Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Racial and Social Consciousness

BOND: Shifting gears a little bit, how does race consciousness affect your work? Are you a leader who advances issues of race or society or both? Is there a distinction between these?

LEE: In America, there shouldn't be a distinction, but there is. And I think Katrina showed us the deal, you know. When you have a government that abandons people, that allows people to hang on their roofs fending for their lives and slow to respond like this government did, then one has to remember that race continues to be a factor in everything that we do in our lives, And so I believe it's very important, and I think African Americans have that unique niche, you know, because of our history of slavery, Jim Crow segregation. Who else has the moral standing to deal with this stuff and to take on all of those issues that we have to take on to make not only America better for African Americans but for everyone. If we don't do it, then who will?

But race has got to be part of everything we do. No ethnic group will back off of who they are, you know. You need to understand and people need to — black folks never should forget that they're of African descent. We're African people, and so why in the world would race not be a factor for us and yet it's a factor for every other group.