Pop Culture, Race & Politics

Don Lemon To Black Community: “F*ck With Me You Know I Got It”

I'd call him my nword but then it would turn into a thing. I hate things.

I’d call him my nword but then it would turn into a thing. I hate things. Plus he’s not really my nword.

“…it’s like these people have a racial commitment to crime…” ~ Danny Vinyard, American History X

That line always struck me as preposterously poetic, sinister, and eloquent at the same damn time. The sad part of it all is that while Danny Vinyard (played by Edward Norton) was a member of a white supremacist group and clearly prone to that line of thinking as a sort of party line when speaking of Black people, I wouldn’t be surprised if the standard, common, Joe Blow American doesn’t feel some type of familiarity with the sentiment involved. Perhaps its not stated so eloquently or as intentional, but more as a matter of function. It’s like the Chris Brown corollary: if chair is thrown from a window and Chris Brown is present, there is a better than 90 percent likelihood that Chris Brown either threw it or was involved with its flight.

Or put more simply, while I don’t know that I think most Americans (or people of the world for that matter) view Black people as rampant criminals, I will say that I’m sure there’s a significant portion of people that aren’t surprised at all when they see news stories involving black-on-black crime.

Which is why its so great that we have both Fox News Bill O’Reilly and CNN’s Don Lemon to help us figure out how to stop being such violent creatures and criminals. See, recently, Bill O’Reilly purported that African-Americans (nobody calls us Black in Prime Time) trend towards violence because of the breakdown of the African-American family. Don Lemon took it a step further with his five-point plan on how we could…get it together? Or stop being so violent? I’m not exactly sure what is to be achieved by his five points…but he had five points…perhaps Don Lemon is suuwoo. That’s a little gangland reference for those that don’t know. What? I’m Black. I’m crime prone.

By the way, I realize I’m late to the Don Lemon party. But upon seeing it I realized that well, if there’s something worth discussing its five-points to make you Black folks lives better. So let’s take a look at his points, mmkay?

5. Pull your pants up

4. Stop using the n-word

3. Stop littering

2. Graduate

1. No more unwed mothers

There were varying facts and figures that he used to support how exactly these five things were cornerstones of the degradation of the African-American community.

Now let’s be completely objective, if we can. On the surface, all of that is right. Or at least there’s nothing wrong with any of those points. On a purely surface level, the trend – ongoing for way longer than it should – of folks walking around visibly showing their draws…well I don’t get it either. I live in a Black neighborhood. I’ve seen more draws on a daily basis than the folks in Hong Kong making Fruit of the Looms. It’s truly stupefying. Mostly from a practical standpoint…it can’t be easy to walk like that. Nor can it be comfortable. I remember when sagging was popular….this ain’t even sagging, this is just downright walking with your pants around your knees. I’m just perplexed due to function. Given ALSO how tight pants are nowadays, its like dudes are walking around in cocoons…everybody’s just hopping nowadays. No Que.

Again, stop using the n-word, there’s a totally practical reason for this as well. Just like not littering (goooooooooo Earth…Captain Planet swag and sh*t). Graduate more? Who can’t get behind that? Even Kanye – one of the most notorious college dropouts in American history – named an album Graduation. That must count for something right? No unwed mothers…again, on its face, this makes pure and total sense. In social terms, its the ideal. A two-parent home clearly provides the most optimum opportunity for success – though its no the ONLY opportunity for success as so many of us can attest to.

But it is entirely possible to still be right and wrong simultaneously. None of those “solutions” would fix issues unique to the Black community. To keep it really real here’s how it actually works. If you graduate, you are probably more likely to get married…which means your dual income will allow you to live in a place where there ain’t much trash around which will likely have much less individuals using the nword OR sagging their pants. That’s just about moving to the a gated community.

