July 25th, 2008
08:22 AM ET

Black and white, and a target of both

Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/24/art.donlemon.jpg caption="Brandon Henry, Don Lemon and the flight instructor at a flight camp in Georgia"]

Don Lemon
CNN Anchor

It's 8 in the morning and I'm at flight camp for high school students in Georgia. Most of the students are black teens who claim a real passion for flying. In just a few minutes I get to accompany 17-year old Brandon Henry on his maiden voyage behind the flight controls. He doesn't seem nervous at all, but I certainly am. I have not eaten breakfast. He offers me peanut M & M's. I don't think it's such a good idea to eat right now.

Brandon is a remarkable young man. I admire his passion and commitment to flying at such a young age. What an incredible opportunity. And it made me think about where I was at his age.

A training program like this for minority teens wasn't an option for me in the 1970's in my small Louisiana town. Instead of training to be a pilot or an astronaut or a journalist, at 17 I was trying to not make the same mistakes that some of my older male relatives had made; drugs, babies, jail. There's not much to do in a small town but get into trouble.

Also by 17, I had become quite adept at navigating between three different worlds; the light skin black world, the dark skin black world and the white world. Most southern blacks are very familiar with this. But more about that later.

Don't get me wrong, I came from a good family. Problem was that some of my peers did not. But, my grandmother watched me like a hawk. She was my and my two older sister's babysitter and co-parent for much of our youth. "Where are you going?" "Who's that boy's people?" "Did you write that paper?" Those were the standard questions. I didn't appreciate it then, but boy do I now. THANK YOU MAME (pronounced mah-me), god rest her soul!

My mother will tell you I idolized my grandmother. We watched daytime soap operas together. Even as late as high school my grandmother and I would have sleep overs at her house. We'd watch old black and white movies until the wee hours. We listened to late night radio shows. For hours we'd sit in rocking chairs on her front porch and watch the people and cars go by. Then we'd read bedtime stories together. Except, I'd read to her. She only had a fifth grade education. She died of Alzheimer's in 1998. I miss her every day of my life.

My grandmother looked White. To this day we still aren't sure of the exact mixture of her race. Her mother died in child birth. Her husband, my grandfather was brown and of African and French descent. They had three daughters. The middle one is my mother. I have two sisters. My father died when I was seven. My mom remarried. He died 23 years later. My mother is my best friend.

Mom, single at the time, chose an all Black, Catholic grade school for me where there was a substantial focus on "light skin" and "good hair." There I learned a respectable knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic. More importantly I learned that not only did white people discriminate against black people; black people discriminated against each other. Skin that was lighter than a "brown paper bag" guaranteed entrance into Creole fraternities, sororities and historically black colleges and universities. Yes, the same HBCU's still exist today. In the Black community universities like Fisk, Spelman and Howard, among others, were openly referred to as "brown paper bag" universities. Darker blacks went to 'Skegee,' short for Tuskegee. It was, and still is, shameful.

In my home town, the big highway with its parallel railroad track was the dividing line. The blacks lived on the west side. The whites, on the east side. We all shared the grocery store, bank, post office and such. That's where I first heard a white person call me a N***er. When we moved to a new home in a "white" neighborhood some parents refused to allow their children to play with me. On Sunday the Ku Klux Klan would hand out paraphernalia on the same street as my high school. The majority white high school had only been integrated a few years before I attended. I'm not sure how it happened, but while the Klan did its thing out front; inside, my classmates were electing me Senior Class President. Only the second in the school's history. Progress. But to this day I believe the South offers Americans a most accelerated lesson on race relations.

The conundrum then was not fitting in with either the light skins or the dark skins or the whites. I had the light skin but i didn't have the "good" hair. Sometimes I could "pass" for a light skin, especially in the winter months when my skin would lighten up. But only if my sister applied a chemical blow out to my hair. It never lasted, and always turned my brown hair bright red.

Of course there were the usual infractions from whites like getting pulled over by the cops because I was driving a nice car, getting followed around by security guards in retail stores, being ignored by restaurant and bar staff. Sadly I had to learn to accept it, even expect it. But it somehow cut to the quick when black people did it. It hurt me deeply. Hey, whose side are you on anyway? – is what I wanted to ask out loud. I never did.

