Russell and Duenes

Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

A Business of Keeping the Troubles

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Concerning the perpetuation of racial issues, one author has said:

There is [a] class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs . . . There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.

Who said this? Malcolm X? Thomas Sowell? Shelby Steele? Walter Williams? Marcus Garvey? Sammy Davis Jr.? Thurgood Marshall? The word “negro” in the quote kind of gives away the fact that it’s not someone recent.

The quote is from 1911: Booker T. Washington. Its relevance speaks for itself. Is it the sole story when it comes to race and so-called “black leaders?” Of course not. And really, it’s not something unique to “race-problem solvers.” We all have sins and problems we’d like to keep alive for our own purposes. Thus, Washington’s words demonstrate a profound insight into human nature, one not relegated solely to his own era.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 10, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Duenes, Race, Reflections

50th Anniversary of the March on Selma

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SelmaCharles C.W. Cooke, a Brit, understands the importance of the 50th Anniversary of the march on Selma far better than the GOP leadership, which is both a shame and shameful. Of the failure of the GOP’s leadership to even show up in Selma for the memorial ceremonies, he writes:

If we are to regard the founding generation as being worthy of contemporary political lionization — and we most assuredly should — then we must consider those who marched at Selma to be so, too . . . They are less famous, perhaps, but by virtue of their brave march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, John Lewis and Hosea Williams immortalized themselves into quintessential American heroes in the mold of Sam Adams and George Mason. To miss an opportunity to solemnize their daring is to blunder, disgracefully.

I agree wholeheartedly. For a political party that is routinely accused, though unfairly, of being hostile to blacks, their failure to personally commemorate the March shows not only political folly, but to my mind, suggests a failure to have genuinely internalized what something like Selma has meant for our nation as a whole. These GOP men and women certainly show up for lesser events, so their absence from Selma makes no sense to me. You can read Cooke’s whole piece here.

 I noticed something in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans the other day. Some claim Paul teaches that the promise of salvation cannot be through the Law of Moses because that law is too narrow, too specific to the Jews, and exclusive of the Gentiles. And this sounds right when we read in Romans 3: “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” Yet in Romans 4, Paul says that “those who are of the law” cannot be heirs of God’s promises. Why can’t they? The narrowness of the law? No, they cannot be heirs “for the law produces wrath.” In other words, righteousness before God must come “by grace through faith,” because we are all law-breakers, and thus, under God’s wrath. As Thomas Schreiner has written: “The fundamental problem with those who rely on the law is not located in nationalistic exclusiveness. Failure to keep the stipulations of the law is what prevents those who rely on the law from obtaining the promise.” We cannot therefore inherit God’s promise of salvation through more law-keeping. We must look to God as our father Abraham did, as people “fully convinced that what God had promised He was also able to perform.”

My sons discovered an incredibly educational world geography website recently (find it here), and they are addicted to it. I don’t mind at all. It teaches the players about all the world’s continents, nations, flags, capital cities, major rivers, oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, islands, straits, volcanos, mountain ranges, deserts and metropolitan areas. Suffice it to say, my 5-year old son knows the nations of Africa and the flags of the world better than I have in my entire life. I wouldn’t challenge him to a contest. If you’ve got 4 – 8 year olds, I highly recommend it.


Written by Michael Duenes

March 7, 2015 at 8:56 am

Do Nothing With Us

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Set a guard over my mouth, O Lordkeep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3). It seems like such a small thing to be able to keep one’s mouth closed when one should, but as I continue to find my way as an attorney, I see more clearly now why the Psalmist prays this prayer. An attorney’s work for his or her client, as well as the attorney’s standing in the profession and in the community, is almost entirely predicated on being able to keep one’s mouth closed. The Scriptures know the tremendous damage that can be done by a person who cannot control his tongue. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. . . but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:5-8). I’m seeing how greatly I need God’s grace to keep me back from sin, and to help me keep a door on my mouth. Everything depends on it. 

Frederick Douglass once said something that, in my view, should be heeded today as much as it was when he said it in 1865.

[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us…I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! . . . [I]f the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!…[Y]our interference is doing him positive injury.

 This seems particularly true in the area of education. The government has done so much, spent so much money, enacted so many schemes in public education to try and help blacks, and we might even charitably grant that it has done so with benevolent intent. Yet it is blacks themselves (and other minorities) who have been forced to remain in public schools, and who have been very vocal in wanting out. As Jason Riley points out in Please Stop Helping Us: “These days it is mostly charter schools that are closing the achievement gap, which is one reason why they are so popular with black people. . . Polls have shown that charter supporters outnumber opponents by four to one.” Yet we are told that impoverished, urban minority children are doomed without traditional public schools. Of course the issues run deeper than simply giving blacks school choice, but the educational issue is indicative of the way many of the race issues are handled in this country, namely, by having the government step in and “do something” to help, rather than taking Douglass’ advice. There is no doubt in my mind that in education, this “interference is doing him positive injury.”