Jokes aside, I feel like the biggest issue with points like this that aren’t wrong on the surface is that they don’t address any of the “why” of the situation to begin with. Granted, “why” can be a copout at times. I know. But think about it like this…if the goal is to eliminate violence (?) or change perception (which is not just Black folks fault mind you), will any of that sh*t truly make a difference? If I pull my pants up and stop using the nword, will I be looked at different? What if I put some sh*t in a trash can instead of on the ground – something that EVERYBODY hates seeing by the way, even folks in the hood get annoyed by the littering – and graduate a few times and don’t have a child out of wedlock…will that stop all the violence?

No. Part of the problem is the abject poverty may folks live in along with the laws and policies that have intentionally segregated this country for years. If you read transportation policy and understand city planning and redlining you see how cities were constructed to maximize segregation. I don’t care who you are, when a motherf*cker builds a HIGHWAY through your community specifically to separate the haves and the have nots (more a class issue) self-esteem issues are going to exist. It’s almost as dumb as not allowing a person with daddy issues – man or woman – the space to overcome the self-esteem issues they may or may not have. When sh*t is f*cked up, people are affected by it. Period. The problem is, the way you’re affected then resonates with another set of people who have the ability to more or less control some of the outcomes that are desired. Not a copout, just an acknowledgement that tellling Black people to get their sh*t together over a trash can and some sagging pants isn’t even a bandaid, its short sighted as hell.

Coming from Don Lemon it almost seems extra irritating. I’m not sure why this is, but it doesn’t feel genuine. His little anecdotes about living in Harlem now and the things he sees and how he never saw that before? I’m pretty sure he didn’t live in my neighborhood in Atlanta. Things he’s complaining about were par the course. NY…be offended. NYC is dirty. Period. The whole damn city. It ain’t Philly dirty…but its dirty.

Is he really arguing that if you just pick up trash in Harlem that everything’s gonna be alright. No Vinnie. Which remarkably, IS WHAT TREACH SAID! *rimshot*

I realize Don Lemon has caught a lot of flack, and probably mostly from folks in the Black community. I’m also sure he’s got a lot of support from that same Black community and much head nodding and agreement from a bunch of folks who treat Blackness as a pathology and not just a race. Ultimately, that’s what this comes down to…a white person litters…he’s littering and he’s a douche.

If a Black man does it, he’s predisposed to littering and is going to blame it on slavery. Black people are walking, talking pathologies. Pathology is the new stereotype.

This has gotten long, and yes that’s what she said. But what are your opinions about Don Lemon’s “No Talking Points” segment?

Agree? Disagree? Why or why not?



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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

  • Epsilonicus

    I have done all those that Don Lemon listed (except #1 b/c me and wife aint having no babies yet) and I still get treated differently. My Blackness causes me to be treated differently no matter what I do.

    Don Lemon only touches surface stuff. However it is not touching on root causes. Its like saying, “paint the house and all will be well”. But yet the piping has gone to hell and the electric work is shoddy. I’d rather have a crappily painted house but a solid foundation than vice versa.

  • Joseph P. Pete Jr.

    You can discount what you want. And disagree with me. I know what he was trying to say and why he said it. While I don’t completely agree with his delivery, I get his point. What I don’t get is the value of the discounting I’ve seen on blogs and other sites when any black person says things need to change.

    I also don’t presume we need to do anything about our perception to white people. The perception ofBlack males in America is pretty negative to more than just white people.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      A little perspective is needed here. People have been telling Black people to change our behavior for decades. And look at how many of us have, millions and millions have assimilated into Western/ White culture lock, stock and barrel. And yet, how has that helped change systematic discrimination and racism? Did that stop banks from redlining? Did that stop manufacturing companies from leaving urban centers for the suburbs? Did that increase the amount of health clinics in poor Black communities? Did that stop chain grocery stores from abandoning Black communities?

      So, just keep preaching to us. Meanwhile who’s preaching to the power structure?

      • Agatha Guilluame

        Can the church say “Amen!”

