CNN’s Don Lemon’s controversial comments about race in America (video)

CNN’s Don Lemon is the latest man-we-love-but-now-must-hate for speaking his mind on a controversial topic. Lemon’s crime: Speaking out on race in a way that ruffled more than a few feathers.


There’s a growing list of topics in America on which you’re not permitted to have an opinion outside of the “acceptable” one.

On some issues, such as having concerns about the mixing of the races (a poll a few years back in Mississippi found that a plularity of GOP voters in the state wanted inter-racial marriage banned), or worrying that gays tend to be pedophiles (another old chestnut from the religious right that was debunked decades ago), I think we do need to come down hard on anyone who thinks those issues are legitimate to even debate – they’re not.

On other issues, however, I think we’re simply stifling debate, and setting back the very issue we claim to be so concerned about in the first place, but Outrage, Inc. always getting in a huff every time an otherwise good person says something we don’t like.

Race is one of those issues that concerns me.

I grew up in Chicago, in a white suburb, in a moderate Republican family, and ended up a relatively progressive Democrat (certainly on social issues, though on national security less so).  So I think I’ve got a decent sense of how at least some white people think on racial issues.  And I think the way many people are talking about these issues in America of late, especially on the left, doesn’t resonate with a lot of people in the middle who aren’t racists, but who also don’t entirely see the issues the way someone at, say, a civil rights group might see them.  In other words, these are people who aren’t entirely there yet, but they’re also not entire bad people either.

I think on the left, on all issues, we need to do a far better job figuring out how to have these discussions with, and win over, people who aren’t our enemies.  Not everyone is Bill O’Reilly and a Fox News viewer, and we need to keep that in mind the next time we declare a former friend an enemy.  (I gave up, for example, on keeping track of whether I’m supposed to love or hate Glenn Greenwald – so I chose to simply like him, regardless.)

Watching Don Lemon’s video below, and then reading some of the responses which I don’t entirely agree with, got me thinking of the larger issue, and how I fear that our constant, and seemingly increasing, outrage on so many issues, whether merited or not, is not educating people in the middle.  And they’re the ones you need to win over, on any issue, if you want things to change.

Here’s Lemon’s initial broadcast:

Here’s a follow-up discussion:

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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151 Responses to “CNN’s Don Lemon’s controversial comments about race in America (video)”

  1. Anthony says:

    Great comment and I totlay agree with your everything stated.
    When men get in their rightful position in life then things will fall in line correct.
    God bless you

  2. Goodhearted says:

    I agree that motivation and determination are prerequisites to success, particularly for those who start off life at a disadvantage. However, black Americans face far more obstacles than do white Americans.. Although you have some successful blacks who deny this fact, most of us know from personal experience that this is true. As you say, we must not use this one factor as a valid reason for giving up. Unfortunately, everybody doesn’t have the same internal drive as your father, and hopefully, you followed his foot-steps, and passed them on to your children.

    Look at the POTUS, who was successful at getting his healthcare Act passed, despite his opponents efforts to destroy him. That was determination. On the other hand, look at all the other good bills that he’s tried to pass, but because of the composition of the Congressional body, they are just sitting on his desk, and many of them have expired. He’s had road blocks that I believe no other president in U.S. history has faced. Do you think this outcome is simply just because of his policies?

  3. Erika May says:

    This is an amazing response to this story. I wish that more people had the same view as you sir. Thank you Mr. Gouldlock for what you have said here and for being firm in your beliefs.

  4. Kittysis says:

    Why won’t our president embrace what he is saying and use his position for good …for once.

  5. PammyWammy123 says:

    Not everyone on the “right” is a racist or a bigot. Not everyone who watches FoxNews is “the enemy”. Racism in America is not a right vs. left issue. It’s a cultural issue that needs to be addressed by everyone on the right and left. Don Lemon’s comments are candid and I truly believe he wants to help people. And I think everyone on the right and left should listen.

  6. BigGuy says:

    Its not enough to encourage parents and teenagers to behave better. Many of them do not know how to behave, and neither do their own parents and grandparents. In the 1930’s, even before he became Mayor, LaGuardia argued that in poor neighborhoods, there should be well baby clinics and day care because there were people who did NOT know how to raise their kids well. He thought there were multi-generations of families who NEVER raised their kids right. Punching boys in the head because they misbehaved was and is unwise. Taking to drink to deal with life was and is unwise. But if that’s how your parents and grandparents were raised, you might think that’s what’s right to do.

    In the 1960’s, Daniel Patrick Moynihan report about Black families to LBJ forecast things to get worse unless attention and money was given to turn things around. He was right. Things did get worse. I think LaGuardia’s and Moynihan’s ideas were good, but they have NEVER been fully tried and NEVER fully funded.

