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August 17, 2005

My Kinda Nationalist

This afternoon at the airport where I lost my bluetooth headset on my way to Chicago, I looked forward to the peaceful moments above the country where I could stop engaging my colleagues on subjects of Gay Marriage and Black Militancy, both dubious concepts in which a great number of people other than me have invested much faith and rhetorical fire. Wouldn't you know the cover of Fortune magazine at the newstand dragged me back into the latter.

Fortune begins:

In 1962—less than a lifetime ago—Harvey C. Russell did what no other black man had done before. He became a vice president of a FORTUNE 500 company.

The company was Pepsi-Cola, and Russell, then 44, had been a standout salesman in its Negro Sales Department for the previous 12 years. "Mr. Russell's promotion was based solely on merit," Pepsi's president, Herbert Barnet, told the New York Times a few months later. "He came the hard way and has been one of our brilliant young men for 12 years." But this milestone was not greeted with widespread rejoicing. The Ku Klux Klan called for a national boycott of Pepsi's products. The group flooded the country with handbills that read: DON'T BUY PEPSI AND MAKE A NIGGER RICH.

On the cover of Fortune are old heads and new-jacks, veterans all of that place we call Corporate America. Not long ago I was talking about how Black Nationalism bogarded Corporate America, and while some would call that a militant mindset, I would not. If we have that kind of epistemological difference, that's OK, but I am notorious for parsing words to the extreme, and I'd prefer if people used my terms. Nevertheless there was a particular individual who struck me as different than the rest. His name is Lee Archer, and that's a funky webpage about him.

I also found this interesting clip about Archer:

Governor George E. Pataki unveiled a full-scale replica of a P-51 Mustang fighter as a permanent tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport. The Governor was joined by Lt. Col. Lee Archer, a Tuskegee ace whose aircraft markings are featured on the Mustang, and by leaders of Long Island’s veterans community. The replica will serve as a tribute to the challenge the Tuskegee Airmen faced in confronting a two-front war: the German Luftwaffe and American racism.

Lt. Colonel Lee Archer said, “Governor Pataki has been in the vanguard of the battle against racism in all its repugnant forms. It should come as no surprise that he would now take the lead in creating this fitting tribute to these veterans of 60 years ago. This Mustang represents every one of us who have been willing to fight—and to die—for our nation’s liberties. In honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, you honor the inherent strengths of a nation where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a right guaranteed to all of us, regardless of race, color or creed.”

That's what I'm talking about. Furthermore, here is part of the Fortune article on Archer:

General Foods sent Archer to the University of Pittsburgh to take a graduate course in financial management. He came back a venture capitalist. In 1973 he became CEO of Vanguard Capital Corp., General Foods' minority-business investment company. Two years later he also became CEO of North Street Capital Corp., the company's small-business investment arm; in 1980 he became CEO of Hudson Commercial Corp., a tobacco-investment arm. In those three roles he helped create 74 companies, including Essence Communications and Black Enterprise magazine. Archer also became a key advisor to the late Reginald Lewis in the leveraged buyout deal that created the conglomerate TLC Beatrice in 1987. "Lee is tough, just like my husband," says Loida Lewis, widow of the Beatrice CEO. "Lee constantly challenged him, which made him better. "

The hardest part of his corporate career, says Archer, was knowing who was going to be fair and who wasn't. For the 17 years he was at General Foods, he kept journals with lists of names. The names are divided into two lists: white hats and black hats. The white hats "gave me a shot," he says. The black hats ... Archer stumbles, trying to pick the best bad word he can think of. "It can't be published," he concludes. He won't name names. For him it is enough simply to write them down.

One of the things I hadn't mentioned in the debate about militancy was a couple of books by Price Cobbs. One of them is entitled 'Black Rage' and the one published after that is 'Cracking the Corporate Code : From Survival to Mastery'. I've only touched briefly on the subject of black organizational strategies, but I believe very strongly that what black nationalist organizations began in their move on Corporate America has been the most useful source of knowledge accruing to the state of African America. They owe their success to the inroads made by individuals like Lee Archer and others who put their heads down, rose up and offered a hand. I privilege this set of skills over those acquired through the integration of the Civil Service and of the Armed Forces, just so you know up front. I find men like Lee Archer to be heroic and worthy of emulation. He's what I would call an Old School pioneer.

Now how do I make the hookup?

Posted by mbowen at August 17, 2005 05:20 PM

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here's the funny thing...you don't actually agree with mcwhorter at all. he thinks there are tons of examples of failed black militancy, ie. true militants who were ineffective...you believe there are tons of examples of fake militants who were ineffective, ie. pseudo-militants who were ineffective.


maybe you should let him know that you don't actually have his back and that you have a higher standard that he is more than welcome to meet in order to properly enjoin the conversation.

Posted by: Temple3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 04:08 PM

What's up Cobb?

Maybe I missed something, but Black Nationalism and Corporate America are by nature two mutually exclusive ideologies. Unless I have missed how you redefined Black Nationalism?

Posted by: Dell Gines at August 19, 2005 07:29 AM

Well there is certainly an acknowledged difference between a black nationalist and a black cultural nationalist.

I would say that many black nationalists in the begining might have given a lot of credibility to separatism, but I would say that somebody like James Baldwin would not be a separatist at all. There was nothing in Malcolm's ideology that suggested he was ready to leave America.

I think it is a fundamental mistake to suggest that black nationalism is anti-business. I'll get into this more later.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 08:05 AM

I think it is a fundamental mistake to suggest that black nationalism is anti-business.

