Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Race Consciousness

BOND: Let me ask you a question that you've answered in an interview. How does race consciousness affect your work? Do you see yourself as a leader who advances issues of race or society or both these? Is there a distinction between them? Is there such thing as a race-transcending leader? Now, you said, "I never take into account what a black columnist or a black man would say about this issue, what he ought to think about this thing." So how does race consciousness come into your work?


RASPBERRY: I think race consciousness is a part of who you are. It's not a switch you flip and say, "I'm going to now do my race conscious thing." I mean, if you can imagine looking at the world as a human being in a world that includes a lot of animals that are not human, you don't have to say, "I think I'll look at this from a humanistic point of view." You will look at it from the point of view of a human being because that's what you are.


I will look at political issues and other many social issues from the point of view of the person my experience has forged me into being. I will look at it as man would look at it, as a short man would look at it, as a married man would look at it, as a black man would look at it, and as an American black man would look at it. It's what I am. It's what I have, and I don't have to flick on these various switches or turn them off to get a clearer picture. It's what I meant when I say I try to look at my world through as many windows as I can find that give onto the subject I'm discussing. Race is one of those windows and I would not ever counsel anybody that what you see through the window of race is false or misleading. It's just not all.


BOND: When you yourself are looking out or appearing before a group of people -- your students or a speech audience -- are you different? Do you have a different style when you're talking with an all black or a mixed group or a predominantly white or all white group? Are you different on these occasions?


RASPBERRY: Probably, yeah. I think it may be unavoidable. I'm different when I talk to old people than when I talk to young people, to college people, and when I talk to guys I go to football games with. Yeah. The frustration is when you try to think of one of these persona as the real you and the others, then, must be some phony you.


BOND: Artificial you.


RASPBERRY: And they're not artificial. They're all aspects of you. It's one of the fascinating things -- one of the fascinating things you can do is invite lots and lots of people you know from various aspects of your life to a party at your house where you are the only thing they have in common. And you find yourself, when you're trying to work the room and float around, talking not only about different things but in different styles to the various people there. That's a form of multi-lingualism.


BOND: It is, and I've never heard it put quite that way.