Previously published (in Harper's, Commentary, The American Scholar, etc.), these collected essays by the eloquent, idealistic, controversial black San Jose State English professor seem certain to make a signficant offering to America's unending race debate. Shelby's closely reasoned ethico-politico vision combines Booker T. Washington's ""bootstrap"" emphasis on black individual achievement with Martin Luther King's anti-militancy. Several key assumptions undergird these disparate essays, which cover subjects ranging from black middle-classdom to affirmative action to race and college politics: that racial debate in America is tainted and restricted by the ""politics and its party line"" of each race, which impose a ""totalitarianism"" over original thought (like Steele's own, perhaps); that government must consider blacks and whites not race groups but as ""competing power groups"" in order to revise social administration successfully; that white and black America both seek racial ""innocence"" in race relations, but that white guilt and black feelings of inferiority mar this attempt. Steele also argues that blacks have a ""hidden investment in victimization and poverty,"" a legacy of black-power movements of the Sixties, when martyrdom, not achievement, became the theme of black politics; that a ""politics of difference"" that bestows affirmative action and entitlement of blacks devalues achievement and responsibility and falsely rewards historical suffering; and that black ""awe"" of white achievement creates psychological ground for black failure. Steele may be seen here by some to be praising conventionally ""conservative"" values (if not policy) as a key to black success; for this he may emerge as something equivalent to the Allan Bloom of race relations. In any case, his book's stylish argument is guaranteed to move (and anger) many.