  7. James Gouldlock says:

    All you people railing on Don Lemon, all I hear is excuses. Let me tell you why I agree with him. My foster father who raised me, was born in 1911 in a city called LYNCHBURG, SC. He dealt with REAL Jim Crow racism. And yet, he died a successful man. Not wealthy by no means; but he had his own, he didn’t live on welfare, he held his head high, and he was well respected in the community. Also, he only had a sixth grade education. Yet, my daddy overcame all these obstacles to become a man who took care of his family, raised successful children, and lived a good life. His philosophy? “I can do any thing any other man can do.” He taught me that there is no obstacle that’s too great to keep you from getting what you want out of life. Not once did I ever hear him say, “the white man keeping me down.” He would say, “don’t worry about the white man or any other man, just do what YOU ‘RE supposed to do, and you will succeed.” So that’s what I live by today. I’m accountable for MYSELF. And that’s what the Black community today needs to learn. Yes, there is systematic oppression in America against the Blacks AND the poor. We’re dealing with deep seated racism AND classism. But in the end, our success or failure is still on US. WE make our way. That’s what my daddy taught me. I remember when he told an airplane pilot that if he was allowed to sit in the cockpit and watch them take the plane up, he’d fly it back down by himself. And you know what? I believe he could have, because he was just that confident in himself and his own God given abilities. So, enough with the excuses. Black men, take your rightful place with your sons and daughters and wives/significant others, pull your pants up, finish school so you can learn something,, STOP killing each other over land that you don’t even own, learn how to talk, and stop blaming the system. This is 2013, in America; a man can do whatever he wants to, whether people are racist or not.

  8. ArthurH says:

    Maybe stranded would remember back in the mid-1970s when Jesse Jackson’s PUSH organization was still new. One of the group’s early campaigns was to promote black entrepreneurship and to encourage blacks to patronize those resulting businesses and thus improve the lives of all who lived in those neighborhoods. The major reply from the white community was that PUSH was trying to boycott white businesses in the area. So much for capitalism in the less affluent neighborhoods.

  9. neekerbreeker says:

    You really think Asians have been discriminated against in similar fashion to African Americans in the US ??? The same levels of isolation and neglect and racism dating back 100 years or more? Are you really saying that?

    So let me get this straight, you’d be much more likely to give an Asian American a job than an African American right? lol …

  10. neekerbreeker says:

    You really think Asians have been discriminated against in similar fashion to African Americans in the US ??? The same levels of isolation and neglect and racism dating back 100 years or more? Are you really saying that?

  11. You LOVE excuses says:

    “There is no real opportunity” Really? Tell that to every hard-working asian who has also been discriminated against, started from NOTHING, but values education, runs their own business, and maintains a very frugal lifestyle.

    You just love excuses. Keep em coming.

  12. Truckloadbear says:

    Oh! So you’re the one! I was wondering which single person was the Latino/Gay Fox demographic. Nice to meet you!

  13. shawnthesheep says:

    People who have not had the same cultural influences as you and who have not had the same educational opportunities as you are not necessarily lesser people or worse employees. But it sounds like you’ve set yourself up as the ideal that all other people will be judged by.

  14. P Anderson says:

    Don Lemon is 100% correct in the comments in made on CNN and the View. Sherri and Whoopi are idiots if they cant see how disrespectful it is to walk around showing your underwear. By the way I am a black woman. Don Lemon is a young, intelligent and courgeous black man. Sherri is an idiot

  15. shawnthesheep says:

    It’s very disheartening that you seem so surprised by the idea that the poor have a desire to succeed. What sort of insulated life have you been living? If you are going to spend your career commenting on the world, you really should expose yourself to more of it.

  16. shawnthesheep says:

    Among my friends in high school, doing well in school was seen as a negative thing. We were rebellious. We weren’t supposed to care about grades or college, only about having fun and smoking weed. But an amazing thing happened among my mostly white, middle-class friends–most of us went on to college and successful careers, despite the cultural pressure we faced from our peers to be fuck-ups.

    While there are certainly cultural pressures that can influence a person’s chances for success, larger barriers like institutional racism and poverty are far greater concerns. To blame teenagers for their attitudes when they have been raised in an environment of poverty and hopelessness is unfair. The negative attitude of many kids is a completely understandable byproduct of a system that has almost guaranteed they will fail. It is not the cause of their failure.

  17. Ninong says:

    I hope you’re being paid to watch Fox News. Tell me you’re working for a monitoring organization or something.

    Remember, don’t watch too much Fox News no matter how much they pay you. It can be dangerous to your mental health and is known to cause a loss of brain cells.

  18. Ninong says:

    Obama didn’t pass the repeal of DADT, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid did. Obama was dragged along kicking and screaming the whole way. He didn’t want to take that up before the mid-terms. Eventually Obama even finished evolving and came out in favor of marriage equality for all.

    We have to work with what we’ve got. He’s better than any Republican alternative. As far as control of the House and the Senate are concerned, just look at the gridlock we’re in now with the Republican Tea Party in control of the House.

  19. Ford Prefect says:

    As if on cue, Chris Hayes and Cord Jefferson expose the awfulness of White Culture in a manner completely relevant to this thread:

  20. I’m not talking about wearing clothes baggy means you have low self esteem. I meant low self esteem in other regards. I think most minorities in any society suffer from low self esteem, to some degree anyway (including women) because they are being told they are inferior. To some extent, style, does present a way of building some of that esteem back up.

  21. Too cold! (couldn’t resist!) :)

  22. mirror says:

    Who argued language doesn’t matter?

  23. mirror says:

    John, these are teenagers saying these things. Really, think about this. Lemon is lecturing to teenagers. Compared to the issues historical systemic poverty and lack of resources from a very young age, the effect of teen culture is a minor factor in holding kids back. Might as well say saggy pants caused Detroit to go bankrupt… like George Will did.