Turns out Brandon the flight student is from Louisiana too. Just listening to him talk about his town, his family, his friends, his neighborhood, I can tell not much has changed there. But much of the world around him has changed, and it's good that his family encourages him to explore it.

Brandon's first solo flight, like both of our upbringings, was a little bumpy, but not bad. He admits he needs to work on his takeoffs and landings. Personal responsibility is important, but he wasn't discouraged. In fact he is inspired by those challenges. And he inspired me too. At that moment it hit me; being black in America can be rocky at times, to say the least. And as much as life in some ways for many of us has stayed the same, it has also changed in just as many other ways. The point is to keep going. Like Brandon you too can change the world by changing "your" world. Thank you Brandon.

Filed under: Black in America • Don Lemon • T1
soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. Kristen P.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Don. In more ways than one, I can relate to this article. I attend Howard University and aspire to become a journalist, too. And yes, it is sad that many of these things, including the "brown paper bag" test, still exists in 2008! I believe this story will open the eyes of those who have become naiive of the world around them. Racism is still alive, but regardless, as an African American young woman, this story gives me the inspiration to continue to keep moving forward. And keep up the good work, Brandon!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:24 am |
  2. Gerald

    Great commentary!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:24 am |
  3. Deb from Lancaster, PA

    I am touched beyond words by your story. I have long respected your abilities as I watch CNN every day. And as a white American, I am appalled that bigotry still exists to this degree. I hope that we will soon evolve into a truly civilized country and these prejudices will be put aside. While raised in a predominantly white community to parents who were biased, my experiences and education have shaped me differently. But one thing that I noticed during my college days was that black students frequently refused friendly overtures from white students and it certainly was an education into what prejudice felt like. My work for the Obama campaign has been fabulous...we have all seen how great things can be when we all work together. Best wishes for a continued bright future.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:23 am |
  4. dave

    White on white prejudice is as common as black on black. Prejudice is everywhere and we 're kidding ourselves if we believe it's going away soon. The older I get, the harder I try to get along with everyone. However, nothing will make me more angry than someone of a different color, approaching me as if I'm the enemy.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:23 am |
  5. Michelle

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. As a white woman in the south, I am incredibly curious about the black experience, but unsure whether it's okay to ask about it directly. I've enjoyed Soledad's series and the accompanying articles here on the site.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:20 am |
  6. Barry

    "Black in America" is one of the most powerful TV shows I have ever watched. Simplified, we very serious internal crisis to address. Although I am well informed there is a problem, but never thought it is as deep and as complex as this. The crisis is multi-faceted and hence needs multifaceted solutions. Many are to blame for the crisis: the black community, the government, racial discrimination (racism)... Yet, we run around the world and spend billions a week to solve world problems and to "democratize" the world whereas our own house is so dirty and cracked and needs urgent cleaning and repair. Now I clearly understand why some do not listen to us, pointing fingers at our own internal crisis we prefer to ignore.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:19 am |
  7. Claire

    Thanks for sharing your story, Don. I enjoy watching you on Newsroom!

    I think it's very easy for people that are white (as I am) to sit back and say that racism isn't that bad or that maybe blacks just see what they want to see. But until you've dealt with it I'm not so sure it's easy for us to judge.

    Depending on where you live in the country you may have a different experience. When I lived in Mass. there wasn't as much of problem in the area I lived in. But now, living in the south I do know it's a bigger issue. I've been with black friends and seen some of these things that Don has described happen. It's not a figment of their imagination. The point is, some white people are bad, some black people are bad as well as every other race. Why do we have to think that all people of the same race are the same?

    Until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes how can we judge?

