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lemonlivingcolor

Don Lemon is the most recent iteration in a long tradition of African-Americans who publicly scold and shame the black community’s “bad morals” and “defective culture".

Black celebrities such as Bill Cosby have taken up this habit. Barack Obama has enjoyed giving such sermons. Black conservatives appear to exist for the sole purpose of criticizing the African-American community and legitimating white racism by the Right.

In all, to scold and publicly berate black folks is apparently the special burden of “Exceptional Negroes”—be they real or imagined in their accomplishments.

While this public ritual may involve different actors, the real audience is almost always White America--and white conservatives especially.

For centuries, African-Americans have engaged in spirited debates about “the politics of black respectability”. They are central to the Black Freedom Struggle and how race men and race women thought about African-American citizenship.

These types of conversations occur in private spaces such as churches, mosques, temples, hair salons, barbershops, community groups, self-help organizations, and our homes every day. Why? Because there is a deep tradition of personal uplift—and yes “personal responsibility”—in the black community.

We do this among ourselves; in a society that has historically judged African-Americans by the worst among us, there is no need to conduct such a conversation in public and before an audience of millions…unless your true goal is to validate the White Gaze and to put on a show, one tailor made for the often grotesque and limited way that White America sees and understands the full range of black humanity.

Blacks who publicly scold and shame the African-American community for its “cultural” problems are participating in a ritual no less pernicious in how it legitimates white racism than that of blackface race minstrelsy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Black Americans are also outliers in how some of their number seems to take delight in public shaming and mocking their own community. Where are the white people talking on national TV about the various cultural pathologies of the White Community?

I am tempted to say that Don Lemon is a living example of the old phrase “every brother ain’t a brother”. For now, I will resist that impulse, because I would like to believe that on some level Don Lemon’s concerns are sincere.

Yes, his understanding of the relationship between racism and life opportunities is sub-par.

Lemon’s misreading of the statistics about out of wedlock births in the black community is egregious.

Lemon’s simplistic knowledge about economic structures, institutional racism, and his magical belief that sagging pants are responsible for communities (and a nation) beset by deindustrialization, failing schools, and structural unemployment are laughable.

Lemon’s myopia about black success, achievement, class mobility, and striving in the face of seemingly impossible odds is just sad.

And that Don Lemon would choose to lecture the black community about their “bad culture” in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman for the “crime” of walking down the street, and thus being somehow responsible for his own death, is sickening.

Don Lemon’s alliance with Bill O’Reilly, the latter being a racist who was surprised that black folks ate with silverware like white people, and not "jungle savages" a few generations removed from the Dark Continent of his white supremacist Tarzan-like dreams, demonstrates a severe deficit in judgment.

Nevertheless, I think that Don Lemon’s heart is in the right place.

Don Lemon is just an example of a common problem. Because he is black (by virtue of an arbitrary amount of melanin as understood by the racial order in the United States) Don has deluded himself into believing that he is an expert on the “black community”.

Sadly, this mistake is one that is all too common.

Identity does not exclusively make destiny. However, it is not unreasonable to think that a shared history and experience with marginalization and oppression would make a person more empathetic towards others who have been treated in a similar way.

What I offer here I do with precision and care: Don Lemon is a gay black man; I would expect better and more from him in terms of his lecturing the black community, generally, and the “black poor”, specifically.

Don Lemon is a disappointment because in his bravery to live a full life and to "come out" in a society which systematically devalues and discriminates against our gay, queer, lesbian, and transgendered brothers and sisters, I would hope for more from him in terms of a nuanced understanding of the community he mocks and derides for the pleasures of white folks (and others who look down on black people).

I do not expect Don Lemon to be a black Superman-like figure possessed of extraordinary levels of linked fate and a sense of connection to the African-American poor and “ghetto underclass”. The combination of his sexual orientation and race are not an obligation to that end.

Black elites with a national TV platform can be just as selfish, short-sighted, and misdirected in their speech and allegiances as any other group of people. Moreover, criticizing black people in a public venue is a very lucrative shtick for black conservatives and those who parrot their talking points.

Material self-interest overrides a sense of connection to the truth or one's community for people like Don Lemon.

My hope is that a gay black man like Don Lemon would take a step back, be introspective, and think about how his connection to two communities that have historically been mocked, oppressed, vilified, and depicted in the popular media as “deviant” and not “normal” would influence his analysis of the challenges facing African-Americans in the post civil rights era.

Don Lemon is trafficking in cartoon images of the black poor for the applause of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the Right-wing media at large.

It is also no coincidence that White supremacists have also supported Lemon’s critiques of the black community.

As a community, black people are not ghetto caricatures with names like Pookie, Ray Ray, Shaniqua, and Shaquan.

saggy-pants-big (1)

Likewise, as a community, Black gay men are not Antoine Merriweather or Blaine Edwards from the TV show in Living Color or Wesley Snipes’ character Noxeema Jackson in the movie To Wong Foo.

wesley-noxema03 (1)

Both are caricatures of real people who are complicated, diverse, and fully human. Don Lemon is also feeding the ugliness of cartoonish stereotypes that are intended to denigrate, mock, savage, and legitimate both racism and homophobia.

