I’m spending the evening watching my daughter struggle to get to sleep and I’m listening to a speech by Minister Malcolm from 1965 entitled “Prospects for Freedom.” The minister had the gift of bringing it home – and he was singularly penetrating in that capacity. At the beginning of his speech, he talks about the conditions of the ground in Kenya and the question of “Responsible Leadership.” The essence of his point was simply that Europeans and whites exercised interests in Black leadership in ways that resulted in the emergence of a certain type of leader – and the death or disappearance of another type. In fact, it has often been the case that ethical, conscientious African leaders in the US, in the Caribbean and on the continent have been reviled by Europeans and whites. Frankly, it is hard for a Western capitalist to do business with an honest man representing poor people. Could it really be any other way?
When one considers the material wealth of the African continent with respect to natural resources like oil, gold, diamonds, uranium, bauxite, cocoa and rubber (and that’s the short list), it should not be difficult to understand why the continent is in such disarray today. In a natural contest for leadership, it stands to reason that the best and brightest would tend to dominate leadership positions. However, in a contest for leadership that is determined by the external interventions of interested parties, it would stand to reason that the “winners” would be the most corrupt, ruthless and unscrupulous leaders – precisely because that is the type of behavior required to emerge within the Western paradigm. Could it really be any other way?
This paradigm worked fine for Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega for years. These men were the golden boys of the West until geo-political shifts and a few not-so-wise moves put them in personal peril. In Africa, leaders with a commitment to build infrastructure, heal and teach their people, and provide a future for the next generation are in short supply – and they live in mortal danger every minute of every day. Nelson Mandela was one such leader for decades…and he received precious little support from the West. In fact, the US and Europe greatly opposed his efforts at freedom. The same was true of Lumumba. Instead, the West has supported the crook, the thug, the vandal and the murderer in order to install Black-face terror regimes. In lands riddled with all manner of abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, cultural, etc.), it stands to reason that there would be a ready pool of candidates waiting to snatch national wealth in an instant. It stands to reason that some African persons could be appointed to leadership and usher in the destruction of their nation – pursue the wealth and luxuries of the West – and ignore the mandate to build a viable, sustainable nation. That is the type of work that does not pay well and requires a willingness to confront European and American spies and mercenaries on a regular basis. It requires a willingness to confront starved and desperate Africans working on behalf of the West, or at least in their interests.
It almost requires one to be perfect. And the Western press is always looking for the Perfect Negro. And so are those liberal readers of the Western press seeking absolution of the sins of their fathers and mothers (and selves). The price of Africanity or of Black leadership, however, cannot be perfection. It’s too high a price to pay. None of us can be perfect long enough for it to matter. We can be good and we can work in our own interests, but we cannot always be perfect.
When I look for “Responsible Leadership” I’m looking for something different than the Western world might hope for. I’m looking for the type of leadership that Minister Malcolm referenced in the persons of Patrice Lumumba and others. And in the absence of that leadership (how much is it really needed?), I want to live a life worthy of emulation. That’s it.