    July 25, 2008 at 10:19 am |
  8. herman

    That's why interracial relationships are always a bad idea. It's the kids that have to suffer.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:16 am |
  9. Sandra

    Don, thank you for being candid. This is not "dirty laundry". It was and still sometimes is reality. I believe Daniel is not being honest with himself. Especially if he went to Morehouse. They do practive the paper bag test even if it is unspoken. Their is also a lot of classism. I don't see this as distracting from the Obama campaign. We have to be honest about this problem and confront it. I'm happy Obama is the one black person to have gotten the close to the presidency because he doesn't have the same mentality of some blacks that were raised in the U.S. and have not traveled internationally. He is not a victim and neither is Michelle.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:16 am |
  10. Jim

    It is tiring to continually hear the victim card played, especially from a privileged media elite like Don Lemon. As a thrirty somewthing white male living in the year 2008 I would like to know when there is going to be a moratorium put in place on this victimization racket.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:14 am |
  11. Nicole Davis-Johnson

    It is wonderful that CNN is doing the series Black in America. As a women of color I experienced up and downs in my life. One of the things I learned when I was introduced to Buddhism was that you have to take personal responsiblity for your life. When you begin working on yourself that can have a positive efffect on the environment. I
    Sometimes as Black Americans we focus too much on the subject of race. At times that can hold us back. Instead we should be focusing on improving ourselves orour inner growth. I saw a phrase in a office that said "Attitude is Everything".
    Dealing with situations and people can be a challenge at times. But this is what life is about. It is important to learn how to keep going on.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:12 am |
  12. chris of houston

    This article is much better than the last few. He did hit the nail on the head: Its not white people that cause all the problems, its black parents.

    Whites dont think that all black people are bad fathers, thieves or violent thugs. We do have a problem when we see otherwise good african americans standing by and defending these dead beat dads, criminals and gang bangers and throwing the race card out for people like tookie williams. Sometimes I think blacks are more worried about being black than doing the right thing.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:11 am |
  13. R.W

    I'm Mexican, medium brown in color. I live in Northwest Ohio. I've meet people from Mexico who came here to work, they call me "white girl".That doesn't bother me I hardly speak any Spanish, most people just assume I do. All people of color are looked at differently, within and outside there race. It's how you deal with it that matters.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:09 am |
  14. Melanie

    It would be nice to see this race problem end by the time I am gone from this earth but the way things are going, I dont see it happening. A major part of this "racial discrimination" problem comes from upbringing. If a parent enstills in their children's mind from early on these racial problems then they will never go away. If parents now would raise their children with open minds and to accept everyone, no matter their color, religion etc, we could get past these problems. But as long as their are problem stirring people out there (Al Sharpton) (David Duke) things will never get better. Those men dont want equality, they want to create more problems. No matter what it is, someone will find a way to turn anything into a racial issue. I am so over this slave issue too. I am not a slave owner, the current black community were not slaves, get over what happened so long ago. We cannot change what our ancestors did and who they did it to, all we can do is go forward with open minds and stop dwelling on the past. As long as you live in the past you will never see your future. I do have faith that one day things will get better, it might take a catastropic event that would force us all to lean on each other and draw strength from one another. I hate that you cannot turn on the t.v. without hearing this kind of trash. Like this "Black in America" documentary, all that was aimed to do was start more trouble. Lay off of things like that. Do documentaries on everyone working together to build a homeless family a home or raise money for children that are dying because they cant afford the medicine to keep them alive. If people keep shoving racism down peoples throats it will never go away because all it does it get everyone envolved more angry at the other side. All I'm saying is get over it everyone, black, white, purple, green, gold, brown, yellow, whoever. Martin Luther King is probably turning over in his grave at the way things are handled now, he didnt go about things like they are done today. He didnt show up everywhere someone said something racial and try to draw everyone in the country into it and make it more than what it was. With that I leave everyone with this piece of advice,
    "Open Minds, Open Hearts or Closed Doors to the Future". It's our choice, let's make a responsible one.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:08 am |
  15. Nom Deplume

    It is remarkable to hear about discrimination within a race, but it is not really unprecedented. Even among whites, there is internal discrimination, mostly between "northern" europeans and "southern" europeans, with the southern europeans being "darker". In Boston, these camps were predominantly Irish origin and Italian origin, and there has been acrimony between the ethnic groups as vitriolic as that between black and white.

    I have also learned that in Italy, northern italians look down on their darker southern citizens, and mainland italians have utter contempt for the much darker sicilians.