    I know a very very very small number of teens in white and mixed race middle class schools who have “put themselves on a career path” without regular support and mentoring from parents, family, and stable communities, as well as a huge peer group who, starting at a very young age, identify as college or career bound. I would enjoy learning more about your interactions with your nephew, but I would guess if you look at how things have played out for him you will see this dynamic in play. Individual mentoring by someone with your status, experience, and accomplishments can have a huge impact on a teenager, no matter what the rest of the family situation is.

    John, on this issue, please take a break from getting your information from TV pundits and go talk with some sociologists.

  24. mirror says:

    You said it above. These are the kinds of people putting their knowledge to work:

    “Teachers in the field, begin with life coaching woven throughout the
    class teaching: how to speak English, how to write English, how to read
    to acquire knowledge, even when not in school. Emphasize how knowledge
    is power and how that power leads to a greater freedom. Keep reading no
    matter what!”

    Pundits like Lemon here are just pandering to the media stereotypes for a
    paycheck and a pat on the back. (Hell, if I was getting sloppy wet ones
    from Bill O”Reilly, I’d be spending the weekend staring into space
    wondering where it all went so wrong).

  25. karmanot says:

    May you choke on Spam and pass out.

  26. karmanot says:

    Me too DB.

  27. karmanot says:

    True that

  28. karmanot says:

    Soaring is a good thing, as long as you give flight instructions to those below and not churlishly criticizing them for have no map.

  29. karmanot says:

    Absolutely agree!

  30. syradobomako says:

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kAgk

    Oh, and any black male, gay or straight, walking around with the
    thought that they are the ‘good one’ will only experience how fleeting
    or superficial that is at the sight of any conflict. Just be targeted by
    bigots in this country and you will find out first hand how, if they
    have the power, they can take your ‘good one’ image and turn it upside
    down. But that’s the point, I’ve long said that the goal of the black
    community should be the fight for economic and political power. I feel
    like we have allowed ourselves to remain constrained by a limited
    construct of equality, freedom, and justice.

  31. Ninong says:

    To quote Don Lemon on Twitter: “FYI i didn’t grow up rich, am product of unwed mother, dropped out of college, then realized i could be stuck or soar. i chose the latter.”

  32. Ford Prefect says:

    I can’t imagine much of anyone disagreeing that solving a massive social problem requires soul searching on everyone’s part. And while condoms save lives and choosing safe sex practices is both the smart and socially responsible thing to do, they don’t keep schools from closing or create jobs. Nor do they end discrimination against anyone of any particular background. Nor do they create justice where injustice still reigns.

    This isn’t a dichotomy. It isn’t a question of “culture” in the sense that some imagined change in “black culture” (however one imagines it and like “human nature” it’s a social construct) will change anything white elites do. Look at the South Bronx, where there is a serious and sustained effort at changing “culture” through food. Community gardens, cooking classes and a new socio-economic program for better nutrition in a place where better stores simply won’t exist. Michael Bloomberg is trying to kill that project for the soda and junk food companies.

    So even changing “culture” isn’t as simple as you seem to think. If that shift threatens existing business or power interests, no matter how unsavory they might be in real terms (diabetes, obesity, lung cancer, alcoholism, school-to-prison pipeline, etc.), then that becomes a problem for Michael Bloomberg, just for starters. MB thinks the only thing wrong with Stop & Terrorize is too many white people get stopped, even though they only amount to a percentage in the low single digits. (I’m using northerners as example for a reason)

    So cultural change, as demanded by outsiders who are rightly viewed with suspicion (given the history of such demands in the past) probably isn’t the best argument to make. As a practical matter, it’s largely a dead end, because it’s an argument typically made out of ignorance or hatred, which rather poisons the well for those whose intentions are actually decent. David Duke likes the cultural argument, as do other notable crackers and their well-heeled elites all over the country.

    Lastly, as a successful political “operative” (for lack of a better word, as apparatchik might be rude) and lawyer, you understand power quite well. If you didn’t, you’d be living elsewhere, methinks. You also understand institutions and how they work, not to mention the way policy is formulated and defended. Ghettos were created by policy. Rules were written to enforce their existence. There has always been a commercial aspect, involving banks and other corporations that have profited by penning in entire populations and economically raping them. White Flight is another “cultural problem,” but that was also driven by corporations for their own economic interests. All they did was sell racism to the point where people flocked to the burbs, where they too could be corralled in lily-white prisons of conformity and control. But at least they got good schools and college degrees out of it.

    I don’t see how anyone can really equate matters of “urban culture” (or however it’s being put this week) with the levers of power that have existed literally for centuries in this country. Perhaps reparations and a generation or two of sound economic and political policy and things might look a lot better for everyone. But until then, “culture” isn’t a good critique and it’s front-loaded with all manner of hateful history that one shouldn’t ignore.

    As a nation, “we’ve” been reversing school desegregation, taking back all the gains made by most people of most sorts and otherwise making most Americans a lot poorer for some time now. Those are all policy-driven realities. Unemployment is high because of policy choices, not cultural prerogatives. Students are being made debt slaves by policy, not culture. Things are getting worse, not better and it’s all policy-driven, because certain interests, who are almost entirely white BTW, are benefitting from those policies.

  33. Ninong says:

    “You are a white man of a certain generation of the old South. Don’t you see it?”
    I made that point several hours ago.

