Tag Archives: Frederick Douglass

Absolute Power Concedes Nothing

Smashing The Table Of Nationalism

U.S. President Richard Nixon (left) standing w...

U.S. President Richard Nixon (left) standing with former president Lyndon Johson outside the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, 05/22/1971 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Power concedes nothing without demands.” That’s a quote attributed to abolitionist intellectual Frederick Douglass. Ever since I was a kid, I have been blessed/cursed with a sense of what group of people have the power; in short, to observe who has the power, and then be compelled to ask why. Whether it is acknowledging the first kid usually picked to be on your kickball team during recess or side-eyeing the events hosted by the most active student groups on campus, power analysis has somehow always been important to me.

One thing I am learning about power (because it continually teaches) is that power is so seductive in the way it functions, that persons who do not do engage power/the Powers critically, may often times wind up defending the powerful and being complicit in the oppression of victims who go unseen. Perhaps when persons learn about powerful people in the past, deep down there may be an a desire to have the kind of power this or that person had, without taking into consideration the differences in their respective environments.

I know that at one time I was guilty of this myself, as a political science minor in undergrad, I took a look at the problems on campus, and I used to think maybe if there was someone as ambitious as a Lyndon B. Johnson or Richard Nixon, she would be able to implement all the changes she wanted, by any means necessary. I didn’t consider to think the collateral damage, the Southern Strategies of Nixon or the foreign policy mistakes of LBJ; this mentality does not limit itself to politicians. Influence is power, and people who want it, will protect people who have it. This is what happened with the Hugo Schwyzer saga. What would drive a prominent Southern Baptist leader to prefer cover ups over church issues rather than be open about them, or go to the media? Only persons in love with power. Who would not bother to confront pastors’ teaching white supremacist understandings of Scripture? People infatuated with power.

Our vocation as Christian thinkers isn’t to run from those in power here on Earth, or/either to run to those power in awe; ours is a calling to watch where the power flows and moves. To see power as solely influence is highly problematic. We need to also see it as a collection and patterns of movements from human bodies, but not just those bodies at the top who are “in charge.”  Power must be assessed from the bottom-up, an attentive ear to the least of these, because that is where Jesus, the dunamis theou, the power of God was/is disclosed.

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Before Hillary Rodham Clinton & Sarah Palin

Shirley Chisholm, future member of the U.S. Ho...

Image via Wikipedia


In the 1990’s, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the subject of talk radio and immense scrutiny.  In this decade so far, Sarah Palin has faced comparable criticism, albeit from the progressive blogosphere and t.v. news outlets.

But prior to these two intelligent women stepping onto the public forum, there was a congresswoman from New York who desired to see more women in politics. Interestingly enough, in her speeches at least, she did not say which ideology women should belong, but that they be included would make a difference in U.S. American politics.  As I read her speech, “Your Time Is Now, My Sisters,” I came across some interesting quotes, that I felt lead to share with you all. Keep in mind, this was written in the context where women there were only 10 U.S. Congresswomen and 1 Senator, a world where only 67% of eligible women voted, but what remains true today is that women make less in terms of income than men for those who work full-time jobs.

“We must replace the old, negative thoughts about our feminity with positive thoughts and positive actions affirming it, and more.  But we must also remember that we will be breaking with tradition, and so we must prepare ourselves educationally, economically, and psychologically in order that we will be able to accept and bear with the sanctions that society will immediately impose on us.”

In this instance, like Frederick Douglass the abolitionist thinker who was for pro-women’s suffrage, there is no progress without a struggle. The liberal progressivism of today, with it’s false hopes that everyone will just somehow magically evolve into agreeing with them just does not cut it.

“Women must participate more in the legislative process, because even of the contributions that I have just mentioned that women could bring to American politics would be a spirit of moral fervor, which is sorely need in this nation today.”

What? Is she promising that if a woman, say, ever became the Speaker of the House, that it would be the most ethical Congress in history? 🙂

Sigggh! I digress.

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