“Black Leaders” — from *Bulworth*

Most people, if they remember the movie Bulworth (1998) at all, remember Warren Beatty’s Senator Jay Bulworth and his bad socially conscious rapping. He has some big monologues about the media and race relations and healthcare. But for me, the best moment is this one, an exegesis of black leadership spoken by Halle Berry’s character Nina. Nineteen years later, there’s still a lot that rings true. I couldn’t find it anywhere else online, so I wrote it out here.

Bulworth: Why do you think there are no more black leaders?

Nina: Some people think it’s because they all got killed. But I think it has more to do with the decimation of the manufacturing base in the urban centers. Senator, an optimistic, energized population throws up optimistic, energized leaders, and when you shift manufacturing to the sunbelt and the third world you destroy the blue-collar core of the black activist population. Some people would say the problem’s purely cultural, the power of the media that’s continually controlled by fewer and fewer people. Add to that monopoly of the media, a consumer culture that’s based on self-gratification, and you’re not likely to have a population that wants leadership that calls for self-sacrifice. But the fact is, I’m just a materialist at heart. So I look at the economic base. High domestic employment means jobs for African Americans. World War II meant lots of jobs for black folks. That is what energized the community for the civil rights movement of the fifties and the sixties. An energized, hopeful community will not only produce leaders, but more importantly it’ll produce leaders they’ll respond to.

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