  34. neekerbreeker says:

    I think the notion that you are “selling out” is also overblown and perhaps itself a stereotype. While there are always those jealous few, leaving envy in your wake is true of anyone on a successful path, whether those you leave behind are in a small town in Iowa or an inner city block. The truth is that real opportunities are so rare in these neighborhoods there is more of a risk of kids not knowing what to do with them when and if they do arise. My experience nevertheless has been that these kids will jump at opportunities to raise themselves above the abject street level poverty they experience daily, they’d be crazy not to, and they know it.

  35. FauxReal says:

    I think there wouldn’t be such backlash if he hadn’t prefaced his comments with support for Bill O’Reilly even saying O’Reilly didn’t go far enough.

  36. Delonjo Barber says:

    Yes, they do. But who are the sides? Be specific without trying to sound like Politico too much “both sides do it so it’s a wash.”

  37. Delonjo Barber says:

    I don’t understand. You don’t see the will to succeed in the ghetto? That means that you’re looking for something else.

  38. Delonjo Barber says:

    please! Work to take back the house?! Seriously?! When Obama had super majorities in both houses, he squandered it on his Republican agenda, and you ask me to participate in this charade again?

  39. Delonjo Barber says:

    Thank you so much, Karmanot. They really don’t see it and that scares me.

  40. karmanot says:

    OMG my computer doesn’t have a heart icon. :-)

  41. karmanot says:

    That’s irrational. Lemon and Crosby are black men. They know a great deal about black experience, because THEY are black. What we are discussing is not so much the message, that is the value of education and success, but the method in which we communicate that message. As gleaned from my other comments here, as a teacher, I believe in the parallel method of communicating and inculcating values from as near level playing field as possible, respecting the unique identity of each student. BTW, an incredibly difficult job, certainly more difficult in the field than from the ultra heights of a Crosby or Lemon.. Neither Lemon nor Crosby in spite of his teaching degree impress me as constructive teachers. What I experience from both of them is judgement, superior scolding and condescension. I would pick Michele Obama any day over either of these scolding twerps.

  42. Naja pallida says:

    I prefer to avoid expressing my opinion on race, because if I were any whiter, I’d glow in the dark… but I think you should post more often. We can always use more rational voices around here. Sometimes it gets to feeling like an echo chamber being pilloried occasionally with troll slobber.

  43. Naja pallida says:

    You provide a tool for the passive aggressive lurkers without a cogent argument to make to disapprove of anything anyone says, anonymously. You can’t be too surprised when they reflexively use it. :)

  44. karmanot says:

    Teaching those kids was one of the most life affirming experiences of my life and I am glad to share that practical witness when I know it will bring the hope and transformative experience of change.

  45. I still think it’s punctuation :)

  46. I think it’s a clean and accurate shot right at the heart of the matter. What’s cheap is assuming that Don Lemon and Bill Cosby aren’t real black men, and know nothing of the black experience in America, because they’ve become successful. Last time I checked, there was nothing morally wrong with success per se, and in fact, it’s something a lot of us could use a bit more of, in any and every community.

  47. karmanot says:

    And Karmanot is trying to explain that class position and its maintenance is imbued with racist nuances. “To suggest that their success in overcoming discrimination somehow makes
    them illegitimate to speak out on discrimination reads to me as part of
    the problem,” No one is suggesting that and that assumption is part of the problem.

  48. I was thinking earlier today of the beginning and middle (assuming we’re beyond the middle) of the AIDS crisis. Some folks didn’t want to talk about, and were offended, that advocates, and govt, were calling on the gay community to show some responsibility with regards to safe-sex, and more generally an unsafe sex culture that helped spread HIV. People not only didn’t like the judgment involved, they also were offended because there are legitimate reasons why gay men are the way they are, and a lot of those behaviors are rooted in not just the fact that we’re men, but the fact that we’re men who have had our sexuality repressed. Heterosexual culture (aka oppression, hate and discrimination) made us who we are, so how dare anyone suggest that “we” need to change who we are, our embrace of our own freedom to be whoever we want to be, in order to fix a problem the heteros started. (And some of those people came out of the woodwork when I was writing about meningitis recently as well.)

    Sometimes if you want to solve a problem, you have to be willing to recognize that while one side may have started it, perhaps both sides need to do some soul-searching in order to fix things.

  49. karmanot says:

    You are conflating class with race. A black man is telling you how he sees it and you are deflecting his truth with what amount to racist arguments. Why do you assume to know what Lemon, Crosby and Obama think about being black? You are a white man of a certain generation of the old South. Don’t you see it?

  50. karmanot says:

    “What does living “in a project or trailer park” have to do with Lemon’s understanding of the issue?” everything

  51. “The great hunger, desire and will to succeed.” – that at least heartens me, that you’re finding this.

  52. karmanot says:

    “Baldwin was born and raised in Harlem, so his experiences won’t be the same at all.” You are missing the point. Self esteem is a deep soul recognition of human worth, potential, and expression. My point is exactly that someone like Balwin raised in conditions not unlike now, claimed a stake in himself and found a freedom that precludes classist and racist determinations against it. I would also argue that the worst excesses of the racist old South are less now. Massive voter suppression and the lynching of James Byrd are indicative.

