Incredibly, the Governor of Iowa has nominated me for a place on a statewide commission.1 My nomination is pending confirmation by the state senate in April. It is an out of the way, low level commission. The stakes are low. There won’t be any Godfather II or Clarence Thomas drama to the hearings.
At least I don’t think so. If you see a clip of me on television in a hearing room yelling, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!,” then you’ll know something has gone horribly and irretrievably wrong.
The thought of being in government has given me pause. Those who know me know that I have lots and lots of opinions. I offer them freely knowing none of them matter or will be put into law. I was the loudest guy in the gym yelling at the coach, the refs, and the players. Now, there is a chance I’ll actually be in the game. Time to sober up.
If confirmed I will serve on the Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans. Among other duties the Commission considers, reviews, and recommends policies, legislation and administrative rules that will improve the quality of life for Iowa’s black population.
Of course such a commission should not exist. In a sane America the phrase “black leadership” would not exist. We would not need a special commission based on race. Politically speaking the black leader in Iowa is Kim Reynolds. She is the governor of Iowa and black Iowans are Iowans, too, subject to all of the laws of Iowa. But we don’t live in such a country. We live in a country dominated by grievance.
Americans generally are miserable and unhappy and have been for about 250 years. We are so entwined with our misery and unhappiness we had to tell the world about our condition. We wrote it into our founding document like it was a diary entry and mailed it to King George III. “. . . endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. . .” is how It goes. Obviously, you don’t have to pursue what you already possess.
Unhappy people have grievances. The American government was erected to address those grievances. You tell a guy about your problem. He argues with these other guys about whom to blame and how to address your problem. They agree upon a solution and write a document that acknowledges your complaint and spells out what will be done about it. Finally they send it to the last guy in the chain who signs it (usually in front of children for some reason) and it becomes law. Your problem is solved.
We have 51 such governments designed to alleviate our unhappiness but you’ve probably noticed the level of noise and anger is only rising. What is a Christian called into this mess supposed to do? That is what I’ve been trying to work out in anticipation of acquiring real power to advise the people in authority.
RESTORING BROKEN BONDS
Thinking out loud here on the esteemed pages of the Heidelblog, I’ll start with this: I am a Presbyterian and we confess “. . . it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people. . .”[WCF Chapter 23.3].
My first aim as a Commissioner will be to acknowledge, affirm, and buttress the dignity of Iowa’s black citizens. Of all the competing platoons America has been divided into the black American faction might be the sorriest and most miserable. It certainly is the most poorly represented.
According to the Pew Research Center, from 1970 through 2018 the largest income gap in America was inside the black community. Blacks in the 90th percentile earned nearly ten times what blacks in the 10th percentile earned. That bifurcation expresses itself in whose grievances are addressed, and in who gets to be in front of the camera speaking on behalf of black America.
The bottom percentile which contains the 30 percent of black America that lives below the federal poverty level and a good portion of the blue collar working class care about jobs, education, and crime. Their concerns are ignored in favor of the boutique anxieties the black elite have about issues such as nooses in NASCAR garages, getting heckled while playing professional tennis, or the suicide rates of black transgender men.
When mass immigration washed away the job prospects of lower class blacks the black elite responded with talk about “black and brown coalitions” i.e. learn Spanish and stop complaining.
When public schools in black school districts produce “students” with GPAs of 0.13 which still places them almost in the top half of their class the black elite sides robotically with teachers’ unions. Educators (as teachers are known now) with advanced degrees are seen as peers for the black elite. The 30 year old mother living in public housing with her 14 year old who reads at a first grade level is not seen a peer.
Homicide is the leading cause of death for black men under the age of 44. Black people in high crime districts want plenty of police on hand to keep watch but the black elite, until recently, were in a frenzy to defund the police.
After the victories of the Civil Rights Movement a large section of black America was set adrift—not by the federal government—but by the blacks in position to take advantage of the new found civil equality. Black flight from black neighborhoods and institutions was more damaging to black America than white flight from newly integrated areas. The bonds of suffering that bound the black community were discarded.
These enervated black communities have been fighting on their own for fifty years now. It has been my experience that there are almost always someone or some group in those hard pressed ghettoes working to bring order to the chaos. They are like artists who specialize in making beautiful collages from items discarded onto sidewalks or in alleys but they do it with people instead of junk. They have experience and wisdom that is rarely relied upon in the corridors of power. They sometimes have a gold tooth, or out of date hairstyles, or don’t use the King’s English.
The elites look down on them but they are the people finding jobs and transportation for ex-offenders trying to make a break from their criminal history. They are the people making sure the young, single mothers learn how to care for a baby. They are the people trying to keep there from being so many young, single mothers in the first place. They are often Christians but they have theological views that make people in our (Reformed) circles cringe so no bridges are built.
I had the privilege to work for a truly great man—Robert Woodson—and he liked to say, “Those suffering the problem must be involved in the creation and implementation of the solution.” I intend to follow that maxim. Lord willing, as a Commissioner I’ll find and bring these people to the attention of lawmakers.
LESTER MADDOX IS STILL DEAD
As a Commissioner I will also be concerned about protecting the good name of the white citizens of Iowa. Assigning blame and malicious intent to people because of the color of their skin is wrong and no one in government should be countenancing it. Of all the people in this country black people should know that. I’m not going to stand for it.
I always laugh when I hear White Supremacy being blamed for the vexations of black America. As if. It’s more like White Flattery than White Supremacy to think that, in 2022, white Americans have the kind of omnipotence to control the marriage rate among blacks, or the rates of drug use, or the crime rates. When I go to the Southside of Chicago to visit my daughter or south L.A. County to visit friends and relatives it’s not the Klan about whom I’m worried.
White America doesn’t have the time to oppress us if it wanted to anyway. Broken families: Rising single motherhood. Fentanyl. White folks have enough on their plate to keep them from worrying about us. It must puzzle white Americans to hear about their ubiquitous and vicious racism in a country that produces more black millionaires than anywhere else in the world.
Black Americans are not puppets under the control of an invisible white hand. We are not so fragile that one encounter with a genuine bigot will end our dream of graduating from high school or opening a business. That summation of our current predicament is an insult to the integrity and dignity of both groups.
I welcome the opposition and name calling my stance will invite. It will give me a platform to talk about the God-given agency black Americans have displayed over the centuries, how black people built schools, built businesses, and maintained families in the face of state sanctioned bigotry. It will give me a chance to remind the grievance-gripped gentry class of black America that their success is ultimately owed to the disenfranchised millions who prayed for it through the years in humble churches and wretched circumstances.
I’ll be on the Commission representing the interests of the discarded and disfavored with as much as vigor as I can muster. Iowans are polite but politics is a rough and tumble game even on the minor fields. Please pray that I employ as much wisdom as vigor and that I don’t forget the forgotten people I want to serve.
©Wendell Talley. All Rights Reserved.
Mr. Talley informs us that he has indeed been appointed to the commission. Your prayers are appreciated.
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