Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Race Consciousness

LEFFLER: So would you define yourself as a race conscious leader?

BOND: I would define myself as what used to be called a race man. I'm a race man. My grandfather was a race man, somebody who put the race above all. I don't mean that he thought his race was superior to other races. But the concern for the race was above all, and I'm a race man.

LEFFLER: Would you say then that working on issues of race doesn't just improve things for the black man but for the...?

BOND: Absolutely. Absolutely. That's the whole point of things. I'm fond of saying I'm doing America's work.

LEFFLER: So then are you a race-transcending leader? Do you see yourself as...?

BOND: I don't know. I don't think I'm seen that way. I think I am but I don't think I'm perceived to be that way. I think I'm seen as someone who is overly race conscious and therefore cannot transcend race. I'm race fixated. I'm fixed on it, and I think I am conscious of a large world and a complex world we all live in made up of many different people and what helps one helps all. Lifts the whole.

LEFFLER: Do you have a different leadership style when you deal with all-black audiences or mixed audiences or all-white audiences?

BOND: I know I have a different rhetorical style, and it's not radically different, but it is different.

LEFFLER: How is it different?

BOND: Well, if I'm speaking to an all-black audience or a mostly black audience, I tend to speak more in the cadences of call and response, you know, that are familiar to ministers. Not just black ministers, but white ministers now. But it's more associated with black ministers. The repetition of phrases and the repeating of rhetorical questions. I do that deliberately because I know I'm getting a different response. This audience is used to that and in fact expects that. It's disappointed if it doesn't get that. So I'm deliberately different in that response, in that way. But the basic -- I will give the same speech to a black audience tonight and to a white audience tomorrow and get a good response from each audience. But my delivery is very, very different.