    • panamajackson

      The issue there is that we’ve never solely just stated that people should be resistant to change. Hell I got CHIDED by some folks two weeks ago when I suggested that if you dress like a criminal you can’t get mad if folks treat you like one. We all proffer options of things we can do. However, and I can’t speak for other blogs, it comes from a place that is more genuine than Don Lemon who suddenly feels b/c he lives in Harlem now he’s seen all of our issues and can tell us how to fix them. Sometimes its okay to shoot the messenger AND the message if they are both disingenuous and not even really solutions-oriented.

    • Ms Butterfly

      Because it’s always easier to just point fingers at individuals than look for comprehensive solutions. Honestly, The Don Lemons of the world aren’t actually helping bc they aren’t saying anything people who would actually watch his show aren’t aware of.

  • Guest

    This may be some *shots fired* but the only solution I ever hear to the out-of-wedlock pregnancy problem is “black women need to close their legs more”. I think this conversation is unfair and needs to change. Black women aren’t getting married bc they aren’t being proposed to, but most of us still would like to have children while we still can. I’m also not sure that black women withholding sex would convince more black men to marry them; it would probably just encourage more black men into interracial relationships. That’s not an issue in and of it itself, but I would really like to see some discussion on the role of black men in this.

  • Ms Butterfly

    This may be some *shots fired* but the only solution I ever hear to the out-of-wedlock pregnancy problem is “black women need to close their legs more”. I think this conversation is unfair and needs to change. Black women aren’t getting married bc they aren’t being proposed to, but most of us still would like to have children while we still can. I’m also not sure that black women withholding chex would convince more black men to marry them; it would probably just encourage more black men into interracial relationships. That’s not an issue in and of it itself, but I would really like to see some discussion on the role of black men in this.

    • h.h.h.

      i thought mr lemon was talking to …well…’us’ (black males)

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      I think most of the whole Black women not getting married thing is propaganda. If you say something enough times with enough conviction then many people will believe it on spec.

      The truth is that marriage rates are declining all over the Western world. Some Black women are apart of that larger trend. But, when you turn the unmarried Black women statistic on its head you get a pretty normal number. Nearly 40% of all women have never been married.

      And if 42% of Black women have never been married, that means that 68% have. That’s a pretty high number. But, no one ever looks at it that way. we’re taught to see the negative in every situation about us and not the positive.

      • Ms Butterfly

        But the point is we overwhelmingly have children prior to marriage (70% of all black children are born out of wedlock), and the average age of first marriage for black women is far later than for other races of women (I think by almost 3-4 years). Why is that?

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          In the case of out-of-wedlock births, that’s also a Western trend. We’re the only ones who are seen through the lens of pathology though. When White women do it its all by choice and because of economic freedom, according to the media. We do it because we’re trifling, according to almost everyone.

          As for getting married later. I think several things are at play. Huge numbers of Black women (for the first time) are going to college and then entering the professional workforce. So, marriage isn’t the number one priority of younger Black women the way it has been in the past.

          And, it takes any demographic time to adjust to major changes. When White women began to go to college en mass and then to work in the late 70s and 80s their marriage rates dropped and they also married later. As well, White women outnumber White men in college too. But, no one sees that as a problem.

          My overall point is that if we view ourselves through the prism of Black pathology then everything looks dire and problems exist solely because we’re Black. If we view ourselves in rational ways taking into account all of the real facts, then we begin to normalize ourselves in our own eyes.

          • Ms Butterfly

            Hmm…. I’m on board with not pathologizing all these issues, but let’s not pretend like white middle class women choosing to have children on their own is the same as poor black women getting knocked up, who don’t have the luxury of said economic freedom. The latter is contributing to a cycle of poverty in the black community.

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              See, that’s my point. Why are you comparing middle-class White women to poor Black women? Why not compare apples to apples, poor White women to poor Black women. Then you’ll see how much they have in common. Same goes with middle class Black and White women.

              Are there differences, yes. But, comparisons have to be fair otherwise conclusions will be biased.

              • Epsilonicus

                It is a worldwide fact that the more education women have, the fewer babies.

                But again, getting the statistical comparison right means that a narrative that works is wrong. Can’t have stereotypes not be true…

              • Kema

                Exactly! I always think of this as a teen mother that came from a middle class background. I’m sure my life would have been different had I been brought up in poverty.

