by Yvette Carnell
When CNN”s Don Lemon attempted to lay the problems of the black community at the feet of black boys with saggy pants, he was assailed by much of Black America, including this writer, for not grappling with the issues that buttress poverty in America. After taking weeks to roil over the issues, thrashing about in his own mind, Lemon responded on Saturday night with predictable results. In Lemon’s crosshairs this time was hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, who wrote an open letter to Lemon.
“I’m glad you wrote the letter,” Lemon pretended, “not because I think you completely missed the point, not because, like many of the other critics, I thought you were just using the occasion as a promotion for one of your businesses, your website, but I wasn’t going to address it because, quite honestly, it was hard to take you, and it, seriously after you called me derogatory names like slave on Twitter.”
Lemon should be ashamed of himself for even bringing up Russell Simmons’ name in the company of those who are speaking out to buttress their own brands. Russell Simmons has had a brand since shell toe addidas. He’s always been outspoken. It’s Don Lemon who is one CNN paycheck away from being swallowed into the black hole of media obscurity, not Simmons.
Simmons shouldn’t have called Lemon names. I agree with that, since name calling never advances the conversation, but the discussion Lemon is having on why he “selected” Russell Simmons, among all the other Lemon detractors, is silly. You didn’t select Russell Simmons, Mr. Lemon, Simmons went for you. Simmons came for that neck, leaving you no choice but to respond. And the fact that it took Lemon this long to respond, or should I say prepare, shows how seriously he took Simmons’ open letter.
Anyway, in Lemon’s 13 minute long pseudo-analysis, he says we–black folk– “need to discuss all of the issues” that come with race, but when has Lemon ever seriously tackled the causes of poverty in America? Or public policy’s impact on upward mobility? Lemon moderated a juvenile conversation on the “N” word, which was basically a waste of prime time CNN media space, but the only issue that Don Lemon has chosen to use his brand to trumpet is the demonization of the Black poor. Is that his idea of discussing “all of the issues?”
For example, the unemployment rate among black teens is 41 percent, and that’s not because their pants hang too low. It’s because the economy is in the crapper and the average age of a fast food worker is now 29. There are serious economic problems here, which Mr. Lemon can’t seem to wrap his brain around. Don Lemon can’t discuss those issues because he doesn’t understand those issues.
But the most regrettable aspect of this whole segment was Lemon’s invocation of Dr. King and Malcolm X to chastise Black America. If Dr. King were here, he’d probably be concerned, as he was prior to his death, with the plight of the working poor, the calcification of wealth at the very top, and how America’s social programs are being systematically gutted. Here is the MLK that the Don Lemons of the world don’t want to talk about:
Martin Luther King Jr. died speaking truth to power. Don Lemon is using his media space to further demobilize and pummel an already marginalized group. Don Lemon then goes on to retool a clip of Malcolm X, where the Nation of Islam leader talked about not getting a job from “the white man”, to make his point. But doesn’t Don Lemon work for “the white man” that Malcolm X was cautioning black folk against?
Lemon was attempting to draw a contrast between Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and the Black poor. But there was only one contrast that stuck out in my mind: Don Lemon is no Dr. King or Malcolm X.
You can watch Don Lemon, in all his Black Redeemer glory, right here: