It's one thing when folks outside the race make sweeping and narrow-minded generalizations about what "black people" should do to fix "our" issues. It's another when one of our own do it.
If nothing else, Don Lemon should know that not all black people face these five issues. And that even the repair of the simplistic issues he spouted won't repair deeply embedded racial disparity in this country. Mr. Lemon seems to think that if we all just assimilate and be respectable members of society no one will profile us, feel threatened by us, stereotype us, belittle us, talk down to us, deny us basic rights based on the color our skin.
Well sir, not to brag, you don't get much more respectable than my family. My father was a doctor, my mother an MBA'd accountant. My sister is a Global Director at a Fortune 1000 company. My older brother is a surgeon. I'm an HR consultant and published author of five books. My younger brother is a Director of Software Architecture. We're all degreed, some of us double. We live in nice neighborhoods, we drive nice cars, we speak "so well" and we're freaking nice to be around if I may say so myself. Our pants have never sagged and we have an abnormal fixation on clothing that might best be described as "preppy chic."
What I'm saying here Don... is that we are probably the closest real life approximation to Huxtablism (yes I made it up) as you will find anywhere. We don't (or shouldn't) scare people.
And yet, my older brother gets mistaken for a waiter just because folks assume that's the only reason a person of his color should be in a certain restaurant. My sister and I get goggled at when we show up at four or five star resorts without aprons or vacuum cleaners. My younger brother, who drives a cream colored PT cruiser (the least gangster vehicle in the world), gets pulled over for Driving While Black on the regular. Just yesterday I was followed around a store in Far North Dallas for close to half an hour before I turned with a brittle smile and asked the woman to locate the jeans in a size 10 and meet me at the register. Once there I declared in a loud voice how awesome it was to get such personalized service that out of all the patrons in the store, Kaylie chose to follow me and give me undivided attention the entire time. She turned red, the manager started in our direction, I paid for my jeans and rolled out. (Don't judge me, those were $125 jeans marked down to $17.99) Back to my point...
Tell me Don, what did my respectability earn me? What should I have done differently to not be treated like a suspect? Get educated? Check. Wear nice clothes? Check. Behave sociably? Check. What else could I do? Walk in with my hands over my head and declare, "I'm not here to steal anything, I promise. I have my passport, birth certificate, credit report, bank statement and college degree in my designer handbag. Feel free to frisk me!" O__o
One thing I can't stand is when people make generic "black people should" statements. It diminishes the conversation, clouds the actual issues and is so assumptive that it comes across condescending, belittling and naive. I took a Logical Theory class in college. The first thing they teach you is not to make generalizations that will ultimately prove false. The second thing they teach you is to not submit solutions to a problem that don't really address the baseline issue. If this entire debate sprang up out of the George Zimmerman trial than I'm wondering (as many of us have) what could Trayvon have done differently on that fateful night to save his life? The only answer is for him not to have crossed paths with George Zimmerman. Something that was beyond his control. The Zimmermans of this world only see black. They don't see any of the five things Mr. Lemon seems to find so intrinsic to outer respectability.
The deeper issue here is how to stop people from thinking like a Zimmerman. How do we abolish the instinct of some people to look upon people of color as a threat? Offering simplistic solutions and lectures on how we as a people should "do better" solves nothing and actual steers the discourse away from the integral point. I would think that of all people, Don Lemon would know this. Maybe he does know and doesn't care. Maybe he's just in it for the ratings boost. Either way, it was disappointing (but not surprising) to see someone of color with a national spotlight offering little else but empty sound bites.
As someone on Twitter said yesterday: We of the pretty and siddity set can't even ride with Don Lemon on this one. We're bougie. Not sellouts. Can I get an amen? Thoughts, comments, insights? Do share.