“That’s Advice My Mother Gave Me In Kindergarten”: Don Lemon Tries To Explain His Infamous “5 Point Strategy”

July 30, 2013  |  

Don Lemon has had an interesting week to say the least. This past weekend he encouraged black folks to better themselves and the community by promoting five points that included finishing school (that’s right!), slowing down having children out of wedlock/being a committed parent (say it again), falling back on using the N-word (yeah, I guess), respecting your community by not vandalizing (that works too…I guess), and having young black men pull up their pants (meh…). While he made some valid points here and there, he received major criticism for some of his points, which some felt were too surface, and also for giving props to Bill O’Reilly of all people, who tried to say that black-on-black crime can be blamed on the disintegration of the black family. Ready to speak on the backlash, Lemon was open about the controversy a few times this week, including both Sunday on his own CNN show, and Monday on The View.

On Sunday he backed up his words, and talked about folks calling him an “Uncle Tom”:

“I’m taking that word back. I’m being called an ‘Uncle Tom’ so much, I’m taking that word back. I’m gonna get the ‘Uncle Tom’ award.

What is wrong with telling people to dress appropriately? These are things that I said [Saturday] that my mom taught me in kindergarten, that parents tell their kids in kindergarten. Dress nicely, speak well, speak appropriately.”

He went on to share these thoughts when he went on The View on Monday, but instead of having commentators who agreed with him, he had an interesting back and forth with Sherri Shepherd, who told him that where he really went wrong in his points was saying that Bill O’Reilly didn’t go far enough in his critiques of black folks. This back and forth (calm of course) all started when he tried to state his issues with young black men wearing baggy pants:

Lemon: “The pants are just a symbol of respect for me, respect for yourself and respecting others. What I was saying was not how you end racism, what I was saying was self-empowerment. How you help yourself because there are issues in the African American community that go beyond white people where you can fix things yourself.”

Shepherd: “But I think, Don, a lot of the controversial stuff kind of came because you said Bill O’Reilly’s criticism didn’t go far enough in the black community and I think a lot of people took umbrage with that. I don’t want to give Bill O’Reilly license to say anything because he’s never been a young black man growing up in the situation a lot of them grow up in. I think a lot of people were commenting on when you were saying ‘Yeah, Bill O’Reilly should have gone further in his criticism.”

Lemon: “But I can [go further] as a young black man.”

Shepherd: “You can, but I think it’s a blanket statement as well. I agree that there are things that need to be done, but I think you know, trying to apply blanket statements to every situation is not the best. I lived in Harlem and I remember a boy came over to our house and he was like ‘Can you just give me money to get to my grandmother’s because my mom hasn’t showed up in three days’ and his pants were sagging. So I think telling all the young black men, ‘pull up your pants’ is a Band-Aid because I don’t know if that is what’s going to do it.”

He definitely seemed to understand where Shepherd was coming from, but continued to stick by his five point strategy, including saying that he still does find the N-word and black folks’ use of it as extremely disrespectful since people died over that word.

While I do think Lemon had good intentions, there were points he made that came off a little naive. The way folks wear their pants, trash on their sidewalks, and the N-word as problems pale in comparison to many of the more major issues affecting the community. But I do agree that folks need to be out here doing better by their children and encouraging the youth to take education more seriously. But other than that, Lemon might need to go back to the drawing board.


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