Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Impossibility of Race-Transcendence

BOND: Is there such a thing as a race-transcending leader?

BERRY: There are people who think they’re race-transcending leaders or who hold themselves out to be throughout the history of people in the world who hold themselves out to transcend their race just as there are people who hold themselves out to transcend their gender. They don’t really, but there’re some people who believe that— who will be described as race-transcending persons and what that means is they don’t seem to be race conscious or they don’t talk about it or they don’t push it or they don’t try to advance it and therefore others see them as someone who’s trying to be race transcending but they’re never really race transcending if you follow the issue of what happens to the person or what their whole life history is in the end.

As John Hope Franklin often says, you know, when I go to bed at night, even if I’m 90 something, I’m still that little black boy after all is said and done and after everything that has happened, so people aren’t really race transcending. They can pretend to be. They can have a pose to be. They can try to make others feel comfortable with them by being. There’re all kinds of things that you can do, but you don’t really transcend it.