    I understand that the distinction (and discrimination) between lighter and darker skinned blacks also exists in Europe. So it isn't a black american problem.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:08 am |
  16. diane

    This was a very eloquent account of what growing up Black in the south is like. I too am a Black southerner and lamented on many occasions that I didn't have "good hair". My part Black, part Cherokee grandmother who had light skin and straight hair was insistent about running a straightening comb through my hair on a daily basis to keep the curls (or the naps as she called them) from coming back. I realize now that she grew up in a different era where Black beauty was not celebrated and the more white you looked, the prettier you were thought to be . Thus, she didn't know any better.

    Years later though, it still pains me that distinctions are made between light skinned and dark skinned Blacks in our community. While we as a race have made many advances, we still seem stuck on skin color and hair.

    I cannot count the number of Black friends and acquaintances who discouraged me for allowing my hair to go natural; thereby ending about 20 yrs of using chemical straightners. Many of my light skinned friends and family members are often questioned by other Blacks as to whether they are mixed or Hispanic or White. Black comes in a lot of different hues of brown and to parapharase India.Arie, we are not our hair.

    The focus should be on our common experiences; our successes and struggles in this country, not on the vestiges of slavery that were mean't to divide us.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:07 am |
  17. Jasper Lucas - Sicklerville, NJ

    Great article, Don! I watch you every day on the CNN Newsroom, and I like your delivery style. I'm also a fan of T.J. Holmes, as well as Tony Harris; as a black man, I'm encouraged by CNN's commitment to diversity. I thoroughly enjoyed Soledad O'Brien's 2-part documentary, "Black in America." In fact, I'll probably watch it again this weekend.

    I can also relate to your personal story. I lost my mother when I was 6 and my father when I was 11. I had two aunts who could pass for white women, one of whom raised me and enrolled me in Catholic elementary school. As a light-skinned black person (I have "good" hair too), I experienced some of the same resentment from darker-skinned blacks. I also experienced ridicule from black friends for the way that I spoke; because I was taught to speak using proper English and was articulate, I was accused of sounding "white." Now I'm glad I learned to speak well because it has served me well in my life and my professional career. The ability to speak well and articulate one's thoughts, in my opinion, may be the single most important skill a person can have.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:06 am |
  18. Maureen

    It is sad to say, that when I was a kid, I thanked GOD for being lightskinned with "good" hair. I remember growing up how the darker skin black kids were teased, how they became angry and resentful ( how could you blame them). My mom always thought us the black people shouldn't worry about skin color among other blacks, but she also thought us that we should avoid marrying a man with dark skin or nappy hair. I was confused, was my loyalty to be to my race or my color? Even today when I see a very dark skinned child with kinky hair, I have to stop myself from thinking, "why didn't this childs parents think about that before they had her?". It's a sad statement, but I know that alot of times I am treated better than some counterparts because of my skin color. Men are more likley to open doors for me, I have a better chance of getting the job over a more traditional looking African-American female. I am scared for nieces, who have dark skin, that they will not get the same treatment in life as my son. When I walk into a "black" establishment, people atomatically say how cute he is, how sweet.. ( My son cute), without even getting a good look. I know it's because of his light skin and silky hair. I know it's wrong, but sometimes I thank God that my son is lightskinned with "good" hair

    July 25, 2008 at 10:05 am |
  19. James Johnson

    Why do we have this article about Black In America this is racism. I have never seen article white in America, Immigrants they all have dreams and goals in there live. People please stop feeling sorry for Black in America they are same as white, yellow,

    July 25, 2008 at 10:03 am |
  20. Hannah Storm

    Wow Don thank you so much for writing this. I found myself both laughing and getting teary eyed in parts. Sounds like you had an amazing grandmother. There is just something about a grandmother that is extra special. We all thank her as well for what she did in raising you to be a great man.

    It has been fantastic to see pieces from Don, TJ and Tony, Stephanie and Lola. I would love to head from Fredricka on this topic as well.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:02 am |
  21. Gary

    Just a comment in general – This is a very interesting and worthwhile series of articles. It is giving me an insight into some things that, as a white man, I had no idea were part of daily life for African Americans. Just gaining some insight into someone else's daily life takes them from faces in the crowd to someone you know at least a little bit. From that comes understanding and, hopefully, improved relations.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:01 am |
  22. Jeff of Peoria

    I think this just proves that regardless of who you are, you have to deal w/ idiots any where you are. There is just a % that don't like anybody. They have to hate someone and if it wasn't you it would be somebody else.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:57 am |
  23. Kris in AL

    I really enjoyed this article. My one gripe is that if Blacks are giving Blacks a hard time, then why all the political focus on Whites giving Blacks a hard time? Is it ok for Blacks to discriminate? If Whites were killing Blacks at the rate that Blacks are in places like Birmingham, Memphis and Atlanta, there would be a second round of "Rodney King riots."

