Guest author Melvin Whitlock and The Last Civil Right’s very own, Atarah Golden, co-author “CNN and Don Lemon: The Epicenter of Racial Hysteria.” A native of Halifax County, Virginia, Melvin currently resides in Lynchburg, Virginia. Melvin received his B.S. in History from Liberty University and is in the process of completing his Masters of Education. Melvin works for the City of Lynchburg as an Adult Education Teacher, as well as working in other capacities for LCS. Centered on a conservative base, Melvin has been promoting the cause for conservatism in many diverse communities. In addition to his work, Melvin is also a volunteer and a basketball coach. To read more from Mr. Whitlock, visit here.
In what I consider to be one of the most beautiful “home-going” ceremonies seen on national television, the funeral for Whitney Houston generated an interested that was followed by all major news channels in the nation. For the first time in my lifetime, every major news station indirectly allowed millions of households to attend church during the memorial for Houston. Pastor Marvin Winans, of the famous Winans family, who eulogized Houston, made the statement that “she [Houston] brought the world to church today.”
Unfortunately, CNN’s coverage of the home going service sought to promote a racial element into the celebration of a race-less legend of the entertainment industry; in addition, CNN has shown a continual push for finding and exploiting race to push many of their stories and series. In terms of CNN’s coverage of Ms. Houston’s home-going service, the pre and post memorial commentary was given by CNN anchor Don Lemon. Mr. Lemon, who happens to be black, used a majority of his coverage time to inject his own experiences of the church into a faulty generalization of how black Baptist behave at these type of services.
While on site, Lemon took it upon himself to give a racial play-by-play of Houston’s funeral, and serve as the media educator to the non-black Baptist sector of the CNN’s viewing audience on what to expect from the predominantly black memorial or “home-going” service. Mr. Lemon, who has expressed a public disdain against the black church community, especially the Baptist church, for its rejection of homosexuality, used his air time to act as a representative for the black Baptist church. Ultimately, Lemon commits a continued fallacy of overgeneralization in inferring that his personal experience at black Baptist funerals is a factual account of all black Baptist funerals.
In May of 2011, a well-known rap artist by the name of Common received an invitation from the Obama family to perform at “A Celebration of Poetry at the White House.” An event that highlighted American poets, both past and present, the invite for Common generated some controversy.
The New Jersey State Police Union was just one of many groups who took issue with Common’s invite to the White House, but why? Common has been an outspoken supporter for convicted cop killer, Assata Shakur, and made the reference of burning President Bush in one of his songs called “A Letter to the Law.” While I am a fan of some rap and hip hop, I cannot say that I blame these particular groups for taking issue with Common being invited to perform by the leader of our country.
CNN anchor Don Lemon covered this topic and presented the legitimate opposition to Common’s White House performance as a position of classic racism. In a 10-minute panel discussion that included Tim Wise, an outspoken supporter of liberalism and opponent to conservatism, Lemon asked only racial specific questions to Mr. Wise and others about the root of the dissent against Common appearing and performing at the White House. An example of the type of questions Mr. Lemon asked Mr. Wise and others who had no connection to those who opposed Common’s attendance: “So, Tim, is there — because I’ve been hearing this, and I’ve been hearing this, I think African-Americans, the ones I know, won’t say it but white Americans are saying to me, Don, you know, there’s some racial undertones here.”
Not one question in Mr. Lemon’s panel discussion involved actual persons or groups who took issue with Common’s attendance, nor did one question present a position that was given by a person or group stating in their own words on why they opposed Common’s invite to the White House. Sadly, Mr. Lemon turned a non-racial issue into one that made it appear as race was the sole issue. There were no members of the New Jersey Police Department on the panel, nor were there family members of Werener Foster (the cop killed by Assata Shakur) on the panel. Instead, the panel was made up of men and women who supported the first family’s invite to Common; in addition, these men and women were given the full authority by Lemon to speak on behalf of those who opposed the invite.
Showing a direct intent to conveniently inject a racial element in to a situation, Don Lemon has also used his anchor job to shield similar positions that contradict his attempt to racially mobilize groups one way or the other on hot button topics. Take Jill Scott for example, who was also invited to perform at “A Celebration of Poetry at the White House,’” and the criticism the White House received for inviting a lady who has been outspoken in her disapproval and distaste of interracial dating. My question to those who sought to find the racial element in the opposition to Common’s performance, is how can those same skeptics ignore the racial element from the White House embracing the performance of someone with a linkage to supporting a segregationist ideal?
Don Lemon is only one of many examples, in which CNN has taken a proactive position to racially exploit hot button issues. Before anyone gets on the “well, what is so wrong about talking about race train,” let me explain: there is nothing wrong with embracing racial and cultural differences; after all, America is a melting pot of culture, however, CNN has shown time and again a concentrated determination to weld an issue to race at each and every opportunity.
In 2008, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien headlined a series titled Black in America, in which many self-proclaimed leaders of the black community engaged in a forum discussion about the issues in which black Americans are facing in today’s society. From our perspective, the series began with a sincere curiosity to understand the racial perception within and around much of black America; however, the discussion often shifted from an attempt to grasp a racial understanding of the evolution of black America’s state of being, into a racial exploitation of failed liberal entitlement dependency. In short, the series focused more on the overachiever somehow overcoming a racial oppression by “white America,” but the success of black Americans is not something that is a rarity; instead, it is deeply embedded in the history of those who are descendants of slaves.
In conclusion, it is easy to fall for the racial hysteria that CNN and several of its anchors inject into non-racial stories; however, one must remember that CNN is in the business of generating a media-following, and that it is seeking the black American viewer at all cost. Don Lemon is the unfortunate benefactor of racial job security, meaning that as long as he is capable of speaking race into topics, he is relevant to CNN. Roland Martin and Donna Brazille have in the past, played the role of race anchor; however, those two individuals have shown a capability of expanding their intellect beyond the boundaries of racial relevancy in non-racial stories.