A SUCCESSFUL BLACK ENTREPRENEUR, sat in his first-class
seat on the
American Airlines DC-10. His five-foot-ten, 155-pound frame easily fit into the comfortable
recliner seat. The flight had departed Tokyo an hour earlier, and the attendants were now serving caviar and cocktails. Robert
sipped his Glenlivet on the rocks and reflected on the past three years. As a twenty-five-year-old, he could be considered
one of the many beneficiaries of the civil rights movement. He had grown up in a world dominated by whites and had attended
a predominantly white college, which had been both an advantage and a disadvantage. While it had given him the confidence
that he could achieve his ambitions despite the color of his skin, it had also created a sense of isolation for him. He was
not part of the white world in which he worked, and he was only tangentially part of the black experience. Although in part,
he had been molded by the experiences of his childhood, he had the courage to pursue his vision of the future and he had achieved
a degree of professional success that most people never achieve in a lifetime.
Robert took another sip of the scotch and sat back with his eyes closed. His success
his professional competence, but he still had that nagging emptiness
that many black professionals experience. There
was a void in his life, a need to experience a greater feeling of belonging in both his professional and private lives.
he believed in God, he had not grown up attending church regularly, an
experience that provided a feeling of belonging
for many blacks. There was a time during
his childhood, he remembered, when his grandparents took him to church
Sunday. His grandfather was a deacon and treasurer, and Robert looked forward to
him count the pennies, dimes, and quarters that were given during the offering.
He liked segregating
the coins and placing them into the appropriate packs. The “shouting” and emotion of the congregation during the
him, though, and when given a choice, he chose not to attend. Now, as he thought
his success, he tried to succinctly identify the void that he felt.
Integration was moving ahead in many areas of
American life, and he had placed
his faith in the American way of doing business. Work had been his
passion, and he had
worked hard to create professional success by assimilating into the larger, whiter society.
had believed that if he created a culture of success with the right type of people,
then he would
succeed and build something of meaning that would endure.
But now, he questioned that philosophy and recognized
there were loose ends in his
life that needed to be tied up. His meetings in Japan had provided some of the answers.
dinner, he would take a few hours to summarize his next actions, and then,
hopefully, he would get
a few hours of sleep before landing in Los Angeles.