    July 25, 2008 at 9:57 am |
  24. Detroit

    In today's day and age there are so many organizations driven towards the black community. Each of these organizations tries to empower black people to exceed what they have dubbed their predetermined future as a criminal, drug user, or single parent (as mentioned in the article above). Each of these organizations aspire for GREAT things in the black community.

    Turn the page on this; what do you think the response would be from the black community had we switched one word in that paragraph. If we had changed "black" to "white" it'd be a racist and discriminative organization. As it stands now, it's considered a beneficial community organization. In other words, it's another one of society's examples of a double standard.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:56 am |
  25. J S Bazile

    This is the type of stories about young Black males that should be displayed on the front page of the paper. Not all Black males chose the "thug route". Life is about choices, and there are a lot of Black males who are making the right choices. However, we only get to see the ones who are dropping out of school and/or on their way to prison. The meida so unfair.

    Congrats to you Brandon, it's young adults like you who will help change America's perception of the Black male.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:56 am |
  26. Pamela Ellis

    I am very proud of CNN for taking time to do this special. It is educating for all races. So often the negative images of blacks are the ones that are put on TV and those images are the ones that make their way outside of the States. As a former Soldier, I would litteraly cringe whenever I was overseas, and see the negative stereotypical images of black women in rap videos. I tried very hard to be the antithesis to those images. I must respond to Lou, the Asian-American and his apparent tiredness of black people whining and complaining. I am glad to see that you are comfortable enough with the fruits of both the labor and sacrifice of those black people who marched and fought for civil rights of which ANY minority group including poor white people are the beneficiary of. When you are quietly in the background benefitting from the sacfifice of others try to not to complain too hard whilst the children of that movement are still trying to push the equality agenda forward.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:56 am |
  27. Matt MacPherson

    Glad I'm not the only one who gets ignored by bartenders

    July 25, 2008 at 9:55 am |
  28. Big Country

    "Of course there were the usual infractions from whites like getting pulled over by the cops because I was driving a nice car, getting followed around by security guards in retail stores, being ignored by restaurant and bar staff. Sadly I had to learn to accept it, even expect it. But it somehow cut to the quick when black people did it. It hurt me deeply. Hey, whose side are you on anyway?"

    I know that sounds awful... but if you look at the DOJ numbers, African Americans have crime rates that are rediculously high for the percentage of their population.. Go look at them before you get too hurt. Then if you imagine why their is this correlation you can understand your own pain better. Also remember that Black people arent the only one's who are being accused of shoplifting despite being innocent. I have been stopped twice as a customer, and once as an employee of a large company who I wont name. Do I think this happens to black people more often, yes. Do I think African Americans cause more crime relative to their population, yes, the DOJ numbers say so.

    Its kind of like this: I am a very large, tall, blue-eyed white man, and I am expected to be a racist and sexist and because I am "priviledged", and the world's problems exist because of me. Why, because there are so many white men in the world who fit this bill and are in positions of power. I am not in a position of power, I am not racist or sexist nor do I have any priviledge because I'm poor and my parents were born poor.

    Bottom line, dont let it get you down, you know who you are. Remember, peoples perceptions change very slowly, but it's better that they are changing slowly than not at all.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:54 am |
  29. Teresa

    I grew up in Chicago and experienced much the same things as you. I didn't fit into the black community and certainly not the whites. I was called "high yellow" most of my life and I did and still do have what they call "good hair". I got beat up growing up by black kids for infractions such as going to a private school, talking "proper", wearing a uniform to school and just because of they way I looked, supposedly I thought I was better than everyone else. All I really wanted to do was fit in and make friends. Not the easiest thing to do in that situation.

