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March 14, 2006

The Race Card and Leadership

Derek Shackelford

Recently the Associated Press and the America On Line Black Voices website conducted a survey on who is the nation's most important black leader. The two who received the most support were the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Condoleeza Rice, the current Secretary of State.

I do not know what the criteria for this poll actually were, so it is difficult to determine what the actual questions were. By looking at the results, I can make two distinctions.

One: African-Americans are not monolithic people. African-Americans are just as diverse as any other race of people. The range is from conservative to liberal in terms of political position.

The second distinction is that it may not be who is leading African Americans but who may be the most visible. Both of these individuals should be lauded for their successes. They should be applauded for their work ethic and position of prominence, but what day-to-day contribution are they making to for the betterment of the African American community?

This is not to say that they do not do anything. But are they really looking to better the community which affirmed, reared, and upheld them? Or are they just in it for their own self-interest?

Both Reverend Jackson and Dr. Rice receive mainstream media attention and when there is a situation that needs to be addressed they are sought for comment.

But are they free to tell the truth.

A big part of leadership is having a following. If you are not leading somebody, then are you really a leader? Anyone may be able to be head of an organization, but the leader must speak truth and be free in themselves to tell the truth no matter what the cost may be.

The Rev. Jackson and Secretary Rice appear to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I hope that somewhere they can meet in the middle when it comes to the leadership mantle.

This leads me to examine the campaign for the U. S. Senate in Maryland.

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele has been criticized for some of his positions when it comes to public policy issues that may affect African Americans. Both Democrats and Republicans have used the race card previously in other races and this seems to be no different.

Lieutenant Governor Steele should be applauded for being the first African American to hold his position in Maryland. But this does not mean that his politics will line up with others.

Democrat Challenger Kweisi Mfume has stated that race should not be a factor in the campaign. As good as that sounds that sounds, it is highly unlikely.

If we take can away anything from the poll done by the Associated Press and America On Line Black Voices it is that leadership appears to be different for each of us. So many times we search for answers to our public issues and place our trust in people to solve these dilemmas.

What is obviously missing on the local, state and national scene is leadership. Apparently when it comes to the Democrats and Republicans in Maryland, both parties have played the race card and this leads to nothing but a straight flush from what the people need.

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