As a gay black man, Don Lemon should have the good sense to make such a connection. For whatever set of reasons, Don Lemon is apparently incapable of realizing that when he publicly tries to shame the black community he is doing the very same thing that has been to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent post, especially putting (8+ / 0-)

    it in historical perspective.  

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:29:56 AM PDT

  •  Great to see that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens
    In all, to scold and publicly berate black folks is apparently the special burden of “Exceptional Negroes”—be they real or imagined in their accomplishments.
    that none of that is going on here with this scolding of Don Lemon.

    "I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights." (From "You Said a Mouthful" by Bishop Desmond Tutu - South African bishop & activist, b.1931)

    by FiredUpInCA on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:59:30 AM PDT

  •  This is the point that Lemon's defenders (10+ / 0-)

    have no answer for.

    While this public ritual may involve different actors, the real audience is almost always White America--and white conservatives especially.
    Don Lemon wasn't born yesterday. In addition to being black and openly gay he has spent his entire career working in broadcast journalism, so he knows all about how the right wing media constructs its frames. He had to have been aware of how warmly his comments would be embraced by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, and it's clear that he's fine with it.

    Whatever his intentions, Lemon is willingly playing the role of a Fox News Democrat. Nobody on the left should be applauding him for it.

  •  Its Elites who have "made it" who are most likely (0+ / 0-)

    To spout sh!t in a vacuum like Lemon.

    However a little introspection is good for the soul.

    I recently visited 3 big mega cities and traveled around with a racially diverse group of friends/workmates.

    Someone asked why is it that deep in predominantly black neighborhoods (really dingy looking to be honest) that not a single grocery shops there was black owned? The fellows who run those stores dont live there and just collect the money, someone noted

    What does it take to run a pop and mom store that a Black guy or lady doesnt have?

    A colleague who is black and from one of the neighborhoods told us that there were black run stores at one time but that they were either bought out, or that they were avoided by black customers from the neighborhood.

  •  Agreed & they will always call him a n****r & (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, kerplunk, Tonedevil

    F-word (gay slur) behind his back.

    "Lets make white people feel good and superior" like we need to help them.

    He knows better & needs to STFU.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 11:32:55 AM PDT

  •  Don Lemon Is An Embarassment To Both The (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Patate, Tonedevil

    Black Community and the Gay Community.

    I have no tolerance for bigots and homophobes.

    Next he'll be telling the gay community how to dress, act, and be according to how he dresses and acts.  

    Gays and lesbians didn't make headway by demanding their community dress and act a certain way.  Lemon will be lecturing the gay community about how they must be a certain way or they will never win the right to not be fired from their job for being gay, not kicked out of their apartment for being gay, not given credit by credit companies, and on and on.  

    I expect we'll be hearing him orating on how if only transgender people would dress in appropriate attire based on their god given physical anatomy they wouldn't be ruining the community.  And if they only would use the right bathroom.  

    Don Lemon was way late to the party in his coming out, now he's on the lecture circuit of how his community needs to be.

    What an idiot.

    "I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.” - Arnold Schwarzenegger 2003

    by kerplunk on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 12:16:51 PM PDT

  •  Don Lemon (0+ / 0-)

    Speaking the truth about the number of out of wedlock births in the black community is not stereotyping anyone. It is telling the truth. Unless you have any ideas about doing something about it instead of crying "racism" when facts are pointed out. If people do not want to be stereotyped then people need to stop acting in stereotypical ways. The gay community is guilty of this as well. The don't like being stereotyped but every gay pride parade has gay men acting out outmoded stereotypes of women and referring to each other using feminine pronouns. Oh, but don't stereotype us!

  •  I have to admit that I am not familiar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    micsimov

    with Don Lemon or what he says.  I take it on faith from the comments here, that I would not like what he has to say.  I also feel that "black conservatives" such as Clarence Thomas deeply deserve the criticism they receive.

    That being said, I do feel that Bill Cosby is doing something necessary.  It is possible that Bill Cosby, being a wealthy celebrity, has lost his connection with his roots, but I think that some of what he says is on point.

    I think that "blaming" African Americans for their dire circumstances in this country is completely unfair.  The situation that exists today is certainly due to the treatment that African Americans have been subjected to in the U.S.  If the situation were reversed, white Americans would be in the same situation.

    The unfortunate reality is that, unfair as it is, repairing the situation will require effort from the government, white Americans, and African Americans.  White Americans cannot somehow independently "fix things".  The destructive behaviors (breakdown of the family structure, violence, etc.) in the inner cities need to be addressed from within, as well.

    It seems that a common position is that any criticism of the black community by an African American is regarded negatively.  I do not feel that this is a constructive position.

  •  oh, i bet he stereotypes gays too (0+ / 0-)

    "don't be fem!"

    "don't be obviously gay!"

    "be monogamous only! Everything else is bad!"

    "don't be a flag waver! Pride is dumb!"

    These, sadly, are all ideas I've held at times in my life. I'm better, but I'd have to say that all of those have significantly damaged my brain. I had to deprogram myself, and I'm still doing it.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility- mperiousRex. ;-) tropical weather season is here

    by terrypinder on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 05:18:25 AM PDT

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