    In college in Wisconsin, the only fraternity/sorority at the was an all black one. My older brother adviced me not to join because of some things he knew happened there, so I didn't. Because I didn't join and just attended my classes, I then became the victim of severe harassment by the members of the fraternity/sorority. On 2 occasions, I was held against my will and lectured by them for not joining and asked why I did not have a "token" black friend.

    Despite the growing pains, I too learned to expect racism by both groups and ignore a lot of it. I believe that I'm a much stronger person for these experiences and I embrace all nationalities as being created by GOD. Being black in America is definitely rocky at times but also inspiring and rewarding.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:52 am |
  30. Fred

    Thank you for the article. I grew up in Venezuela – Dad worked for an oil company. We didn't have prejudice there – I first learned about it when I came to the US for high school. Was accosted by a group of blacks because I was white & in the wrong part of town. Not a pleasant experience. Saw prejudice during pilot training when black students were given twice the amount of "downs" or flight failures as white students to "meet quotas". The list goes on and on.

    My grandfather was an American working for the oil companies in Mexico. When the oil companies were nationalized, he stayed there, ranched, and married. My father was born in Mexico and went to high school and college here in the US – just like I did. Today, I am proud to say that I am an American of German and Mexican descent. First and foremost, though, I am just an American.

    It's interesting to me that there are no "black Venezuelan", "black Costa Rican", "black Cuban", "black Puerto Rican" major league baseball players. They're just Costa Rican, Cuban, or Puerto Rican ball players. However, their colonial history mirrors that of the US to a great degree.

    As long as there's money to be made from being different, special, or unique, prejudice will flourish. As long as there are quotas and political gains to be had, prejudice will flourish. As it continues, it will make it even harder for those such as yourself to be viewed without reservation by others. Thank you for being "just one of us" – no better, no worse, no different.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:51 am |
  31. Kat

    I like your story. It's interesting to hear how other people have lived. I admire you for becoming what you have. The only thing I regret is most of the stories during this Black in America thing is people don't take into account it goes both ways.

    I am a white girl who has grown up in an inner city surrounded by all races. Some of my best friends are black and pakistani. When I talk to them and people around me I don't see color. I see another person. I thought long and hard about it and it is true, I don't just say that.

    I went to inner city schools and often times were picked on because I was not black. We get called all sorts of racial slur names as well. I've been ganged up on and hit because I was not black. I've been harassed, both verbal and sometimes boarderline sexual. I had a knife pulled on me in 3rd grade by a black guy and was told I would be cut up after school unless I submitted sexually to his brother. When I complained to adults, principles, teachers, I was told they didn't want to hear about it. I was being racist for saying such bad things about black people.

    It's situations like this that make a person hate another race. I still enjoy my friends, but I think twice before I go into any store or neighborhood that is mostly black. I find I am afraid to. So things go both ways. It's not just blacks who get this treatment.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:51 am |
  32. Ardis Pierce

    Great article Don Lemon. I watch you frequently. I see prejudice with blacks on blacks. Sometimes, it isn't skin color, it is frequently socio-economic divisions. We all need to keep going to make things better.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:49 am |
  33. Freeman

    What can I say Don. I am from the South as well. 3/4 "white," 1/4 American Indian. I grew up in a small Georgia town entirely unaware of the tensions between people of differing skin colors. My parents & grandparents, bless them, know that human is human. I asked my Grandfather, one time, about the Indian part of our family, and what had happened to the tribe. His answer was: "That is history. We are Americans now, and that is all that matters. Your duty is to live your life in the world as it exists today & excel in that environment. Bitterness over the past will only hold you back." Of course I can "pass" for "white." The only clues to my Indian heritage are my facial structure, the fact I cannot grow a beard & the fact I rarely burn.

    It was only in my teens that I was hit in the face with the tensions that still exist. I was excoriated by a girl who started telling me my ancestors were responsible for slavery, etc. Nevermind the fact that the Indian part of my family were never slaveowners, and my "white" ancestors hadn't emigrated from Europe. Nevermind the facts my ancestors were essentially starving until we finally started prospering in the early 1900's.

    It is time for people to start dealing with the individuals they know as individuals. And afford them the same kind of respect they would like to receive themselves.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:48 am |
  34. Tallulah, La.

