Activists Put #DonLemonOn Blast

By Arturo R. García

(Note: Video contains NSFW language toward the end.)

Actually, Cenk Uygur is wrong about one thing: not only is CNN’s Don Lemon aware of the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program (or, as he insists on calling it, “stop, question and frisk”), but he sued a Tower Records store in 2001 after a security guard allegedly attacked him, thinking he stole a CD player.

But Uygur is correct in noting the alarmist tone in Lemon’s commentary on The Tom Joyner Show on Tuesday. And, it turns out, social activists and the Twitter communities caught that, as well — and brought that to light throughout the day.

The hashtag #DonLemonOn caught fire on Twitter not long after Lemon’s statement aired. A few offerings:

But while HuffPo Live host Marc Lamont Hill attempted to partially defend Lemon, saying he was offering a more nuanced argument, the nuance appears to be lost in statements like these:

Stop-question-and-frisk is the biggest issue in the country right now other than jobs and Obamacare and the next New York City mayor may not know it: but so goes New York City, so goes the rest of the country.

If he alters the equation of the formula that has reduced crime in New York City to its lowest in decades. One of which is stop-question-and-frisk and the crime rate creeps back up, beyond local citizens moving away to the suburbs, people will stop visiting, stop spending their tourist dollars.

A big driver to the city’s economy, the city will suffer international consequences, cities and municipalities around the country will follow suit; looking at the big apple as an example of what to do or not to do.

So whatever the mayor here decides will be reflected in your city, reflected in your crime rate, and in your economy.

Considering that Bill de Blasio, who won the election in convincing fashion on Tuesday night, has already expressed his opposition to the policy, does that mean Lemon is afraid for the city’s safety moving forward?

Lemon also delivered this assertion, without any citation:

Because if you question many people in New York City, even some black and Hispanic people, they will tell you that on the surface they don’t really have an issue with stop-question-and-frisk. Not the idea of it at least.

Not if the controversial policy was conducted like the occasional, random airport screening.

One wonders what Lemon means by “some” here, when the policy has been protested by thousands at a time, and opposition to the policy still resonates to such a degree that NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was shouted off the stage last week by demonstrators at Brown University.

Lemon’s acknowledgement that officers are “unlikely” to ignore the “airport screening” approach also sounds quaint, since there’s hard data pointing to the fact that stop and frisk targets communities of color almost exclusively, and that it has not worked.

And for him to rely on “some” Black and Latinos for his point sounds even flimsier compared to reactions I got from actual community groups in covering Lemon’s remarks for The Raw Story:

“One would expect fear-mongering from politicians; for it to come from a ‘journalist’ is surprising, but no less irresponsible Stop-and-frisk has not reduced gun violence in any considerable way, and it is those communities most violated by stop-and-frisk who live day-in and day-out with the gun violence that the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk policy has failed to address. Our city and communities need reforms that will actually help improve safety by promoting lawful and sound policing, and a strong relationship between communities and the NYPD.”

Communities United For Police Reform

“When we have youth in our community who have been subjected to such discriminatory policing dozens of times each, and often in very humiliating ways, we understand that this is not about a minor hassle. It is the wholesale profiling of entire communities. We can protect the rights and dignity of our community members while still keeping our communities safe. In fact, many in our communities believe that respect of their rights would create greater trust, and thus even safer communities.”

Desis Rising Up and Moving

And since the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities also took place on Kelly’s watch, it would be interesting to see if Lemon is willing to ask DRUM NYC or the Council on American-Islamic Relations, “Would you rather be politically correct or safe and alive?” If he didn’t feel safe when that Tower Records security guard followed him to his car, what makes him think a “polite” version of an intrusive policy would allay people’s concerns over the NYPD?

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

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  • Larry Strong

    Don Lemon thinks that his wearing a suit and speaking “proper” English would dissuade NYPD from throwing him up against a wall for looking at them in what they deemed a suspicious manner. The problem with many of these so-called black hosts on TV news is that none of them live among black people. They are so busy trying to curry favor with Obama and get invited to the White House xmas party that they have internalized a bourgeois view of their own kin. Black un- and underemployment has been alarmingly high since the recession. But these hosts are so busy talking about Ted Cruz or Rush Limbaugh that they can’t make time on their shows to bring attention to it. And they don’t want to because they think it will “embarrass” the president. If they do bring it up, they’ll blame it on the Republicans.

    These people need to be called out.

    • NickN

      Actually, I can recall a couple of times in which Don Lemon has talked on-air about being racially profiled — both before and after he became a known media figure.

      • Delevan

        I think you missed the point that Larry was making. Plenty of people of like Don Lemon, those of a certain economic, class in the black community or POC in general will go on about what they go through as far as racial profiling or the glass ceiling, but will throw the working class and poor under the bus every time they get a chance to better their social standing or maintain it.

    • Delevan

      Can’t believe people actually voted your comment down. The black misleadship class has done more harm than good. Take Al Sharpton and Arne Duncan leading the fight to privatize schools and destroy student unions.

      • brutalie

        The “so-called black” comment did not sit right with me. Being an asshole doesn’t make you any less black.

        • Delevan

          You should have quoted more, because he said “so-called black hosts on TV news is that none of them live among black people.” Being the same race as me doesn’t mean that they are speaking for the average black person in the U.S..

          • brutalie

            Once again, that’s a separate issues from being called a “so-called” black.