  53. karmanot says:

    How you teach is as important as what you teach. The Don Lemon, Crosby scold and shame technique does absolutely nothing but make white supremacists feel vindicated about their racist stereotypes and it is particularly offensive coming from blacks looking down from the ladder of success. Who is Don Lemon to paint with a broad brush the self-worth of a group of black kids? Lemon is full of self righteous gas. The best way to relate and teach is from Sarah’s circle, not Jacob’s ladder. By all means successful people of color should speak up and do it in a manner that’s equitable. I think Michelle Obama does an excellent job of it. She is a good model. Teachers in the field, begin with life coaching woven throughout the class teaching: how to speak English, how to write English, how to read to acquire knowledge, even when not in school. Emphasize how knowledge is power and how that power leads to a greater freedom. Keep reading no matter what! Black bourgeois turning their backs on the deep and treacherous pit, as you so succinctly described, is one of the great tragedies of civil and racial equality in this country. MLK was beginning to advocate in this area when he was murdered.

  54. karmanot says:

    As a FOX news watcher and GAY? Aren’t you special. Next….

  55. arcadesproject says:

    Yeah. Class is where it’s at. Race is just a tool used to keep the class system intact.

  56. Woody Feliciano says:

    As a FOX news watcher and a gay Latino from the inner city, Don Lemon is 100% accurate.

  57. quax says:

    To me the broader picture is how elites in the US denigrate the economic disenfranchised, be it Appalachian “white trash” or “those inner city blacks”. Making sure that the disenfranchised don’t realize they have more in common than what separates them has been a constant theme in American history.

    What changed is that the elites are now a bit more diverse than they used to be. I guess that is progress of sorts.

  58. stephenmcdow says:

    I was just walking down the street.

  59. Ninong says:

    Getting back to your comment about my use of the word ‘They.’ I seriously doubt that James Baldwin had a self-esteem problem. His ‘situation’ problem was certainly as difficult, if not more so, than young blacks growing up today, whether in Harlem or Baton Rouge, or Newark or Detroit for that matter.

    People who complain about “the real world today” have no idea what it was like growing up black in the 1930’s or ’40’s. I was born in the ’30’s and grew up in the ’40’s, but I’m not black like Baldwin. On the other hand, neither am I a successful author who could spent years living in Paris whenever the ‘situation’ back home in Greenwich Village became boring.

    I found Baldwin’s books enlightening when I read them in the 1950’s but maybe that’s because I was born and raised in the Segregated South and I’m white. Don Lemon was born and raised in Baton Rouge but he was born in 1966, after Desegregation was well established. So he wasn’t raised in the Segregated South. Baldwin was born and raised in Harlem, so his experiences won’t be the same at all.

  60. stranded says:

    Judging from your comments I gather you’re closer to this issue than I am, so I don’t disagree with your passion to express the outrageous conditions we find ourselves in as a country. But I honestly don’t don’t see the link between Don Lemon saying that a sense of self-worth would benefit kids and how that is a part of institutional racism. He’s discussed more complex issues in other segments, apparently, though I haven’t seen them.

    I know that saying you just need to buck up and pull up your bootstraps is offensive and out of touch when you live in hellish conditions. I’ve lived in some of the more desolate areas of Chicago and I know poverty brings with it a hopelessness that can’t be tamed. Just to get to ground level you have to climb out of a deep and treacherous hole.

    But if successful people of color don’t speak up and share their opinions, and state what for them are basic issues of self-respect, how are those kids going to know what their options might be, albeit against greater odds? I’m seriously asking.

  61. karmanot says:

    That last sentence is a bingo!

  62. karmanot says:

    Wonderful reading from the soul bone.

  63. karmanot says:

    Good God, this drives me crazy. Why assume low self esteem? These creative and expressive clothing manifestations are enhancing and manifesting good self esteem.

  64. Ninong says:

    Haha! I can’t find my two James Baldwin paperbacks, “Giovanni’s Room” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” I looked a couple of weeks ago when he was the subject of discussion. I think I still have them but they’re probably at the bottom of a couple of moving boxes marked “paperbacks.” Too much dust covering the boxes. I don’t think they have been opened in more than 30 years.

  65. karmanot says:

    Maybe because you spoke in the third person at one point and they got confused. :-)

  66. karmanot says:

    I am so with you in this discussion.

  67. karmanot says:

    The problem I see from your ‘outside the box” rationalism is the word ‘They.’ “They have to see themselves as equal.” You assume ‘they’ don’t see them selves as equal. May I suggest you reread James Baldwin.

  68. karmanot says:

    The Game: “the wider black community has been happy living with just a programmatic approach to life” So true, povery, lack of employment, lack of healthy food and lack secure housing and opportunity (especially working those two minimum wage jobs at McNuggets) will do that to you. BTW, that’s not living happy.

  69. karmanot says:

    You were kind not to address her as if she looked like a sales lady or you assumed she was.

  70. karmanot says:

    I don’t read any venom here. Passion yes, that happens often here. I agree that it’s imperative that the kid’s side be heard. I think it is absolutely ridiculous to judge the humanity of kids based on some absurd fashion statement. The righteousness of institutional racism is so toxic, because it masquerades as judgmental help. There are those, even on this site, who have stated that Trevon wearing a hoodie walking home at night could be justifiably viewed as a thug. It’s this sickening deep seated racism that demeans the very notion of justice and equality. MLK would have called out the Travon murder for what it was: a racist assassination.

