Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

A Vision of Community and Understanding

BOND: What is the vision that guides your life? And has that vision changed? Is it different, say, now than it would've been some years in the past?


RASPBERRY: It changes in subtle ways, I think, and what may guide the vision as much as anything is -- let me call it a conceit, a conceit that I am a citizen of an increasingly large community. You know, I was -- my community was my parents' house, and then it was my street and my town and my race and my country. And I'd like to think that as I mature, that the entity in which I claim citizenship grows to include more people and more of a more diverse notion, and I count it a failure somehow if I find some people not fitting into what I consider my community. Sometimes their failure but very often my own, that I have insufficient understanding of how they see the world, what their philosophy is, what their vision is. I usually make myself believe that if we can exchange visions, we can then talk about philosophy and if we can do both those things, we might find ourselves actually agreeing on something.


BOND: But there may be an occasion when someone else's vision and your vision at least appear to be the same, yet they've come to different conclusions than you have about some issue or some question. How do you balance that? Here's someone who seems compatible in every way but ends up at a different place.


RASPBERRY: You know, it doesn't happen as much as it used to and I don't know quite why that is so. My way of thinking about this is that if you want to know what goes on in this building, its -- you may look through that window from the outside and see us here recording an interview and you might conclude that that is a studio of some sort or at least some studio-like thing. That's what's happening in that building. You go and look through another window or somebody else looks through another window and they see a heating and cooling system and say, "Well, that's some kind of a plant in there." And somebody else looks in and sees people eating and say, "Oh, it's some kind of big restaurant." And nobody will be wrong. They may be describing quite accurately what they see. And yet they're not wrong but they're all incomplete.


BOND: It's like the elephant and the blind man.


RASPBERRY: The elephant -- the blind man and the elephant, exactly so. And my response to that insight is to try to look at the world I occupy through as many windows as I can make available including the windows of people who reach a different conclusion than mine, and I don't want to necessarily beat up on them and say, "You've come to the wrong conclusion, but tell me what you see when you look through your window. And I assume that what you see is real, so tell me about it. And I'll tell you what I see when I look through mine and maybe we'll both get a better sense of what's inside this building."


BOND: Do you ever think that you're looking at a mirror and I'm looking at the window or that we're both looking and you're not just seeing anything? That is, do you have a certainty of your view being the view? Conclusions may be different about what you draw, but your view is the view?


RASPBERRY: What I have is a belief -- maybe misguided to some degree, but it's a belief I carry -- that I'm smart enough to be honest about what I see when I look in the window. And I get a little impatient with people who simply will not see what's pointed out to them not because they have a blind spot but because they fear that to acknowledge that they see this thing will be to acknowledge that they see something else and that they will be salami-sliced into changing their view.


I have tried to have a philosophy that says if you change my mind by giving me new information and new facts and new ways of looking at things, this is not a disaster. This is growth. This is what education is. So I've tried not to be wed to a conclusion just because it's comfortable. And because of that, I find that I can be reasonably genuine in wanting an exchange of views rather than, you know, pretending to want an exchange when all I want to do is open your head and pour my view into your head.