Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Black Leadership: Obligation to Others

BOND: Do you think that black leaders have an obligation to help other African Americans? Is there a point at which that obligation ends and one can pursue his or her own professional ambitions, that you can — if you have an obligation to the race, does it stop some time and you can go on about your business?

IFILL: No, it never stops. It only stops if somehow you wake up the next day and you’re no longer of color. I can’t imagine it stopping. It’s an obligation but it’s not the same obligation for everyone. It doesn’t mean you get up in the morning and put the bag of stones over your shoulder and say, “Okay, here I go on that uphill battle to save the people.” Everybody has a different role to play, but it doesn’t — but you still have to always be clear about who you are and what your role is and how you got there. You didn’t just land there by accident because someone decided you were great. Often, race played a factor, positive and negative, in whether you got there or whether you didn’t. Just factor that into your thinking and keep going.

BOND: Or it may well have played a role as a motivator.

IFILL: Absolutely.