Monday, July 29, 2013

Don Lemon reminds me of sad similarity between black, gay communities

I was so angry at CNN's Don Lemon last weekend because of the ignorant way he chose to voice a few comments.

Lemon took it upon himself to underline ways that the black community can improve itself. His suggestions were that we should stop wearing baggy pants, using the n-word, dropping out of school and having children out of wedlock.

They were good points, but the way he phrased them came across as a patronizing lecture which talked down to African-Americans because the majority of us don't act in those manners.

 I felt he could have used the power of his pulpit to have a nuanced discussion about the problems in the black community, rather than sounding as ignorant as Fox host Bill O'Reilly, who pretty much repeated the same stereotypes about African-Americans.

However in the midst of my raging anger,  an inner thought kept running throughout my mind.

For all of the arguments and discussions asking is the struggle for lgbt equality comparable to that of the African-American civil rights movement, there are times when very few notice the similarities.

And this is one of those times

 Lemon's condescending lecture does nothing for the African-American community. Sagging pants and bad English are not indigenous to the African-American community. And children out of wedlock and the drop-out rates are not problems that's not centered solely based in the African-American community.

If there are going to be serious discussions about problems facing the black community, then they don't need to start with a pundit wagging his finger while sequestered behind a desk. There needs to be discussions as to why things such as out of wedlock births are happening. The discussions should have more context by mentioning socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, not having access to good education and healthcare, and systematic racism so ingrained that it practically works by itself. And there needs to be viable solutions voiced.

All Lemon (O'Reilly for that matter) actually did was to exacerbate racism against African-Americans by allowing those with biases against black folks to flood the comment boards with vulgar displays of gloating.

And they both reminded me of how the religious right exacerbates homophobia against the lgbt community.

So many religious right groups and leaders, from Tony Perkins and Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council to Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel, are quick to point out Centers for Disease Control statistics which talk about health risk factors in the lgbt community as proof that homosexuality is a supposed dangerous lifestyle.

However, these so-called defenders of truth and morality always seem to deliberately omit that the CDC says that homophobia and its negative effects on the lgbt community are clearly to blame for the health risk factors, and not the so-called gay lifestyle. I've always believed that they omit this simple fact because it destroys their argument. They don't seek to have a nuanced discussion on being gay because they want to dehumanize the lgbt orientation.

Certainly this is not what Lemon was trying to do to the African-American community,  but that is in fact what he did. Lemon dehumanized the African-American community into stereotypes, much like the religious right does to the lgbt community.

It's something which strikes at the heart of my soul because of my dual identity as a black gay man. It was something that Mr. Lemon maybe should have thought of seeing that he is also a black gay man. That tidbit hurt me the most because I once looked up to Lemon as a role model. With O'Reilly, such nonsense is to be expected. He is nothing more than a high maintenance Morton Downey, Jr. whose  rage and bluster conceals the fact that he just that - rage and bluster without a semblance of nuance or integrity.  And thus, his analyses of the arguments of the day are as soggy and weak as a bag of cotton candy caught in a rain storm.

Instead of agreeing with O'Reilly, Lemon should have aspired to give his audience something more intelligent.

Lemon's patronizing sermon is definitely something both the lgbt and African-American community should keep in mind instead of being tricked into playing another bout of the "oppression Olympics." Let's not allow ourselves to be fooled by segments of society who sees both of our communities as either children needing to be lectured or undesirables. And let's not allow ourselves to be pawns of pundits who see us as commodities to increase their ratings.

There is an unfortunate dichotomy in America which looks at both the black and gay communities as entities to be talked about rather than talked to and commodities to be used and abused like tissue paper. To defeat this dichotomy, both communities must do all they can to not only solve their problems  but also wrest control of the conversation from those who would seek to define us in ugly and simplistic terms.

Because they simply don't have our best interests at heart.


Glenn Ingersoll said...


Erica Cook said...

Well, I would say for his things he thinks black people could do to change just about anyone under 30 could take that advice regardless of their race. My dad used to joke when he'd see kids with the sagging pants, IE droopy drawers. He looked like my nephew, who was one at the time, when he needed his diaper changed. Point of fact here the boy was white.

As for the gay issues and the black issues. I have an issue with saying that gay is the new black because I think it oversimplifies things. As a white person I don't feel I am in a position to judge who has things worse, but it reminds me of a situation I was in last month with a friend. I was suffering from a histamine reaction to what turned out to be nothing. I had a rash over about 30% of my body and nothing helped. At the same time a friend was suffering from menstrual issues related to a chronic condition that leaves her in so much pain vicodin doesn't help.

At some point I realized we were both trying to convince the other that we were worse off. Finally I said, "I don't want to play the who has it worse game." And we just talked about what the other could do to help. This is where I'd like to see us get to. I want to help the black community see the equality they should have reached decades ago. I don't do this because I need their help getting the rights I deserve, but because it is the right thing to do. I do hope that as straight people those I help will choose to do the same, and if they ask I will tell them

In the end that's what we need to do. Stop telling people where they are going wrong because what a person does in their life, so long at it is legal, doesn't change the fact that they deserve equal respect. If someone is making bad choices its likely because they've never known other options.