  71. stranded says:

    The venom thrown at people who open this conversation is not surprising to me, but it’s still a sad comment on our ability to discuss race with civility. Trayvon’s murder has brought out the resentments of every sector, and while everyone’s shouting at each other, I don’t see a lot of hearts and minds being changed toward real justice for African-Americans.

    I’m a gay, white 53-year-old guy who remembers well the year 1968 when everything blew up. I didn’t know then what I know now about the cause of those race riots all over the country, but I knew even as an 8 year old that this was a cry of anger from some very hurt people.

    Equal justice is an issue that’s been paramount in my politics since before I could vote. Having seen the changes since the Sixties in our homogenic embrace of black youth culture, I sometimes get lulled into thinking that things have improved in race relations and opportunities for African-Americans, but recent events have shattered that myth for me.

    It’s imperative that we talk about race, and the value of different opinions is a necessary component of that. I don’t see the derision that others see in Don Lemon’s tone in these segments. I’ve dismissed him myself for some previous comments, but in this case, I don’t see that he’s doing more than opening a door to a conversation, which I welcome. I want that conversation to happen, not to be shut down because of some dubious credibility issues.

    I think that’s what’s missing is the kids’ side of the conversation. neekerbreeker’s comments come from someone actually working with these kids, and I would like to see more advocates for them in the TV dialogs. Getting into the abstracts about “black youth” neglect the individual kids who need a better way. I want to see them find that better way, but as a white guy, there’s only so much I can do or say to affect change. Pointing out that a sense of self-worth will be good for kids isn’t a terrible message, but finding remedies to why people feel worthless is a much more complex issue, but talking about people in the abstract is only really ever blowing hot air.

  72. karmanot says:

    You simply HAVE to be in the trenches to experience what Mirror and I have seen: The great hunger, desire and will to succeed. It takes dedicated teachers to often overcome the weight of failed and desperate family life. And, even then, those families, often single parents, struggle with a mind numbing poverty that withers all in its path, but want the kids to have a better life. Those associated with black churches often have more support. Good teachers are not only burdened with unreasonable structures imposed on them by busy-body do gooders at the Federal level (No Child is a perfect example) but have to spend an inordinate amount of time deconstructing the thinking sets of academically disadvantaged students, in order to set the path for critical thinking. The war against public education is the enemy and is greatly responsible for racist stereotypes of young blacks.

  73. karmanot says:

    Thanks for the down arrow. You ARE listening.

  74. stephenmcdow says:

    Now, do I think that appearance and articulation alone will push back ignorance…no! I KNOW how hard it can be for black people. How subtle bigotry and institutional racism is. Once, I was in about $3,000 worth of Georgio Armani’s Emporio (Armani Jeans) line and walked pass a white woman when I was living in Laguna Beach. She clutched her purse and became very tense. I was angered by her reaction to me because I would NEVER hurt her or deliberately take anything from her or any other person – Its just not me or my outlook on life. So trust me, I understand that black identity to non-blacks can be, to say the least, ignorant. That is why I push for economic and political power/influence.

  75. Ford Prefect says:

    DRess for success, eh? Or style over substance? Methinks the latter.

    The Black Panthers were snappy dressers but it didn’t prevent them being murdered. Just sayin’. Malcom X always wore a conservative suit. Didn’t help him either. Or MLK for that matter. OR…..

  76. Ford Prefect says:

    Did I say Lemon is a white supremacist? No. Of course not. I said he is transmitting white supremacist memes. Not the same thing, is it?

    The problems with the “culture” argument are: 1) White supremacists use it all the time, which makes it inherently problematic, to say the least; 2) Unless you can really describe this culture you (or anyone else) is referring to, it sounds like shorthand or “dog whistle” rhetoric, because 99% of the time, it is. So claiming “culture” without being very specific about what you’re referring to invites an unpleasant response, thanks to a century or three of the misuse of the term. Again, it’s about blaming the victim, not addressing the crime itself.

    But in the end, the source of the problems isn’t cultural, unless we’re going to talk about “white culture,” since that’s who’s created all these problems in the first place. American ghettos were created by white people making public policy, for starters. See Ta Nehisi-Coates on that one, if you have any doubts.

    What is it about “white culture” that makes us so damn mean spirited and forces us to blame other cultures for our own shortcomings as human beings? This can go on forever and go precisely nowhere. We can’t judge cultures, but we can sure as hell judge policies, since they have a logic and chain of custody.

  77. karmanot says:

    I don’t ‘love’ a good cock waving parade. At my age I could care less quite frankly. I made it quite clear that SF loves its Parades and a million or so who come to enjoy the day really don’t seem to care about it that much. Half the town’s emissaries bring their families. It is not for you to assume what I love, unless you saw me holding the AIDS/HIV rainbow flag a few years ago. Now hold that thought.

  78. karmanot says:

    What blithering Bullshit! Wearing a suit to a Vietnam protest? Bwaaaaahhaaaa.

  79. Ice Ice Baby. :)

  80. And someone down-voted my observation, and pleasure at the fact, that folks are being civil. The irony of that is simply delicious.

