Black leadership or pleadership?

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

This famous quote from Frederick Douglass brings to mind the predicament of Black folks in this country relative to those upon whom we depend to put forth our demands for political reciprocity. Are they really leading (demanding), or are they simply pleading?

The term “Pleadership” was `coined by Kenneth Price, my friend and business associate from the post-Million Man March days. He used to talk about how our so-called leaders were not using our collective leverage to attain the goals we sought. Instead he suggested they resorted to merely “pleading” rather than leading. Looks like the same is true in many circles today.

Quick to react
We are long on rhetoric and short on action, high on emotion and low on involvement, quick to react and slow to get in front of issues that will negatively impact us.

And many of our “leaders” are nothing more than “pleaders” kowtowing to the whimsical winds of politics, looking out for themselves only, and trying to make us believe they are “all that” when it comes to influence.

There is still a lack of what Ron Daniels calls, “operational unity,” as our “leaders” refuse to work together to achieve an overall goal for Black people in this country.

I ask the question again, “If we are so smart…?

Another problem is that Blacks are unwilling, to a large degree, to follow the path of Marcus Garvey and others who advocated and demonstrated the primary importance of establishing and maintaining an economic foundation.

We have opted for political empowerment instead, which always begs the question: What is the economic result of our political involvement? Has it propelled us to a position of leadership, or has it reduced us to a position of pleadership?

Economic self-determination
Haven’t we suffered enough from political shenanigans to finally change the way we select, promote, and follow those who pretend to be “leaders”? We are confused and child-like in so many areas when it comes to our own economic self-determination.

To top it all off, we are still trying to find out “Who is Black in America?” It’s shameful that in many circles, we don’t even know who we are.

The “one drop” rule was imposed by White people, and for centuries it has been the law of the land. Suppose they had said anyone who has one drop of White blood is White. The point is that he who defines you controls you.

We must define ourselves and we have an obligation to define our leaders, and assure they are not merely “pleaders.”

Choosing right leaders
Historian Carter G. Woodson wrote, “Negroes, however, choose their leaders but unfortunately they are too often of the wrong kind.

Woodson offers this sobering thought on Black pleadership rather than Black leadership: “No people can go forward when the majority of those who should know better have chosen to go backward, but this is exactly what most of our ‘misleaders’ do.

Not being learned in the history and background of the race, they figure out that there is no hope for the masses; and they decide, then, that the best thing they can do is exploit these people for all they can and use the accumulations selfishly. Such persons have no vision and therefore perish at their own hands.”

Black Leadership or Black Pleadership? Not only do we get the leaders we accept; we also get those we deserve.

Jim Clingman is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website,



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