Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Black Leadership

BOND: In a book called Challenging the Civil Rights Establishment, the authors quote William Allen. And he writes about this – he says, "Thinking in terms of race or gender is dangerous. Until we learn once again to use the language of American freedom in an appropriate way that embraces all of us, we're going to continue to harm the country." Is there a danger of divisiveness when you think about black leadership as opposed to leadership? Or when you even think about black issues? There are more and more people today who, if the NAACP says, "There's racial discrimination over here," who say, "Don't mention that. Think about the things that bring us together, not that divide us."

FLAKE: Yeah. Well, clearly there is a danger of divisiveness. But there is a greater danger if we don't bring certain issues to the forefront. Because those issues are damaging a generation. They not only damage individually, but they damage generationally. I mean, I'll give you a classic case, the Amadou Diallo case. Because I am generally considered to be not totally Democrat, [not] totally Republican. Though I'm a registered Democrat, people did not expect me to be on the line to be arrested because Amadou Diallo was shot. Now, my position was simply that Amadou Diallo is my son. And when I talk to Mayor Giuliani about that, he says, "What do you mean?" I said, "You must understand that middle-class African Americans, these are not -- this is not just a [Rev. Al] Sharpton issue. Middle-class African Americans are upset. Because when my seventeen-year-old and my twenty-year-old go out at night, I am no longer worried about whether they're going to get killed by some gang members. I'm concerned about whether they're going to get killed about a gang of police." Because my kids are not criminal. They don't now how to react when they are stopped and they have five or six guns pointed at their heads. And any movement by them could mean that I'm called to the morgue.

And what you're going to have to do is deal with the reality that this is not just black radicals. These are not just black activists. But these are also blacks like myself. And so if you look at the line of folk who got arrested there, these are middle-class folk who joined with the traditional activists to say, "These are our children." And there were times when you've got to raise the racial issue. Because people have to become sensitized to the reality that persons like myself have made all these sacrifices, have given ourselves to the benefit of trying to make this a better nation. And yet, we are not comfortable and cannot sleep because our children's lives are being threatened everyday, and not just by those who are the lawless, but by those who also have the responsibility of carrying the law. And you and I have lived through that generation where we have seen if that is not checked, the net result is that it continues. And innocent people continue to die.