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What does it mean to be ‘black leadership?’

By Adam B. Coleman 

There are people within America that believe black Americans should take their cues from the men and women deemed as ‘leaders.’ They’re supposed to be our societal leaders that speak for us and give us commands on how to move in a manner that is authentically black. 

Ignoring the leadership’s demands or questioning how they were placed in such an authoritative role, is viewed as a traitorous act. Many dare not to be seen this way. 

Black Americans are the only race of Americans expected to have some form of race-oriented leadership. We’re expected to have put people on a pedestal who speak on behalf of all black people. If not, then at a minimum, put people propped up by the political and media establishment as our leaders. 

Are there influential black people? Of course. Are there inspirational black people? Absolutely. However, is there such a thing as a black leader? I’d argue there isn’t. 

To be fair, I don’t think any demographic has an ethnic group leader nor do they have the expectation to anoint one. 

Where are the Asian leaders? Where are the Latino leaders? You likely can’t answer these questions because the expectation of such leadership has no steam within America. The next plausible question is, how did we make it to this point? Why do we believe such an archetype exists? 

I believe this accepted belief stems from the civil rights era. Men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X received notoriety and infamy for their advocacy for the advancement of black Americans. However, were they leaders? 

This is the part where we play a semantic game of what the term leader means and how someone is a leader. For one, I would agree that they were leaders, but what were they leaders of? 

They were leaders of their own movements and even between those men, they had opposing views as to how you should go about helping black people in American society. They were even men of different religious belief systems. 

Even if we were to say that these were the only two paths to take during that time period, you had the choice in the matter as to which path you believed was suitable. 

But were they black leaders? They were admirable men and leaders of their particular movements, but they weren’t the arbiters for what all black Americans should or should not do. I believe Americans misrepresented these larger-than-life men, who were fighting for a cause, as being the leaders of an entire race of people. 

This mindset of believing there is a grand authority over black people has overshadowed the neutral black people or ones with mixed opinions about a variety of situations. 

The word ‘leader’ is defined as the one in charge or in command of others. The term ‘black leadership’ references a supposed ‘leader of black people,’ not a political movement or organization. 

I’ve heard this term used countless times without referencing any particular organization. It is instead used to determine who speaks for black people and who determines the emotional state of black Americans. 

The mainstream media and political establishment are in full lockstep with our supposed black leadership while getting financed by the same donors. Ask yourself, who is leading who? 

When billion-dollar corporations finance our ‘leaders’ in exchange for the allowance to say your black life matters on the side of their products, the question doesn’t have a simple answer. 

I may be playing a semantic game, but I believe words matter, and how those words are used matter as well. 

No demographic requires, nor needs, someone to determine what their actions should be. More so, no demographic should allow the political establishment to pedestalize certain individuals for the purpose of speaking for a large & diverse group of people. 

Allowing the establishment to utilize these people to speak for us only keeps us silent and places their initiative ahead of our personal interests.

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Adam B. Coleman

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