Although that's not exactly what Dell was saying, I agree with this comment. Black nationalists at some point figured out that a business suit could be worn as well as a beret. And thank goodness so many blacks with nationalist tendencies lived by the creed that you had to be twice as good as your counterpart to make it twice as far.

They also didn't shrink from insisting, as corporate stakeholders, that their companies embrace diversity as a success factor for corporations. But they had to perform. Incompetent blacks do not last long.

Posted by: brotherbrown [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 09:40 AM

Ooop, Twice as good to make it HALF as far!

Posted by: brotherbrown [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 09:41 AM


don't spend too much time on that explanation because no one can be a nationalist and anti-business because no nation can exist without commerce and trade. so, don't bother. ain't much to be said.

Posted by: Temple3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 12:19 PM

The article August 17, 2005 on "My Kinda Nationalist" was a joke to me. Lee Archer, Jr. is no role model to anyone. The man is a profit junkie who is as addicted to making a profit as a crack head is on a pipe. This man will go on record in my person books as being the the most selfish, heartless and sick human I have ever met. I'm tired of hearing about the "hero" bullshit. I have caught the man lieing so many times I'm not convinced he shot those planes down in the 1940's. Dead men or pilots can't defend themselves. I never knew that "Christmas Carols'" Mr. Scrudge was a real life character." He is, and his name is Lee Archer, Jr. I believe Lee would rather see "the poor in workhouses and prisons, or better yet dead to decrease the population of the poor." Either that author is being a "kissass" or he simply doesn't know this guy. Take it from me. You don't want to either. Nancy A. Jackson of Westchester California.

Posted by: Nancy Jackson at September 2, 2005 01:46 AM

I wonder, then, if his part of getting the investment money for Essence Magazine and Black Enterprise makes up for the fact that he was a jerk.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 2, 2005 10:38 AM

I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. My friends said I dealt with him far to long. I'm sure even Charles Manson did some good. When I asked Lee about his motives lending the money for Essence and Ebony a few years ago he said he did it because he saw the "profit" potential only. He loves to "make a buck." He was not, is not, nor ever will be motivated to help Black people to uplift or raise the consciousenss of Black people, as Dubois or Malcolm would but it. Lee has made the bulk of his profits from his tobacco plantations in the Philippines and on Alcohol. As he puts it, "I'm in the business of killing people." It's my opinion that he'd sell heroin to black children if it were legal. Please focus of the "other" many real "heros." Don't judge a person by his ability to make a profit as being moral or compassionate. Lee does give a damn about Black people. He feels under no obligation to give anything back like so many of those activist and leaders before him. Powerful Lee is. However if you don't have the $3,000.00 to pay him to speak at any benefit, forget it and hire Jesse Jackson for less. I found it difficult to believe 7 years ago too. But after our mutual friend Ted Davidson, who spend years selling Lee's posters on curb sides died penny less, All Lee and Roy could say was "Ted was a terrible business man" when asked to donate to his burial. Ted, about 5"5' was the most loving, compassionate person I have ever known. He spoke highly of Lee and taught Lee's so called Tuskeege history wereever Ted went. Ted's wife said your billionaire demi-god wouldn't contribute $25.00 for punch at Ted's memorial service. Lee will boast about how he and his son's can "do as they damn well please." But if your 2 year old child was carried through the swamps of the Mississippi River by the KKK. You can count on Lee Archer, Jr. not donating one dollar to burying the child. And that is the truth. He doesn't care about Black people or poor people. He saids that Blacks and poor people are that way because they are lazy, and have no drive. So Black people stop kissing this man's ass and calling him hero. And stop paying Lee $3,000.00 to speak at these engagements. There are so many REAL LIFE hero's that deserve the money and the attention. It's just not Lee. You would be better off hiring Jesse Jackson, if you know what I mean? -- now that is a joke.

Posted by: Anonymous at September 4, 2005 10:43 PM

Funny, it makes him seem more like a compelling person. After all, he and the other Tuskeegee Airmen were celebrated for their efficacy in battle. It's an interesting place to start an extraordinary life.

I don't expect that he would be a particularly likeable person, and I doubt that he wants to be judged on the same basis as Malcolm or Dubois. But he clearly has some sentiment for blackfolks considering what he did for Reggie Lewis.

I am interested to know how to bridge the gap between individuals like Lee Archer who have a talent for playing international business and other segements of African America. Here's the thing. Either Lee Archer did business with Lewis because he felt some compassion, or Archer couldn't do business with anybody else. If Archer himself was marginalized as a black American in the business community, then everybody has to sell out. But I suspect that Archer has a serious case of the Sargeant Waters - he just thought most blackfolks were beneath him, because he held himself to an impossible standard. That means he was both obsessed with and embarrassed by blackfolks.

If the latter was the case, then Archer was a man too far ahead of his time. In the end, all he wanted to deal with was the richest of the rich and the most profit oriented blacks in business. The rest of us, he had no time for. So where does his money go when he dies? Good question and certainly some insight into the man.

He's the guy who called GWBush and imbecile, surely there was somebody he admired. Or perhaps he was just a man so single-minded that he had no other passion than making a buck. Which means he probably has a bit to say about Warren Buffett. I happen to believe very strongly that unethical people cannot long succeed in business. Everything is a deal, if you reneg on your promise, there's always a bigger fish who'll call you on it. Archer is obviously not a crook, but you know I wouldn't trust Jesse Jackson with my money...

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 11:07 PM