Race, Don Lemon, and Inconvenient Truths in the Black Community


CNN Correspondent Don Lemon is under fire for his address to the black community. 

By Lee Williams, Communication Activist

The United States is currently sweating under the heat of racial discussions. This summer is a showcase of dialogues, with everyone weighing in an opinion in the back-and-forth slingshot of public opinion. In the discussions of race following the Zimmerman verdict, these conversations have drifted into two categories: applicable behavior and cultural adjustments (i.e. if the African American community did not do THIS… then THIS wouldn’t happen) versus societal obstacles and disparities (i.e. the African American community is still being persecuted by systemic inequality).

As a side-note, personally I feel that these discussions should be delegated to ALL PEOPLE instead of just pigeon-holing African Americans into this generalized lump. I digress though, as there are lessons in any discussion and it’s best to enter them with an open mind.

What happens in these discussions of race, across message boards, forums, social media and evening talk shows, is that everyone’s “expertise” and emotion overrides all logical discussion. Someone always has to be wrong, ignorant, or labeled a complete racist. There is no middle ground. There is no shared learning. The division only increases.

This week’s media victim is CNN correspondent Don Lemon, who’s “Five Things to Think About” segment has caused a firestorm of political correctness in the black community (I highly recommend you watch this video). Lemon, who has used his visible platform to progressively discuss race at CNN, listed five reforms that troubled black men need to include in order to improve themselves and their communities: hiking up their pants, removing the n-word from their vocabulary, taking care and holding their communities accountable, finishing high school, and lowering the rate of children born out of wedlock.

Lemon described his comments as “tough love” but, similarly to Bill Cosby decades ago and Ben Carson recently, Lemon was demonized as a self-righteous elitist and also labeled an “Uncle Tom” by many in the media for his unfavorable comments, especially neo black activists who claim to speak for the black community. Lemon’s suggestions in no way will eliminate racism and discrimination, but it will create a pathways for an afflicted person of any race to wholly live a purposeful life, which would beckon respect from anyone they may cross paths with. It is surviving despite the darkness of our society. Don nails the question of character and poise and, while not denying racism, he also doesn’t make any excuses for deplorable behavior.

Discussing race is a complex and contentious issue, but one must ask the question: Why does a call for personal responsibility receive such an incendiary response?

It’s sad that in this point in history, we cannot have a true discussion about race but only the illusion that we are until something upsets us. From the perspective of addressing the African American community, how are things supposed to get better without constructive criticism or, if you’re non-black and are critical, the automatic assumption is that you are an elitist or racist and finally, if you have a platform and say something that is not politically correct, you’re an Uncle Tom?

As a black male, but also a free thinker, I strongly believe in the African proverb “Each one, teach one” and sometimes teaching comes in open rebuke. Too often the African American community call for an open discussion on race and, when that discussion turns into constructive criticism, such as what Don Lemon has said, many in the African American community kill the messenger instead of considering the inconvenient truths that are too bitter to swallow. Lemon’s statements speak volumes on accountability of self. We must stop killing the messenger when they speak constructive criticism or we will NEVER be ready for a discussion on race.

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” – Proverbs 27:19

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” – Gandhi

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius


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Photo courtesy of CNN.


  1. blessedbrother · July 30, 2013

    Whether you agree or disagree, you cant say he did not make some good points!


    • commactivist · July 30, 2013

      Blessedbrother – EXACTLY. Don Lemon was just brave enough to voice his opinion in an effort, to share a pathway away from unflattering stereotypes. If similar sentiments were shared with other races, I wonder what the reaction would be?


  2. Nicole E · July 31, 2013

    On first read of your post, I was in total disagreement. But after reading it again, I read this: “Lemon’s suggestions in no way will eliminate racism and discrimination, but it will create a pathways for an afflicted person of any race to wholly live a purposeful life, which would beckon respect from anyone they may cross paths with.” This is a great point. I think the Lemon persecutors (including myself) missed this. I don’t believe that he communicated this idea as well as you did, though. For me, it felt like Lemon was putting the onus of people’s ignorance and hate of Black people on Black people. For example, if young men pull up their pants other races will no longer think less of or discriminate against them. In fact, an article I read today brought this idea home: http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2013/07/15-things-black-people-must-do-in-order-to-end-racism/.

    Great post!


    • commactivist · July 31, 2013

      Of course it will require something much deeper than Don Lemon’s “five points” in order to fix systemic racism, but I see his comments as conversation starter that turns the looking glass around on the black community. However to agree with him, why can’t we raise our standards? Why can’t we hold our communities accountable?

      Someone said on my FB wall that “The majority of white supremacy is dependent upon black apathy and ignorance. Once we eliminate that, it is that much easier to point the finger without reproach.” I highly agree with this. The black community needs accountability from each other because everyone else will hold us accountable in life. As you mentioned last week, it’s the village and community that will build itself up.

      P.S.: Thanks for the link!!


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  8. Jay · January 14, 2017

    Another on-point article! The problem is that “politically correctness” in the Black American community has been a form of mental, emotional and physical imprisonment. Just like all human beings who are resistant to facing their faults, many Black Americans are as well. And unfortunately they do so to the point that it cripples their opportunities for advancements despite the U.S. systems of institutionalized racism and inequality. Therefore, when you are an enlightened Black American who broaches the discussion of the negativity in “our community” (I put this in quotations because I am “different” and have been blatantly excluded from this community by those of my race; therefore I never felt a part of it) and how we need to fix it, then you become the enemy instead of one of the change agents of the community. What they don’t realize is that the true enemy is the one he or she looks at in the mirror. Unfortunately the discussions I have had with these “self-enemies” also hold PhDs. Just goes to show that there is a such thing as educated fools. Sigh. It is what it is.

    Thanks again for sharing your enlightenment.


  9. Jay · January 14, 2017

    Oh, and one more thing. We “evolved” Black Americans must come to terms with the fact that we can not and will not save the little Black “babies” (i.e. the youth as well as the adults who are still in an infantile mindset).


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