Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Social Consciousness: Race

BOND: In a book called Challenging the Civil Rights Establishment , a man named William Allen is quoted. And he writes that it's dangerous to continually think in terms of race or color, and that instead, people like yourself ought to be using more general language, the American language of freedom, rather than this focus on race. That to do so narrows you, and narrows the audience to whom you're speaking.

GRAVES: Well, I don't know Mr. Allen, but he must be on a different planet that I am because when you look at this world in terms of where we have to go – you can obviously take out any place other than New York City – if we're not focused in terms of how we're going to get a piece of the action as African Americans, or working with our brothers in the Latino – and sisters – in the Latino community then you're not part of the real world. We have got to have a focus. As an African American, this is never going to be perfect life while I'm down here on earth. That is for sure. And therefore, my goal is to see what I can do to make it as perfect as I possibly can for other African Americans, for myself, and for the society as a whole.

BOND: What about, "You're just dividing us. You're just drawing lines between people. You talk about black and Latino and white. Why don't you talk about all of us, Americans?"

GRAVES: Because reality says that all of us – I mean the lines of racism in this country are still very strong. You can go to New York and find out that you live in one community and you try to move to somewhere else, you're still not going to be welcome, and the fact is that you have to look at the realities of where we are and say, "How can I fix this? What am I going to do?" And then you are going to have friends. I have – we have social events at our home where all of our black friends, and I enjoy those events. There are times that we have situations where we invite our white friends and that's an enjoyable evening, also. But if you ask me do people feel better within their own? The answer is – unless they've grown up in a much different society, they do. Now I think our sons, my sons and your sons and in your case your daughters also, they have grown up in a different environment. These young people here at the University of Virginia, because they have worked together and studied together and prayed together, they will have friends both black and white where they wouldn't think of having something where they would not have, quote, "their white friend" at that event. For the most part our sons see things that way – I mean my sons and my wife's sons – same sons. So I think that it is a matter of age. I think that it is a matter of age, I think it is a matter of experiences, and I think it's a matter of which way our society is moving. It is not moving as fast as you and I would want it. Are we making progress? Yes. Are we making it to the extent we need to? No. And in New York we have a long way to go.