[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: The Fallacy of Designating Leaders

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Fallacy of Designating Leaders

Those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis know that I'm often very critical of Leonard Pitts' columns. More often than not, they leave me scratching and shaking my head.

Having said that, his latest column decrying America's knee-jerk reaction to appoint certain people to be "leaders" is right on the money. There. I said it. I agree with Leonard Pitts. This one time.

The first sentence sets the tone perfectly:
Beg pardon, but who died and made Al Sharpton president of the Negroes?
Pitts continues:
I don't begrudge (Jesse) Jackson or Sharpton their fame. Jena, La., might have gone unnoticed had they not used that fame to direct public attention there. Still, I question whether we ought not by now have grown beyond the notion that one or two men can speak for, or offer absolution in the name of, 36 million people.
But beyond the strengths and weaknesses of the men who seek to be charismatic leaders, there is a sense that the job itself has grown obsolete. Who, after all, are the nation's white leaders? To what one man or woman do you apologize when you insult white folks? Doesn't the very idea that there could be one person deny the complexity and diversity of the population?

Similarly, African America is served by dozens of magazines, websites, television networks and media figures that did not exist when King was killed. So it's about time news media -- and those who will insult us in the future -- get past this notion that one or two people are annointed to speak for 36 million. That is a simplistic, antiquated, and faintly condescending idea.

I speak for myself. Don't you?

The column brought back immediate flashbacks to the fracas in Little Havana in January of this year involving Vigilia Mambisa and a group of young pinhead agent provocateurs. The left side of the Cuban-American blogosphere demanded a public apology from the "Cuban-American leadership", whereas my response was that there need not be a public apology from anyone since the actions of Vigilia Mambisa spoke for themselves and no one else.

I eventually wrote a post about this in which I asked readers to chime in and tell me who the Cuban-American leadership is/should be in South Florida. As I expected, I got no clear answers, which was the correct response to such an ambiguous question. Pitts' argument that no on person speaks for all African-Americans easily applies to any diverse community, including Cuban-Americans.

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