In 2010, during a radio interview, former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, a Latino, called “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart a “bigot” and intimated that CNN was “run by Jews.” Swiftly, in response to Jewish outrage about his comments, Sanchez was fired. Former CNN pundit Roland Martin would later be “let go” by CNN because white people who make up close to 100 percent of gay leadership complained about Martin and did not like him.
At the moment, many Black people are outraged by comments from CNN anchor Don Lemon. Lemon apparently “sided” with Bill O’Reilly, a known racist and white supremacist, during a typical anti-Black and ill-informed rant about Black people on his talk show. Of course, Lemon offending Black people will not result in his being fired by CNN. As a matter of fact, Lemon has been featured on other high-profile talk shows to explain himself. Neither Sanchez nor Martin were afforded these opportunities. That is because white folks like and are comfortable with Lemon. And right now, what white folks like—Jewish or otherwise—white folks get.
Lemon proved his undying love and loyalty to white people some time ago, particularly when dedicating his memoirs to a white male, after coming out as gay in 2011. Offending Black people, like murdering a 100 percent innocent Black child (Trayvon Martin), is not offensive in America or among media bosses. The U.S. media manufactures Black-dismissing and -dehumanizing, and white-protecting and -accommodationist thinking.
Again, this tendency in America directly contributed to Martin’s cold-blooded murderer being found not guilty. This same thinking occurs and is internalized among Black people too. Without deliberate means, it can be difficult to avoid. It is not a rarity to locate a Black American who sees other Black people through the lens of a white racist. Even among Black people, the widely used term “nigga” came from racist white people.
Armstrong Williams, Larry Elders, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peters and Clarence Thomas, just to name a few, are often given a platform specifically to low rate Black people. Yet Black people are almost never given a primetime platform to do the opposite. Most of America’s systems are designed to be white comfort zones or to be non-threatening to white people.
Typically, success for Black and Latino people, in corporate America for example, involves the capacity to walk, talk and act in ways that comfort white folks. In America, being Black and actually loving yourself and your community without question is a challenge for many. Yet, having that disposition can get you more rewards, white associates, jobs and approval.
The recent hoopla about Lemon’s race comments divert from the fact that there are few to no Black males in high-profile television positions like his because of white racism and control. What other Black men in Lemon’s position, an anchor on a major network, have we heard from at all regarding their views of the Black community? None. When was the last time you’ve heard a high-profile media personality go into any detail, let’s say, about the impact of racism and the media on Black people? Never. How many other daily televised Black male anchors have given an analysis of life in Black communities since the George Zimmerman trial, let alone before? None.
Lemon is just doing his job and was selected as one who would be good at it. And he is. Lemon is just another ambitious, non-threatening, white accommodationist Black male who gets to be on camera because white CNN executives are comfortable with him.
If you’re complaining about Lemon and not holding his racist bosses accountable, again, you are barking up the wrong tree. Protest racism in America’s media. It does much greater damage to Black people than Don Lemon does.
Cleo Manago is founder and CEO of the Black Men’s Xchange.