Don Lemon addressed issues within the Black community on his No Talking Points segment this past Saturday — and Mr. Lemon’s five suggestions on what Blacks can do to improve our current social, political, and economic situations are highly misinformed.
I won’t go so far as to say Lemon’s intentions were malicious. However, his comments were propagandized and lacked a consideration for the historical and political contexts that have marginalized the community.
You can watch the clip and get a transcript of his statement here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/07/27/cnns_don_lemon_bill_oreillys_criticism_of_black_community_doesnt_go_far_enough.html
I will now list three things Lemon completely disregarded in his “suggestions” for improving the state of the Black community.
1. The school-to-prison pipeline
American schools are becoming increasingly reliant on suspensions, expulsions, and legal repercussions when students misbehave. Traditional methods of dealing with poor conduct — detention, counseling, or just talking and identifying overarching issues — are no longer being employed on a large scale. Students are being arrested or removed from schools due to atrocious “zero-tolerance policies,” which do nothing but funnel that child into the juvenile detention system.
These policies may have also increased the use of profiling. School-placed law enforcement officials, as well as teachers and administrators, may identify students as being at-risk of committing violent acts or causing disruptions by comparing them to pupils who have done so in the past.
And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a NAACP member to recognize that Black students are at a higher risk of being profiled.
How can students learn if they’re being arrested or expelled? Also, it isn’t taken into consideration that these “bad kids” may have an undiagnosed learning disability or that they may have a history of neglect or abuse causing them to act out.
These students are then more likely to repeat grades, dropout, and become legitimate criminals.
Mr. Lemon, how does this pertain to the “disintegration of the Black family?” This seems to be an institutional flaw — not that that’s anything new.
2. It’s harder for Blacks to get into and pay for college
“You want to break the cycle of poverty? Stop telling kids they’re acting white because they go to school or they speak proper English.”
Mr. Lemon, then continues to tell Blacks to go to college because they’ll make more money in the long-run.
Now, there’s no dispute there. You will make more money if you go and graduate from college. But what Lemon fails to recognize is that attending and graduating from college is not as easy for Black folks.
Historically, people of color have been marginalized and barred from social, economic and political advancement opportunities. And, it’s no secret that more White people go to college in the U.S. than any other race.
During the 2011 fall semester, about 3.2 million undergraduates enrolled at four-year institutions identified themselves as being of color, according to the U.S. Department of Education. But this number is small in comparison to about 6.1 million whites who were also enrolled.
Lower enrollment rates for minorities are due to differences in access to financial resources. Household wealth is very important when it comes to paying for college since families tend to draw upon their wealth — taking out mortgages, cashing in stocks — in order to finance their child’s college education, according to Algernon Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute.
This is not a luxury held by most people of color. The median net worth for Whites was $97,000 while it was $4,890 for Blacks, according to the 2010 Economic Policy Institute data.
Enrolling in college is only half the battle for minority students — making it to graduation is a different monster.
Out of about 1.6 million bachelor’s degrees handed out in 2009, only 9.8% of recipients were Black based on data from the U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics. This number pales in comparison to 71.5% of Whites who received degrees.
It is more likely for Black students to drop out of college due to financial troubles than it is for their White counterparts. This is mainly because minorities do not have the same level of access to resources (money, scholarships, application help, etc.)
3. No mother — Black, White, blue, or purple — wants to raise a child alone.
Lemon quotes a statistic stating the 72% of Black children are born out of wedlock and that it meant Black fathers were “absent.”
First, that statistic has been heavily debated. Second, just because a child is born out of wedlock doesn’t mean that the father is “absent.” Not all family dynamics are nuclear — actually, most are not. Third, Mr. Lemon never considered that the Prison-Industrial Complex is to blame for fathers not being present in their child’s life.
The PIC helps solidify the authority of people who gain societal power through racial, economic, political, and other institutional privileges. In layman’s terms, it does nothing for Black people.
Blacks comprise nearly 1 million of the total number of U.S. prisoners — 2.3 million — though we only make up around a fourth of the population.
The PIC incarcerates a disproportionally high number of Black men — a lot of whom are fathers.
Some of these fathers have been jailed because they didn’t make enough money from their minimum wage job to feed their families — yet made too much to qualify for government benefits — so they were pushed into illegal activity.
Or maybe they have undiagnosed mental disorders that caused them to get into criminal trouble. Or maybe they were simply a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Their imprisonment leaves numerous Black women to raise children on their own while working, sometimes multiple, full-time jobs.
Mr. Lemon, concluding that Black women are just having babies “because (they) can” is offensive, racist, and sexist.
I get it. Many Black families aren’t nuclear — but a lot of White families aren’t either. So Lemon saying that only Black families have this issue goes to show how misinformed and whitewashed he truly is — and that’s sad.