“If any white man in the world says, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.” – James Baldwin
In both 2020 America and the 2020 presidential election to come, I’m shouting “Give me Diversity or Give me Death!” I am saying #TimesUp on the old mold of leadership that says the only template for safe, viable, electable, likable and stable leadership only comes in the form of two white men; that only the white savior leadership model can normalize America and restore order from the Trump tsunami.
I’m pouring ice cold water on the deeply held belief that in order to win in 2020 there has to be a 100% “white flight to safety” at the presidential and vice presidential levels.
I refuse to vote for any ticket from the Democratic Party that puts forth two white men as our strongest way forward to beat Trump and sole path to victory.
To be clear, I will vote! I might even write in a more diverse option. Too many people marched and died for that most sacred right!
But I will not be part of the fallacy of presumptive merit that says only a white man and his fellow white man can save us. Not in 2020 America!
I realize that this vote may be handing the 2020 election directly to Donald Trump, and I can live with that result for what I see as the greater good of recognizing the leadership talent that comes in all forms among us. My protest vote is the revolutionary act of forcing America to open its eyes and see leadership right in front of it; the ultimate greater good of demanding diversity and true qualified representation!
If we cannot find one presidential or vice presidential nominee who is a woman, or Hispanic, or African-American, or Asian, or member of the LGBTQ community among this hyper-diverse field of current Democratic candidates, then when will we ever be able to recognize alternative templates of leadership? If not now, then when?
As we recount our highest ideals and national DNA — “When in the course of human events…” — there have always come critical mile markers, and the 2020 Presidential election is one of them. This is our “Fierce urgency of now” moment as Dr. King implored to the white moderates who once said wait!
America is no longer striving to be Diverse — America is Diverse! It is not 1960, it will be 2020!
One straight white male and any other person of color or female candidate is much more in line with who America really is and what America will truly become. Two straight white men have not represented America as a whole for quite some time, yet we keep defaulting to this “white male savior” template of leadership in almost every business executive, senior national political leader, sports franchise owner, movie superhero and media mogul?
People continue to wonder why Fortune 500 CEOs resemble the all-straight white male club in modern America when we all know the true demographic facts of who WE are as a nation.
How many more times must we tell ourselves that the only person who looks and talks and acts like a leader only comes in one easily recognizable package? How many times must we program our own internal code to discount our own viability?
My argument is simple: Enough is enough! #TimesUp, no diversity = no vote!
America only truly changes, and stretches, and grows, when we hold its feet to the fire vs. a dire alternative course. When Rosa sits down or Stonewall acts up or Kaepernick kneels – and sometimes that brutal flaming alternative looks like the all-encompassing conflagration that is 4 more years of the Trump Administration.
I’m no longer asking people to choose the lesser of two evils, I’m asking them to remove the evil lens of monolithic leadership from the table and find a new way forward that recognizes the diverse leader in us all and the true strength of what makes America great!
There has always been an argument for gradualism, slow and steady change, and that argument got us women’s suffrage and civil rights after fighting for each inch of progress for well over a century.
I’m not throwing gradualism out the window completely, as I’m willing to compromise on at least 1 of the 2 ticket candidates being a diverse leader.
But I am saying that with the current diverse field of leadership candidates, you must be able to prove to me that there is not one worthy addition to the 2020 ticket for POTUS or VP that can actually win? Prove to me that the only way to lead and win is the same way that got us 44 of 45 Presidents in 243 years that happen to be all white men?
How does that represent modern, diverse America, and more importantly, why does that always seem to be our default answer for our “best and brightest” argument?
Where is the NFL “Rooney Rule” of Presidential Politics that ensures that diverse candidates are at least seriously considered and interviewed as part of the national discussion to lead our great nation?
America, let’s find a way to recognize leadership and electability in all its forms. Let’s find a way to celebrate who we truly are and what we truly value as a country. E Pluribus Unum.
Sadly, I fear old habits that say: If all you have is a hammer, every solution begins to look like a White Male!
Kwame Jackson is a global contributor for Newsweek and a frequent political commentator for CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and NewsOne. Best known for his inspiring leadership performance as the Runner-Up on Season 1 of NBC’s Apprentice, Kwame combines his Harvard Business School, Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble corporate pedigree with thoughtful civic engagement, and an affable nature that allows him to touch audiences from the Boardroom to the Barrio as a sought after professional speaker and U.S. Department of Commerce National Entrepreneur Awardee. Currently, on a year-long, 50 country global leadership, research and writing sabbatical, you can find Kwame training to complete the 6 World Marathon Majors and on Twitter and Instagram @kwameinc.