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Black Leadership

There’s something I’ve been wondering about for a while and I thought I would throw it out there to the black blogosphere for discussion. I’ve been thinking about black leaders and leadership, not least because of Obama, but also due to other things.

The more I look around today, the more I feel that the men (and it is always men) being presented to us as black leaders or that the media claims are black leaders do not really qualify as such. Jesse Jackson is a fine man, but who really ‘follows’ him? If he told you to boycott something, would you? Al Sharpton is becoming less of a joke, but I still don’t take him completely seriously. Obama is ‘clean’ and ‘articulate’, sure, and I wouldn’t call him an Uncle Tom or anything, but he is not a black leader. In fact, he’s more of a leader leader, which is probably good for someone who wants to be president. I have nothing against that.

So here’s my question: What would a real black leader of the 21st century be like? And, if there is some person out there who fits your qualifications, who is that and why?

8 thoughts on “Black Leadership”

  1. Los Angelista says:

    Initially, my mind is drawing a blank here…and I don’t know if it’s only because I’m still trying to wake up or what. But, I think our leaders have to be people that can’t be bought by corporate and political money machines so we aren’t continuously sold down the river. They have to be people that understand that you can represent all folks, but black people have a cultural and spiritual legacy that needs to be truly respected and advocated for. They have to be someone who does not ascribe to the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality.

    Those are a few things that come to mind and I can think of leaders on a micro level, in the neighborhood, but macro level leaders…???

    You know, I’ve been wondering if black folks are not warming up to Obama because he’s half white and half African (basically what we all are) and so he seems on a surface level like he’s not really “black”, like he hasn’t had the experiences we have had. Hmm…

  2. pllogan says:

    What politician has had the experiences of the ordinary person, though? Not too many at the presidential level, which is sad. Most are wealthy, Ivy-league grads.

    Not directed at you personally, Los Angelista, but I find the whole “have to prove how black you are” thing really disturbing. To me, it smacks of elitism. No one talks about proving how white you are.

    Maybe this comes from lighter folk being more valued in the past, a sort of reactionary thing where darker skin or acting more ethnic now means better. I haven’t yet figured this one out.

  3. Los Angelista says:

    Perhaps what I wrote came across wrong (like I said, I was just waking up) but I don’t think ANYONE should have to prove their blackness. I personally get tired of that. I’ve noticed this whole vibe of, “Obama, is he really down for us?” and “Obama, is he really black enough since he’s got a white momma and an African daddy?” Case in point, Cornel West’s comments about Obama on Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union yesterday. And then, just to make sure it wasn’t just Dr. West playa hatin’, I asked my hairdresser yesterday afternoon what she thought about Obama and she actually commented that Hillary Clinton seemed blacker than Obama because she’s married to Bill. It’s crazy and I haven’t figured it out either.

  4. the angry black woman says:

    Jesus, what is wrong with people?? I know we loved us some Bill, but that’s no reason to say crazy things like that about Obama and Hilary. Seems to me that Obama is indeed down with us. After all, he hasn’t pulled any of that Caublasian crap with us like Tiger Woods did.

  5. pllogan says:

    Oooo, there’s a lot of people who cannot STAND Hilary (most of them white). She’s got it tough. I think this country would rather have any man for president rather than a woman.

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  8. Bruce Dixon says:

    Great question. What would a 21st century “black leader” look like?

    I remember reading a passage in Andy Young’s autobiography, a passage where he quotes Dr. King as saying that leaders should not be like thermometers, reflecting the popular will, but that they should be more like thermostats, setting the moral temperature. Leadership, I’ve always thought, is having the vision to see things they way they ought to be, and then sucessfully communicating that vision and inspiring, motiviating, enabling people to move on that vision. A leader takes us someplace we wouldn’t go without her.

    So now black folks in this country, we’ve got some specific problems that affect us like nobody else — let’s take for instance mass incarceration. We are an eighth the naation’s people, and haalf its prisoners. A real 21st century black leader would have to hatch and begin to execute plans to turn the nation’s policy of racially selective mass incarceration around, just like in the early 20th century Charles Hamilton and others hatched and executed plans that would lead to the end of legal Jim Crow.

    I could talk a lot more, a lot easier about what a leader is NOT.

  9. I am not Star Jones says:

    a real black leader for the 21st century isn’t afraid to be honest about the truths that are facing African Americans today and doesn’t bend over for corporate interests at the first hint of a bag of cash.

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