Written by Michael Duenes

March 6, 2015 at 7:52 pm

You Really Should Read This Other Book

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I’m about half way through Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, by Jason Riley. I got turned on to the author through a regular flyer I get from Hillsdale College called Imprimus, which featured Riley recently. And my recent foray into the life of Lyndon Johnson has also drawn me to issues of race and culture. Please Stop Helping Us is an engaging look at some of the political and cultural trends which appear to stymie the advancement of blacks in our country. As I go through the book, however, it continually strikes me that the reader of this book is likely to be told that reading a book by a black conservative may be fine, but one should really also get himself into some W.E.B. Dubois, Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson or some such, for another view and some perspective. Yet if one tells others that he is reading Dubois or West instead of Riley, he is not likely to be told, “You know, you ought to get yourself something by Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder or Jason Riley for another view and some perspective.” I wonder why that is? I think Riley has some ideas.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 4, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Ferguson and Racial Reconciliation

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I offer some brief and general observations on the situation in Ferguson, for what they’re worth. I have not religiously followed the goings on in Ferguson moment-by-moment, but clearly we’ve been here before. My present comments stem from having read three articles by evangelical Christians (here, here and here), and one piece by Kevin Williamson of National Review.

The evangelical articles, in one form or another, inform the reader that the racial divide between blacks and whites is still very much alive here in the United States, and therefore, Ferguson reminds us that the church must continue to preach, and more importantly, live out the racial reconciliation which Christ died to bring about. Well and good.

Williamson, a Catholic (so far as I can tell), provides a different take. Of course, he’s addressing the issue from more of a political standpoint, so on the surface it figures that he discusses different issues, but the racial implications cannot really be so neatly compartmentalized into “political” and “spiritual” categories. At least if one believes the Bible.

Williamson’s thesis? The types of confrontations between the police and black males that are occurring in Ferguson are the types of confrontations that go on in places like Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco and Detroit.  And those cities are run by progressive liberals and have had the progressive worldview imposed on them for decades now. Thus, Ferguson and the above-mentioned cities provide for us examples of the practical outworkings of progressive/ liberal governance. The types of urban conflicts and oppression, particularly for young, black males, that are endemic to those cities – whether the result of racism by the cops and others, or an overweening welfare state – have come about under the administrations of overwhelmingly liberal politicians and institutions of influence. Hence, people like Jessie Jackson, who decry what’s going on in Ferguson, ought to consider that Ferguson has had the worldview of Jessie Jackson implemented in it for years now, and therefore, the socio-cultural situation in Ferguson (and elsewhere) is the inevitable result.

I’ll play my cards. I think Williamson’s take has a great deal to recommend it. Now, I don’t disagree with anything the evangelicals put forth, yet I think they don’t say enough, and perhaps they even omit the most important part. A lot is said after these incidents about “racial reconciliation” and how our churches need to look like heaven will look, with all the racial and ethnic groups worshipping God together in harmony. Again, I affirm this, and with a hearty “Amen.” But Christians are also commanded to love their neighbors, and loving one’s neighbor must be done in accordance with the truth. What would it mean for Christians to love their neighbors in places like Ferguson, or Newark, Philly, San Francisco, Detroit, Oakland, Chicago, Baltimore, etc?

Does it mean, or primarily mean, that suburban Christians, more specifically, more white, middle class, suburban Christians, ought to live and minister in these and other inner cities? Doubtless some of us should. But I have to think that even if many more of us did, it would be to little beneficial effect if the progressive/ liberal political and social rulers and structures governing these cities are left in place. In other words, why are the Christian articles I have read content to relate the gospel only to “racial reconciliation,” and not to the larger power personages, structures and institutions that need to be altered and redeemed by the same gospel? Is it because we have so separated out in our minds the “political” versus the “spiritual?” Is it because we have so individualized the gospel that we can only think on the individual or local church level? Is it because we don’t think Jesus and the gospel change whole cultures, governing structures and institutional influences? Is Jesus a Democrat? Is He unconcerned with municipal governance? Would Christians just be “playing politics” if they actually preached and acted on such things? Could racial reconciliation begin with something as pointed as Christians abandoning public schools? Yet we never seem to suggest such things.

I realize that I’m over-simplying these matters to a significant degree, but it seems to me that the evangelical articles I read are far too reductionistic, treading over well-worn ground on “justice” and “racial reconciliation,” and apparently destined to keep on doing so without a larger vision of the problem and a larger vision of the gospel’s transforming reach. In my view, it is not spiritually negligible who runs our cities and what vision of reality they implement as they run them. It is not of little consequence what kinds of schools, teachers and school administrators educate inner-city children. According to Williamson, the liberal vision is deeply hurtful to human flourishing, and the proof’s in the pudding.

Liberal ideas and policies have been brought to bear on these cities and their citizens for a long while. They’ve taken their best shot. They’ve “had the votes.” And this is the result. It seems to me that Christians should take notice, and we should have something more to say in our churches than that racism still exists, we need racial reconciliation, and our churches should be multi-ethnic. No, the power structures, “and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,” needs to be moved against with “the weapons of righteousness.” The “higher taxes, defective schools, crime and declining economic opportunity” that Williamson says characterize these cities need to be considered more carefully by evangelical Christians, so that we can lay bare their roots, and see them for what they are. Whatever they are, they do not lead to human well-being. That much appears clear.

I cannot bring myself to affirm that leaving in place “feckless schools, self-serving bureaucracies, rapacious public-sector unions pillaging the municipal fisc, and malevolent political leadership that is by no means above exploiting racial sentiment in order to hold on to power” is the definition of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.


Written by Michael Duenes

August 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm