By Juan Williams
The most frequently asked question about black leadership in America today is: Where is the next Martin Luther King Jr.?
(Illustration by Sam Ward, USA TODAY)
In one sense, the question is misguided. Increased integration has created options for black leaders that did not exist a generation ago. Think of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as secretaries of State, Stan O’Neal as chief executive and president of Merrill Lynch, Richard Parsons as head of Time Warner and Ken Williams as general manager of the baseball champion Chicago White Sox.
The list goes on.
But the continuing focus on the next King is not really about a shortage of black people in leadership positions. It’s about who is at the forefront of the ongoing fight for racial equality in the nation. Who is taking leadership on difficult questions, such as how to respond to the disproportionate poverty among black and Hispanic Americans? Who is pushing to get answers to the high rate of out-of-wedlock births among blacks, now at nearly 70%? And who is dealing with shocking dropout rates for young black and Hispanic high school students, now approximately 50%, as well as the awful achievement gap for students of color who do stay in high school?