Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Understanding Race

BOND: In a book called Challenging the Civil Rights Establishment, the authors quote William Allen who writes, “The danger of continually thinking in terms of race or gender — ” He writes, “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 this country.” Do you see a danger of divisiveness when we focus on the concept of black leadership?

IFILL: I don’t, because it depends on what you mean by that. I think that when you look at where we have come in my lifetime, the fact that there is such a thing as black leadership and it’s not completely defined by black folk voting for black folk, it’s quite remarkable and worth exploring and talking about why it is and how we’ve come to this point. I don’t think it’s — that’s the idea that it’s somehow to talk, to speak its name, is to somehow be negative or to put us in a difficult position. We have to speak its name. It hasn’t gone away. There is still a tremendous amount of, and I hate to use the word racism because people get all worked up about that word, but it’s a question of someone thinking that you’re taking something from me. We’ve got to talk about it. How do we even get to the point where we understand how we as a country are growing or how we’re evolving unless we at least mention it and then find out what it means? Half the time we’re speaking at cross purposes about what we mean when we say race.