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Why Blacks Don't Need Leaders

John H. McWhorter

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Self-proclaimed leaders of black Americans like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and organizations like the NAACP falsely represent the progress black Americans have made.

During a recent CNN special marking the tenth anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, playwright Anna Deavere Smith asked, "Why is it that there has not arisen a single young black leader in the past 30, or even 40 years?" You hear that question often among blacks. Truth is, though, never again will there be a "Black Leader" in the mold of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X--and this is a heartening sign of progress.

Of course, some might consider Reverend Jesse Jackson a Black Leader of the old heroic kind; Jackson himself clearly believes this. But let's be honest: leadership isn't really what Jackson is about...

Jackson's real success has been to benefit himself and his cronies... Before long, though, a man whom many saw as a potential savior for African Americans had become one of America's most accomplished shakedown artists.

To read all this as a crisis of black leadership is to misinterpret what is, in reality, a momentous and wholly positive historical shift...

... Less than a quarter of black families in America live below the poverty line today; by 1995, half were middle-class. Joining the secretary of state and the National Security Adviser, the CEOs of AOL-Time Warner, American Express, and Merrill Lynch are all black, as is the head of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. The mayor of Atlanta is a black woman, something that would have flabbergasted W.E.B. Du Bois, who suffered naked racism in the city. Jackson, Sharpton, and the NAACP preach that racism still dominates black lives, but this charge doesn't jibe with how most black Americans feel: a New York Times poll revealed that only 7 percent of black people thought racism was the most important problem for the next generation to solve, and from 1992 to 2000, the number who felt that race relations were improving doubled, from 29 percent to 58 percent.

Clearly, this is no longer a race that requires the strong hand of a unique visionary to guide it to the mountaintop.

For the complete article go to the City Journal website.



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