              • Ms Butterfly

                I only brought up the white middle class women because you said that the media glorifies single motherhood for white women, but I am noting it only glorifies it for specifically middle class and rich white women, who can afford to take care of said children. Even so, Nobody was really celebrating January Jones. And all the other white celebrities I can think of who were glorified single mothers were usually glorified bc they adopted. And sometimes not even then bc I remember the hullabaloo when Calista Flockhart adopted a child and glorified single motherhood and conservatives were all up in arms.

                All of the statistics on the overall declining marriage rates and increased education rates aren’t relevant to my original point and don’t change the fact that single motherhood for the average non wealthy person is financially devastating, and that the resulting poverty contributes to a whole host of delays in developmental milestones for their children.

                So, to go back to my original point, 1) the vast majority of black children are not born within a marriage, 2) this greatly contributes to lifetime poverty for both mother and child, 3) no one to my knowledge has sufficiently engaged the male half of the equation in the solution 4) women cannot force men to marry them.

                We do need a viable solution to this particular issue. We know that out of wedlock births are a relatively recent phenomenon in American culture, and that poverty does not necessarily cause single motherhood, but single motherhood often causes poverty.

        • 321mena123

          I have to FULLY cosign Val on this. This is increasing in almost every group of women (out of wedlock births and later marriages). Also, why is getting married later a problem? Out of wedlock births, they definitely cause problems, but the real problem is not having a family structure in place. Trust, i have read articles written by white women wondering why they are getting married later or why the out of wedlock births are increasing. This is a societal “problem.” Last, the way the statistics are shown are messed up. I think by the time black women are 35, 70% have been married/are married at least once.

          • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

            Lol. The first time, really?

            • 321mena123

              I edited it. You and i have been agreeing lately. I don’t want to jinx this new trend ;-)

              • Sahel

                Damn with O gone,you guys were the next best thing. Nothing lasts forever

                • 321mena123

                  We’ve definitely had some exchanges. Not going to lie.

    • Todd

      Personally, the solution to out-of-wedlock pregnancy should be “think a bit more about who you let hit raw”. It’s one thing if you’ve been dealing with someone for a while, yet haven’t made it official for a number of reasons. The problem is that there are people who are hustling backwards and breaking off people raw dog they bare know or care about, thinking that they’re somehow proving a point to the world. Notice I didn’t say a gender, because this is a case where both men and women are guilty of the same dumb ish.

      • Ms Butterfly

        Raw chex is great though.

        ….but I’m hoping the Obamacare birth control coverage mandate will encourage a bit more responsibility in this area.

    • Agatha Guilluame

      The black population in America (and worldwide) is either stagnant or declining. I know popular culture makes it seem like we’re having so many babies but in reality we’re not.

      And I just want to remind everyone that there are 315+ million Americans and only about 39 million of those are black (a number that has remained pretty consistent for decades now), so in raw numbers out of wedlock pregnancies in the black community is really not that significant.

      And a fact I will always remember from a long ago Sociology course is that raw numbers wise, the average person seeking government assistance is young, white and female.

      So statistically, if they say 10% of the black community is X that’s about 3.9 million people, a big number until you consider, what the raw number for 2% of the white community would be, ~4.46 million. Which is a big deal when you consider that when these discussions come up re: (insert issue here) the percentage gap is never as big as 10% to 2%. And in all reality when you’re discussing finite resources and the allocation of funds its the raw numbers that should hold more weight.

  • Sahel

    Why are there so many gun shops and liquor stores in the hood. This has to be changed

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      I don’t know about gun shops but there are definitely too many liquor stores. And the reason is simple. Oppressed and hopeless people many times turn to alcohol to escape.

    • 321mena123

      Economics. That’s where the market is and i would assume it’s cheaper to have your store there than in an upscale area.

  • Ms Butterfly

    The way people speak about “black problems” you would think black people just have a genetic predisposition toward self destructive behavior, which is untrue and unfair. The problems the black community faces are really just indicative of the problems in our culture as a whole; it’s exacerbated by poverty and systemic racism.

