More Awesome Black Thinkers and Some Thoughts on Leadership

Last year, I discussed The 5-Link Chain of Great Black Thinkers, and I am pleased to have mentioned the late Dr. Williams before his unfortunate passing in December. This article adds to the list. Keep in mind that these thinkers are individuals I specifically place in the liberty-minded and/or small-c conservative tradition, so the growing body of these thinkers may well be unrecognizable if you have only studied the already well-known body of intelligent black folks on the left.

Within a month of having written the above article, I encountered a video from Brett Weinstein with many more black people that he decided to highlight. At the time, I was only familiar with Coleman Hughes, and the video was interesting enough to note but not interesting enough to motivate another article. I was also at the time only tangentially familiar with Dr. Weinstein for his moderated discussion with Peterson and Harris.

Fast forward to today, I have found two more black intellectual powerhouses and I have become a regular fan of Weinstein’s work, specifically around his analysis of the COVID-19 epidemic and the poor global policy response. I am happy to see that one of these black intellectuals that I have recently grown in appreciation for, Dr. John McWhorter, was in the same video that I had bookmarked about a year ago. That black intellectual round table video with Dr. Weinstein is below:

Dr. McWhorter makes my list of black intellectuals for his convincing argumentation that America has never been less racist. He asserted this directly to Reason in 2019 here, and he made many of the same points in a 2018 public debate wherein he argued that antiracism is at least as harmful as it is helpful. The latter is very much in the line of Sowell, Williams, and others, arguing from pessimistic optimism that racism does exist, but things do continue to get better.

Dr. McWhorter has been a vocal and persuasive opponent of antiracism and future reparations. Dr. McWhorter argues, for example, that affirmative action and other previous measures have already been a kind of reparations, and that future measures of any kind are unlikely to satiate the socio-political appetite of those who clamor for such legislation. Dr. McWhorter’s opposition to affirmative action is consistent with that of Dr. Sowell, which can be seen below:

Tangentially, below a student debate at Harvard in 1994 on Affirmative Action and the Bell Curve. A student refers to academic data already available that indicated that by that time, a wage advantage was given to blacks once IQ is accounted for. I found it a bit funny that the opposition argument decided to attack regression in principle. It reminded me of the way in which modern thinkers of the same group seem to throw data out the window. This means we have had evidence against a racial wage gap and for systematic reverse-discrimination for at least the past 25 years:

The second addition to black liberty-minded or conservative thinkers is the first addition to the list from overseas. Calvin Robinson is British citizen who was recently featured on a spicy YouTube channel that I’ve come to like called Triggernometry. He very much echoes Dr. McWhorter in arguing that racism isn’t really a thing in the UK. Calvin emphasizes the specifically British culture in his comments. I appreciate the conservatism of Edmund Burke expressed richly in his views.

II. Some Thoughts on Leadership

In the Weinstein video there comes a discussion at one point on the difference between a leader and an influencer. Admittedly the distinction is lost on me, and perhaps that’s because my view of leadership encompasses the modern-day social media influencer. This discussion prompts a short reflection on the nature of leadership. I see leadership as taking four forms.

The main way in which I see leadership is a framework first given to me by the economist Dr. Richard Wagner at George Mason University. I don’t know of a good paper he has written on the topic, but he frequently discussed in class that he was working with this idea and that he would like to write a paper on it. This concept is the leader-as-first-mover. Simply put, the idea of a transaction in economics is missing a key concept in which one person initiates the transaction. That person is in some sense a leader. This microcosm of leadership can be viewed with importance in many other contexts. First-mover effects, sometimes advantages and sometimes disadvantages, are well-known across the economics literature. These can alternatively be seen as effects on leaders.

I can also envision a sort of leader-as-commander where someone is a leader because they can force people to behave a certain way, but Dr. Weinstein couldn’t have meant this because he is educated in economics. He provides several points in the same video based in analysis of scarcity and trade-offs. Surely he realizes coercive leadership is net harmful compared to other kinds of leadership, and he wouldn’t support such a thing.

I can also imagine a leader-as-charismatic. This could include influencers and also thought leaders. Thought leadership, though, is likely to overlap with leader-as-first-mover, if it is truly thought leadership and not thought followership.

The final concept would be the concept of a servant-leader. A proactive servant-leader is also a first mover, of course. This would be someone who inquires about what another person might desire. Servant-leaders also command respect due to their work ethic. A software engineering manager who was previously a great engineer, and who may even get their hands dirty and assist when needed, is a concrete example of such a servant-leader. These individuals may also count as leader-as-charismatic if they use their earned respect as a charismatic tool. A servant-leader may be a first mover, but he cannot be only a first mover. Serving is inherently a second-move force because the person to be served must express some demand to be fulfilled.

It dawns on me that the Christian God fills each of these criteria. That seems to me to be verifying in two directions on the concepts of human and divine leadership.

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