What I Say to My Friends About Racism
Life gets busy. Has This is The Fire been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now.
StoryShot #1: Lemon Was Initially a Republican
Lemon started his life as an ardent Republican. He grew up in Louisiana during a time when Republicans were still pro-civil rights. This meant he felt comfortable aligning with the politics of Republicanism. Through his experiences over the years, he now describes himself politically as a Black activist. This stance has also helped him grow notoriety. He is the only African American anchor in prime time and has used this exposure as an opportunity to talk about racism on podcasts.
StoryShot #2: Lemon Had a Troubled Childhood
Lemon’s success has come despite his extremely challenging upbringing. His parents were never legally wed and had an affair together. His mother worked for his dad as a legal secretary. Their romantic relationship occurred while both parents were married to other people. Lemon’s dad then died when he was only nine years old. His mother was divorced at this point and had remarried into a new family that Lemon became a part of. This new family was loving and Lemon developed a good relationship with his new stepfather. Despite support from his family, Lemon was still living as what he describes as a “double negative.” He was gay and Black. This was particularly challenging as he was growing up in the south where homophobia and racism were common. These traumatic experiences were made worse by childhood sexual assaults at the hands of a friend of his mother.
StoryShot #3: Lemon Overcame the Challenges of His Upbringing
Lemon survived his difficult upbringing and had big dreams for himself. He knew he wanted to become a journalist. Others tried to dissuade him, like one media instructor telling him, “I don’t know why you’re here. You’ll never be a newscaster.” Lemon did not look like other newscasters, but he wouldn’t let others stop him from chasing his dream. He did become a newscaster and his career developed rapidly and substantially from there.
StoryShot #4: Columbus’ Statues Should Be Replaced by Tributes to Frank Sinatra
Lemon praises the descendents of Robert E Lee and other confederates who believe that removing their monuments is the best thing for America. The monuments look honorable, but the actions of the men were not honorable. Lemon challenges the views of bestselling authors like Isabel Wilkerson by saying we should just call things like protecting confederate statues racist. To Lemon, a better description of keeping these statues is racism rather than casteism.
Lemon and his white fiance, Time Malone, decided to write a letter to Lemon’s nephews and nieces after the killing of George Floyd. The letter was cautionary and aims to imitate one written by one of Lemon’s heroes, James Baldwin. Baldwin wrote a similar letter to his nephew in 1963.
The letter is a plea to learn about the past and better understand patriarchal white supremacy. Lemon describes this as the west’s original sin and pinpoints Columbus as the founder of this white supremacy. So, Lemon argues we should just replace all of Columbus’ memorials with tributes to Frank Sinatra.
StoryShot #5: America’s Wealth Comes From Slavery
Lemon is keen to point out that America may be wealthy and powerful. But this wealth and power all came from stealing and appropriating land from Native Americans. Then these natives, brown and enslaved Black Americans had their labor stolen and were forced to build the powerful country we see today. Even the enterprises not directly involved in slavery benefited from the exploitative system that existed for the majority of America’s history.
StoryShot 6: We All Need to Understand Our Collective History
Lemon admits that as a newscaster and journalist his job is to present both sides of the story. So, he does not feel comfortable offering advice and he also doesn’t feel it is his problem to solve. This means he doesn’t propose specific policy or cultural changes. He sees the journalist’s job as documenting the depth of the problem. That said, he believes the first step toward changing America is for there to be a clear understanding of the country’s collective history. The country needs to accept that it was not developed and built by people who wanted to create a better world. America became the nation it is today through exploitation.