Home > Publications > What’s Under the Hood? (Or, Can a Black Woman Really Lead?)

By Dr. Danielle Moss Lee

Why would anyone choose to lead these days? I mean, our country is struggling mightily, morally, and spiritually depending on who you ask. The aspirational democracy we hoped to become is either living up to its potential or slipping through our fingers depending on whom you ask. Maybe my anxiety about the shape we’re in overblown. Maybe it’s the expansion of technology, and the fact that the news chases me wherever I go: on my radio, on my television, alerts on my laptop, alerts on my mobile phone. The mess of this world seems inescapable. I feel like Rockwell in that 80’s video with that haunting refrain Michael Jackson sang, “I always feel like…somebody’s watching me.” I know what you’re about to say. In an age where there are surveillance cameras on every corner, somebody is always watching me. Feedback, interference, noise…they are all everywhere.

The mess – mess is defined by a widening gap between rich and poor, endless racial disparities in access and opportunity, explosive rates of homelessness and the expansion of the prison industrial complex to name a few – we’ve created, and that we’ve watched others create, is everywhere. Why would anyone choose to lead right now? Our country feels like a Type A career mom who’s late for work with a screaming toddler in a stroller in tow and the contents of her handbag spilled onto the floor of the elevator, contents that include a not so discreet feminine hygiene product, in front of a male neighbor. America is messy right now. Why would anyone choose to lead anything? And, most importantly, why would I, an unapologetically sane Black woman, choose to lead? Why would I choose to step from behind the shadows of the mythologized Mammy, the fictionalized Cleopatra Jones, the contemptible “Black Welfare Queen”, and the Curiously Exceptional, Inadvertently Brown, and Decidedly Asexual Black Superwoman into a well-lit target range to lead anything? I ask myself this question often. The answers always make me weep. The answers make me smile.

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