don’t know his age, but he’s much older than 58. He served in Korea. 58 is too young for even to have served in Vietnam.

          • Al $harpton was born October 3, 1954, according to the Wikipedia bio. That makes him 58.

      • Formerly_Known_as_Whiteplight

        Look at all the scars from rug burns on her knees!

    • Ed_NY

      I think she or it is a transsexual.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      Do you mind?

      I was having a NICE breakfast and almost lost it across my keyboard!! I already lost ONE due to an image someone posted of Anthony Weiner and Hilary Clinton!!


      “Revenge is a dish best served cold”

      (see below, LOL, pun intended)

      • As Fat as Frank is, I’m astonished he has lived to be 73. Carrying that much flab has to be hell on the heart.

    • Formerly_Known_as_Whiteplight

      Nothing but dollar signs in her eyes.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful.

    Ah, but here’s where the writer is incorrect: The “civil rights” movement always WAS wrong. It always was about denying certain truths, such as the difference in average IQ between the races or the impracticability of getting the races to live together, while demonizing whites who saw the truth and convincing other whites to demonize themselves and each other. The foundations of the “civil rights” movement were always wrong, and that’s why its arguments have only become more and more shrill and ridiculous as time has progressed.

  • Funruffian

    Shelby Steele makes the mistake of ascribing Black failures and crimes solely on bastardized Black kids. There are a plethora of other woes that make them unable to live in civilized nations such as their genetic proclivities to violence, low intellect and indolence.

    • David Ashton

      Worth re-reading is George F. Gilder’s “Sexual Suicide” (NY: Quadrangle, 1973) on dysfunctional black “families”, feminist and homosexual propaganda, and much else. Good analysis and advice ignored as the opposite policies pushed the USA to its present predicament, and probably unpublishable by the NY TImes Book Co forty years later!

  • Harumphty_Dumpty

    What a fine article. A couple of years ago I read the author’s book “White Guilt,” and raved about it on this site.

    The only thing Shelby Steele left out of this article is the fact that the Wall St. Journal probably would not have dared print it if it had been written by any other than a black author.


    White GeNOcide Stalwarts

  • IKantunderstand

    Blacks are not the only problem, the millions of Hispanics are a problem, the Muslims are a real and dangerous problem, and, the Asians from wherever in Asia are a problem. Allow me to be perfectly clear on this: Our rogue government is allowing into this country, people who will never fit in, people who bring zero skills to an advanced economy. The Somalis are worthless. The Mexicans are useless. The displaced Iraqis, Syrians, Iranians, and other assorted Muslims are a threat to the peace and the established law of this country.. Meanwhile, there are less and less jobs available. But “our” government is determined to allow in more and more immigrants, while making the illegals legal. Can you believe they hate us this much? Look around you, look at every law that they have passed. Every single law that has been passed in the United(for now) States of America since the sixties, has been ANTI-WHITE. There is no doubt, our federal government hates the people who worked and sacrificed and DIED for this country. They HATE the Whites who made this country. As a matter of fact, ALL EUROPEANS are hated and resented. These racial “minorities” (by the way, why are all people of color called “minorities”? We Whites, who only represent nine percent of the world’s population are the ONLY MINORITY in the world) have been allowed to infiltrate our White countries, you saw what the Taliban did to the Buddha statues in Afghanistan, what makes Europeans so sure that the same won’t happen in their countries, once the Muslims take over. First on the bomb list: Stonehenge. Will they bomb Notre Dame, or convert it into a mosque? We Whites are the minority of the world! Could we please at least start pointing that out? I know the powers that be want Whites to racially mix, but, seriously, at only nine percent of the world’s population, there is not enough of us to go around. Hello General Mills! As a conglomerate concerned about future revenues, it would behoove you to mix other races in your commercials. The world is rapidly running out of Whites. By design. By our own design. When did we start hating ourselves this much? This is bull s%^&t, we are the smartest, most innovative people on the planet. We need influential philosophers to raise us from our Endarkenment. People who can stem this tide. I am conflicted as to the role of Christianity. At this point, I believe Christianity is partially responsible for the philosophical quagmire we Whites find ourselves in, but, I also believe that a resurgence of belief will be our salvation. The Bible did not say that the United(for now) States of America should allow in, every single solitary person who wants to come here because they are too lazy to affect change in their country of origin. It is not our problem. The world is not our problem. As only nine percent of the worlds population, we Whites are the minority of the world. They are trying to eradicate us. The so called “White mans burden ” has now morphed into measures to ensure our survival. That is now the White man’s burden: to ensure the survival of the White Race.

    • Romulus

      That is why im praying for a crash. Only then from the chaos ,will the Phoenix rise from the Ashes!!. As long as we can deter a nuclear,biological,or chemical catastrophe, I believe we will prevail!!

      • Formerly_Known_as_Whiteplight

        There will be a collapse, eventually. But white survival is not guaranteed. Their chances will improve if they can learn to be less reactive and do more objective self-examining and realistic planning.

    • David Ashton

      But not “smart” enough – too “good” for our own good.

      Pascal Bruckner’s “The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism” (Princeton UP 2010) is worth reading, never mind the author’s affection for Israel.

  • Romulus

    Did he only just now have his “awakening”?

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    Today’s black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s.

    Because the tired old race card has been used up, overdrawn and is now being declined.


    The goal has been met: blacks dumbed down, kept ignorant and beholden to the government for food and housing in return for votes.


    I don’t know why the race baiters are complaining, money and renewed publicity are pouring in over the corpse of Trayvon Martin.


  • John Smith

    Gee what they have accomplished for their demographic? Fatherless children running amock in criminal streetgangs. That’s not something to be proud of.

    • What have the poverty pimps accomplished? They’ve become quite wealthy. In fact $harpton’s National Action Network’s finances stink out loud. The NAN has not filed the proper financial reports required of non-profit organizations.