    Truth is, Americans are ALL a bunch of gun-loving, casual chex having, drug using, binge drinking, under-dressing violent, resource wasting, polluting, self-important ingrates; this is pretty much how we’re viewed collectively abroad. I think Val mentioned below that black people function as white people’s self esteem, which rings true to me. It’s easier just to say these are “black problems” rather than “American Problems” because it provides white people with a sense of superiority and a way to ignore the problems that exist in our culture as a whole. It’s also why blacks cannot emulate other “model minorities” because they were raised in a totally different culture. We’re Americans, acting like Americans, but being treated like strangers in our own land.

    • Todd

      This reminds me of this comedy book I stumbled onto in the 90s where the title of the book was “You knew you grew up in the projects if…” It wasn’t anything particularly serious, but one of the cover blurbs struck me. Jeff Foxworthy wrote it and said something like “I didn’t know that the trailer park was that close to the projects!” Simply put, you’re absolutely right.

      There’s also the real fact that there isn’t a (perceived) unified White culture the same way there is a (perceived) unified Black culture, but that’s another story.

      • http://www.blackyoda.tumblr.com/ Black Yoda

        Wasn’t that Shawn Wayans (and others) who wrote that? “You know your ghetto if you got soap the size of a tic-tac and you’re still trying to use it.” :0) I think I remember seeing that Jeff Foxworthy blurb you’re talking about there. A lot of issues we deal with are largely class based.

  • Medium Meech

    I don’t think much mental energy needs to be wasted to prove that the solution to all that troubles black community can be solved with 5 points, and especially not when 40% of that list is dedicated to a defunct fashion trend that started in the 90s and the fate of empty snickers packages. In fact, I think Panama did just by posting the list.

    This list says more about him than it does the black community. His hostility towards the black community for how its perceived hyper-masculinity makes it hard for gay men is documented. Actually it says more about CNN. If Soledad O’Brien and this guy are what they pass off as as their lead voices on black America then we have a long way to go.

    • Todd

      C’mon dog. While the homophobia within the Black community is oversold, it’s not exactly a figment of dude’s imagination. I’m not saying his feelings are right, but they are real.

      • Medium Meech

        I didn’t say it was. But what are we comparing it to? I’m from the south, I have South American and Caribbean friends and I went to school with upper class white people. You can’t tell me that this is a “black thing”. In my experiences the black community is actually very accepting in spite of the rhetoric.

      • Medium Meech

        Also, I’m not saying his feelings aren’t valid, just that the racial component is unnecessary and it doesn’t change the possibility of it painting his perceptions. Somebody else said that they doubt he would come out and tell young gay men to dress and act and talk a certain way (basically act straight) in order to be accepted by the mainstream.

        • Agatha Guilluame

          Truth…he wouldn’t ever tell gay men that the best way not to be victims of hate crimes or discrimination is to act straight BUT he himself goes out of his way to not come off as stereotypically gay (i.e. flamboyant?)

    • Val

      CNN gave Soledad the boot, so Don is the chosen one, I suppose. Hopefully he’ll be next. I think they’ll have a spot for him at FOX.

  • NomadaNare

    How are we going to keep the house from burning down if we don’t fix the wallpaper, first ? I mean if we can renovate the look of the walls and make sure it looks better, surely the fire will burn itself out, right? It only takes one small change to significantly alter the future of a burning house.

    BTW this was on Democracy Now! today: http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/6/a_dream_foreclosed_as_obama_touts

  • Shamira

    welcome! *grabs ankles for celebratory twerk*

    • MissJo313

      Aww shucks, thanks! My first ever welcome twerk lol!

  • Jay-D, MBA

    This may have been said before but Don Lemon’s respectability politics is ludicrous The belief that acting, dressing, or speaking a particular way would make people treat you like a human being and undo systemic oppression, or bring racism to a halt is insane. Honestly, telling people to bleach their skin and straighten their hair would probably lead to better results.

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