A Q&A with Delano Squires | WORLD
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Rejecting racial grievance

Q&A with Delano Squires: The case for a new civil rights movement

Delano Squires Photo by Mike Kepka / Genesis

Rejecting racial grievance
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DELANO SQUIRES researches and writes about issues related to faith, family, and culture for the Heritage Foundation. Before turning to public policy, he spent more than a decade working for the District of Columbia government on initiatives designed to help impoverished neighborhoods. As a black, conservative Christian, he’s an anomaly in today’s culture. But that doesn’t bother him. He knows being in the public square comes at a cost—one he’s willing to pay to fulfill his God-given purpose.

MB: Integration was core to the civil rights movement, and there is this argument that integration is the best way to improve black student outcomes. You disagree. Help me understand your argument.

DS: I think the first thing that I would do is make a clear distinction between desegregation and integration. I think desegregation removes artificial barriers that are placed on individuals or groups based on skin color and ethnicity. Desegregation says you can’t bar a black person from going to the school or eating at this lunch counter or going to this hotel or purchasing a home in this neighborhood. I think that is good, proper, and just.

Integration tends to, for me, carry a connotation of force—not just removing the barrier between these two groups but putting things in place to push these two groups together. So for instance, busing. That seems more like an integrationist policy, one that from my research, both blacks and whites equally disliked for many reasons. In some ways, desegregation and integration can look the same. And I realized that in life, every source of energy has a waste product: Even good policy can have unintended consequences.

MB: Who are the civil rights leaders of today?

DS: The modern black leadership class is largely composed of black progressive politicians, pundits, professors, preachers, and performers. And these are the people who shape the discourse around race. They have the most influence in public media, corporate media, and academia. Obviously you still have legacy organizations like the NAACP, which in many respects is not even recognizable from what it was 60 years ago. The types of people who powered that organization, both on a national level and certainly in terms of the local chapters, oftentimes were churchgoing black Christians who wanted a government that treated them the same way it did their white counterparts and who argued for desegregation and wanted access to public accommodations. But now the NAACP is an organization that, in my opinion, makes a lot of mischief in the black community and advocates for positions like abortion on demand and all manner of gender identity and sexual orientation.

MB: The black church was one of the most important institutions in the civil rights fight in the ’60s. Is that still the case today?

DS: I do believe the black church is still one of the most important institutions in the black community. I want to give credit to the preachers who are still laboring in the field and being faithful to their Biblical call and still leading gospel-preaching, Bible-believing churches. I also want to acknowledge that many of the churches that people think of as the black church oftentimes promote a social gospel or some version of black liberation theology. And these are the churches that would posit that income inequality and systemic racism are the highest forms of bondage that black people need to be freed from, not our own sin. So I think those churches are just as influential as they were in years past, but I think that influence is being used for all the wrong reasons. Because basically what they end up being is the chaplaincy for the Democratic Party.

MB: What should today’s civil rights leaders focus on?

DS: The institutions that claim to care about race and equality should be much more focused on rebuilding the black family than they are getting white people, liberal and conservative, secular and Christian, to affirm the value of black lives. I think one of the most important changes over the last 60 years and one of the most necessary things that needs to take place is for black leaders to begin making the majority of our moral appeals to the people who they say they represent. Because today what ends up happening is that any sort of movement that has to do with race, that promises to improve outcomes for black folk—groups like Black Lives Matter—all of the moral appeals of that movement are directed outward.

MB: Why is that problematic?

DS: These are not conversations brother to brother. These end up being conversations that are much more paternalistic in nature, which are more like father and son. Black people play the role of the child crying out for affirmation and attention and help in ways that I personally feel are undignified. And one of the things that I learned from black leaders of yesteryear, pre–civil rights movement—Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Mary Church Terrell—is that uplift can never be outsourced. Because when it is, you leave yourself at the mercy of someone else. And that is not a position that I find attractive in 2024.

MB: You say civil rights today needs to focus on the family and promoting marriage. Why is that central?

DS: I would say it’s important because God designed it. But the reason it’s important is because social outcomes of every type are clearly tied to family structure. Children who grow up in two-­parent homes, or with their married biological parents, do better on a whole host of outcome indicators. They certainly tend to grow up in more economically stable environments, tend to go to college more, go to prison less. And on the flip side, father absence is associated with all types of negative social outcomes. We don’t often think about family formation as a civil rights issue. But I would challenge anyone to rethink that. Children are the new group who can claim that their rights are being violated when all of our family policies today focus on what adults want.

MB: How can we teach the importance of family to the next generation?

DS: We need to introduce children to the success sequence: finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children. The success sequence is by far the simplest, most straightforward way to both promote marriage and an intact family structure and to promote a surefire, time-tested anti-poverty strategy that allows young people to have a sense of agency over their lives. And that to me is far more preferable than telling them that someone else is responsible for the things that they do and what they receive in life.

MB: Do you think that some black families are becoming more receptive to conservative political ideas?

DS: I do. I’m not sure whether that is going to translate into votes. There’s a lot of discussion about who’s to blame for the relatively low number of black voters who support the Republican Party. Certainly, I think the party should take responsibility. If you don’t show up in certain cities or certain states and you don’t run candidates, then people can’t vote for you. And I think that’s a fair criticism.

But the one thing that doesn’t get discussed is the fact that to be a black conservative today is to subject yourself to a great deal of public ridicule and criticism. It’s knowing that you will be called an Uncle Tom and a coon and a sellout. And most people have no interest in being attacked personally or professionally in the marketplace. Most people are not going to do that if it means being ostracized in your barbershop or your beauty shop or in your fraternity or sorority or in your church. So while I think that more black voters are becoming open to conservative politics, I don’t think we’re at a point where you’re going to see a mass defection from the left because there is a very, very high price to pay.

Myrna Brown

Myrna is a WORLD Radio host and correspondent. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course and Luther Rice College and Seminary. Myrna has worked as a TV news reporter, public affairs show host, and producer. She resides with her husband in Spanish Fort, Ala. They have four adult children.



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