Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Transcending Race and Racism

BOND: How does race consciousness affect your work? Do you see yourself as somebody who advances issues of race or society, or both? Is there a distinction between them? And is there such a thing as a race transcending personality or leader?

HALL: I'll start with your last question first: can a leader be race transcending?

BOND: Yes.

HALL: I think that a leader can't transcend their race, but I think a leader can transcend racism. I think that because of the society that we live in, because we are primed and socialized to look at people and to judge them based on their color, that you cannot—I cannot not be black to you. I cannot not be black to a white person, to an Asian person, I am black, obviously. But I can make certain decisions and I can accomplish certain goals that despite my blackness, I achieve. I think Oprah Winfrey is a wonderful example of that, where you see this big, brown woman transcending racism. Being one of the richest women in the world, or the richest woman in the world, you know, having control over her empire, but being very proud about being a black woman and being a black woman from the South.

BOND: What about those people who look at Oprah Winfrey, as an example, and say, oh I don't see race? Or look at you, I don't see race.

HALL: They lying. [laughing]

BOND: But I think they think that, they believe that, that they don't see race. And I don't see how that's possible, but…

HALL: I think we as Americans, we always see race. Now, you know, we can get past it eventually. I think, especially when we form personal relationships with people, like, you know, certain individuals can be like, "Yeah, you know what, because I know Katori…I just know Katori. I don't know her as the ‘black' Katori." They don't qualify it, me as being black, but on first glance, we see color first, unless you're blind, then you probably are trying to figure out is this person black or white from the tone of their voice. We're always trying to categorize and I think that's how human beings are.