  81. stephenmcdow says:

    Thanks John! There are many, many ways I could respond to your question. In the context of my statement I feel like the wider black community has been happy living with just a programmatic approach to life and I think we should take a more systemic approach. For example, once, a guy asked me while I was unemployed “I know what you do professionally, but do you have a trade?” I said “No.” He responded, “Ah, so you’re an educated man with out a trade. Today you need to be an educated man with a trade.” The moral: Keep your hands in many different pots. And part of that is building trust and integrity among a very DIVERSE American society. I think we could do more to teach our youth to get out, no one is really holding you back, and get to know and influence the larger American community. Play the game as they say. I see other ethnic groups do it all the time. Just because your grandparents/parents were rejected doesn’t mean you will be just because you are black. Part of the “game” is knowing how to articulate your words, communicate with a diverse group of people, and looking presentable.

  82. karmanot says:

    Uncommon Sense of humor! :-)

  83. I think both sides need to own up a bit more on a lot of issues.

  84. karmanot says:

    God forbid whitey Beeber look like Trevon and get blown away.

  85. karmanot says:

    “It’s all in many ways counterproductive acting out in an attempt to establish status from a position of perceived inferiority.” Like the mainstreaming of the word: “Queer”?

  86. John does love these posts because John speaks 5 languages, and writes for a living, so he’s intimately aware of the importance and impact of language. Honestly, I get a chuck out of people who argue that language doesn’t matter. And then they argue it on a political blog whose primary vehicle for creating political and societal change is language :)

    Oh, and I lectured my white nephew a few years ago to clean up his rhetorical act and stop talking like a south side Chicago (white) dummy. He picked it up in school and couldn’t turn it off. And it made him sound like an idiot, and I’d have never hired anyone who talked like that. So yeah, language does matter, regardless of whether you wish to pretend that it doesn’t. Which goes back to what I wrote in the post – these false protestations about things we want to pretend don’t exist, and they do, do not advance the cause.

    Oh, and I hate cats too.

  87. karmanot says:


  88. karmanot says:

    Agreed! ——Saggy pants on blacks is damning, but I imagine that white farmer-crack pants are OK down South. This whole business about black kids wearing baggy pants is purely racist motivated, and clothed in pretentious white-culture paternalism.

  89. I’m pretty sure they weren’t waving their cocks around on main street. Had they done that, they’ve have been lawfully arrested.

  90. I know. But I was accused of never expressing the same concerns about the gay community. And I have. Therefore my response was appropriate to question posed :)

    And yes, we all know you love a good cock waving a parade :)

  91. Well, I don’t think Don Lemon is a white supremacist.

    And as soon as I see the word “privileged” my eyes glaze over, sorry.

    As for cultural issues, I think they’re huge in any community in any country. I know a lot of people on the left don’t agree – they think the entire world is the same, and that different cultures either don’t exist, or if they do, they don’t really influence us, or influence those who interact with us. I disagree wholeheartedly. We learn from our past, and our culture around us, in addition to the disadvantages imposed on us.

    That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider the origin problems of poverty, discrimination etc. But I don’t buy the argument that culture doesn’t play a role in a lot of our problems, be it southern racism, some problems we face in the gay community, or here.

  92. karmanot says:

    “who actually pulls themselves out of whatever disadvantaged circumstance
    they face, suddenly becomes less in our eyes and suddenly loses the
    right to have a relevant, and legitimate, opinion on any of our
    struggles” That is a cheap shot and strikes me as exactly the kind of paternalism of which Delonjo is speaking. Nowhere does he say success is ‘less than,’ or that successful blacks lose the right to speak out. He’s talking about ‘class; struggle.

  93. Others have mentioned here, and I’ve seen it discussed elsewhere, about some African-Americans being accused of ‘acting white’ or “trying to be white” by speaking proper English or not wearing their pants baggy or whatever (see discussion below or above in the comments). Wouldn’t that negate the notion that every kid would stop doing it in a flash if they had an opportunity presented to them? In fact, those stories suggest that when you try to put yourself on a career path, in some sectors, you’re chastised for it, rather than people actually jumping at the chance for a job, a career. And isn’t that what Lemon is talking about, addressing some of the cultural aspects that might hold some kids back?

  94. karmanot says:

    Very Like!

  95. karmanot says:

    It is important to separate out of generalities what is meant by gay culture. Gay culture is very diverse and plural. The only think that unites us as a whole is the drive for full civil and legal rights as citizens and the ‘conformant’ trends of consumerism.

  96. Ninong says:

    I believe what Stephen McDow is saying is that “the goal of the black community should be the fight for economic and political power” and that fight begins within the individual person. Just because the struggle is difficult doesn’t excuse not even attempting it. Just because some of your own race may ostracize you for striving to better yourself doesn’t excuse not trying at all.

    Equality and freedom begin deep inside the individual person. They have to see themselves as equal before they can begin to achieve equality. I think that was well understood by Dr. Martin Luther King.

    Saying that equality, freedom and justice just aren’t possible “in the real world today” is no excuse for not engaging in the struggle. That attitude is part of the problem.

  97. karmanot says:

    Well done mirror. I worked in the inner City of Detroit at Wayne State for a few years. I have never met a more poorly prepared group of black students in my entire career and never met a more motivated, hardworking intelligent and dedicated group of learners. I have carried the memory of them for years as a model of students against all odds. Bourgeois condescension and stereotypes just infuriate me and when they appear from the likes of a Cosby or Lemon or on AB I immediately repudiate the arguments put forth to denigrate a whole class of youth under the pretensions of paternalism.

  98. Ford Prefect says:

    Close. More analogous would be the stereotype that gays are perverts itself, not some embarrassing pics from the pride parade that an enterprising homophobe can use on Fox. Lemon repeats what amounts to white supremacist memes, but recently, Obama was even worse when he spoke of “black on black violence” and he seems to think black people are more prone to criminal behaviors than whites are, when we’ve known for decades that is false.

    Lemon is hardly the first privileged black person to pick on the downtrodden for their affectations or bad fashion choices. The current president does it with some frequency, as did his wife at a recent commencement speech, when she said young blacks care more about their XBoxes than getting ahead (Blacks are lazy, says the First Lady). What neither seem interested in is the cause of their condition–which in the case of certain fashion choices relates directly to mass incarceration and the School-To-Prison Pipeline. Lemon does not lament, for example, that African-American families lost 50% of their net worth due to predation on the part of Obama’s biggest campaign donors. Nor does he lament the fact that recent college grads have a real unemployment rate close to 50% (and it’s higher for people of color). I don’t see much of anyone in the establishment media talking about the massive swath of minority students in Chicago being disenfranchised as children by Rahm’s school closures. Because apparently, when Democrats do racism it’s just fine. And yes, 85% of the children being screwed by Rahm’s closures are black, so that’s hardly a coincidence. Of course, Lemon and his cohorts think the problem is pants, laziness and so forth.

    For me at least, Lemon is just another example of a celebrity joining in with a white supremacist to talk about ridiculous things like where one wears one’s pants. For Lemon, it’s undoubtedly more of a class issue, dissing the poors is all the rage in the corporate media, after all. For people in Lemon’s strata, picking on people beneath his own station comes easily. It’s de riguer. The fact he looks rather hypocritical does not concern him, apparently. He’s like a kinder, gentler Clarence Thomas–who benefited greatly from affirmative action but is now committed to making sure no one else will. Thomas, anyway. Lemon may in fact lean in that direction.

    In the end, promoting these bigoted memes only legitimizes bigots. If an entire community has 50% unemployment, pants aren’t the reason for it. But hey, it’s practically an American tradition to individualize massive social problems and blame the victims. Lemon’s remarks may not be as damaging as Obama’s remarks, but they are of the same origin: People accepting the mentality of their own oppressors as proof of something. There are gay analogues, such as gay GOPer’s whose own self-loathing (thanks to their acceptance of the language of their oppressors) leads them to support a homophobic agenda.

    Finding privileged minorities to diss their unprivileged brothers and sisters is hardly new and Lemon et al are not unique. They also have the right to have their say. And in CNN’s case, they undoubtedly view it as “good television.” But the rest of us also have the right to talk back and that’s all that’s happening here.

  99. karmanot says:


  100. I’m a bit younger than you, and to my recollection, the white skater kids and the hip hop kids (mostly black) all started wearing baggy pants around the same time. I think a lot of it, at least on the skater side, was a backlash against the super tight clothes worn in the 70s and early 80s. Then the mainstream white kids, etc. picked it up later on after the fringes had adopted it, then it got so extreme with the ravers….anyway that’s my recollection.

  101. karmanot says:

    Not all of us think Pride Parades are a problem. Especially in SF…..that’s roughly a million of us. It simply isn’t an issue except to the prudes. Kids in SF don’t think PP’s and Woowoo’s are bad. They watch Sesame Street.

  102. karmanot says:

    Very Like…….What annoys me is the bourgeois scold, finger wagging condescension of the successful. Donny should take off his prep suit drag and get in the trenches; it looks a lot different there than from a million dollar a year salary. On second thought it so appalled Obama he couldn’t wait to get out and never look behind,

  103. mirror says:

    “I can tell you for a fact I don’t know a single young black person (and I
    work with at-risk inner city teens) who wouldn’t pull up his pants and
    put on a tie if it meant a real shot at real opportunity.”

    That is my experience and what I see. The willful ignorance about this is a sad rationalization in support of the status quo.

  104. mirror says:

    Yeh, they should clean up their act. Going home with total strangers in Baton Rouge, making everybody look bad!?

  105. mirror says:

    What gets me is the idea that there is a horde of stable black parents and mentors out there telling kids low pants are perfectly fine for job interviews and that they should be able to succeed perfectly fine in well-paying careers without being able to speak standard English when appropriate. Lemon may think he is discussing an issue of personal child rearing, but he is being used to voice the opinion that it is Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who are encouraging black youths to put down peers who get high grades.

    Educated and socially stable black parents and community mentors know the type of success and degree of conformity that a person of any background has to be able to put on in order to succeed economically. It is a massive racist insult to act as if they don’t care, and even worse to suggest they are actively getting in the way. The dilemma is the lnsufficiency of stable parent and mentor resources in broken down communities. That is why that lady went to jail for fraudulently enrolling her kids in a better school district. Even a hard working thoughtful mom like that knew she couldn’t do it alone and how much better a shot her kids would have in a school district with a more stable community and mentoring.

    John loves these discussions about “talking funny” hurting job prospects. His last post about the Amanda Berry rescue was a post wanting to “have a conversation” about how Charles Ramsey’s way of talking must really hurt his employment opportunities. Now, he wants to have another oh so daring “conversation” about the same thing in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.