    Great piece. i was very disappointed that the "positive" images of Black males in the documentary were primarily light skinned Blacks.. Having grown up in south Louisiana, I know well the about the skin color issue in our community. It seems that the closer Blacks resemble whites, the more they are excepted.. Nothing has changed! .

    July 25, 2008 at 9:48 am |
  35. Daniel

    Blacks are not as divided over complexion as you are portraying it. I'm 38 and fair skin with light brown eyes. I lived in the south and north while growing up. I have a brown sister and a dark brown brother. The types of situations that are encountered amongst the different complexions are "typically" more superficial than anything else. At your age, you would know this to be true. As a matter of fact I went to Morehouse. The HBCU's have not been divided over color in a very long time, including the fraternities. All of this race bating is hogwash and is being used as a detracter from the Obama campaign...

    July 25, 2008 at 9:48 am |
  36. Alton Honore'

    Your story sounds a lot like my story.

    The story continues in Corporate America.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:45 am |
  37. Casey

    Let me first start off that I am white. This story about Brandon Henry makes me feel good. Did you guys air this on your show? This would be a good lesson to all those blacks who think the world owes them everything. Brandon obviously didnt let anything hold him back. He didnt make excuses. He went out and achieved on his own. There is plenty of opportunity for everyone in this country. It doesnt matter if your black, white, green or blue. You just have to want it. Two thumbs up to Brandon. Congradulations on your success.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:44 am |
  38. Ms. Noel Edwards

    Don is my favorite CNN Anchor. His delivery is great, his comments are sharp and interesting and his demeanor is always calm and considerate. Thanks for the Blog and for giving us insight into your background. We need to know these things so we as Americans understand our country and work harder to make it better. A lot of whites think all is well now and still don't realize the struggle blacks have to this day.
    Thank you.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:44 am |
  39. ro

    Great article. It definately touches on some issues of the present and not so distant past.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:43 am |
  40. Robert

    Question: When a black person is pulled over by the police, is it always racially motivated? Based on the opinions here on CNN, it would appear so. I guess the only way to correct this is for police to never pull over black people anymore. He makes the comment, "like getting pulled over by the cops because I was driving a nice car". I would like to know how he knows that to be fact. If he does not know that 100% to be correct then he is making a racist assumption himself. Quit blaming everything on the "white man" and the police. I've been pulled over before....is it because I'm white and have money?
    It is easy to find excuses for your behavior when you look really hard.

    This country will never get over race...too many people on both sides want to see in color instead of seeing people as they truly are....human – brothers and sisters in Christ (no matter what color).

    July 25, 2008 at 9:42 am |
  41. Joe

    Our youth may watch rappers on tv watch movies depicting blacks selling drugs, killing each other and gangbangin. Like what was said last night on "black in america" a high majority of white people buy those same albums watch those same movies but u have to wonder why the majority of them are not in similar situations as the minorities. It's due to the difference in the communities in which they reside. It's due to the lack of education in the public school system. It's due to not getting the same praise from getting that A on ur report card tht u find some getting from having money in their pockets by selling drugs. It's due to not seeing examples of success stories within those communities and I don't mean making it to the NBA, NFL or any other sport. Success in educating one's self going to college then coming back to that same community after they make it to show that anything is possible. We are bound to continue to repeat our mistakes as a race until we ourselves stop waiting for outside influences to change it for us. If each successful minority went from community to community year after year expressing options in the flesh not a movie about someone who lived 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Showing the hard work it takes to get there influencing our youth on the positives and that their is no statistic when it comes setting a goal and seeing it through. It's a choice that is made and having the support, assistance and want to see it through!

    July 25, 2008 at 9:42 am |
  42. Angela P

    Thank you for sharing the story of your youth and upbringing. I very much respect you as a journalist Mr. Lemon. You inspire me with your ability to rise above the pain that our people are subjected to while choosing to be hopeful. And look what you've become! Thank you and keep on inspiring us! Angela – Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    July 25, 2008 at 9:41 am |
  43. Sarah Barnett

    Before I say the following I don't want to suggest that all discrimination is gone but I do think black people assume they are being discriminated against when in fact everyone gets ignored, someone else less deserving can get the job, and any number of other events. Where I've worked people pay attention to the individual and if you're the smartest, I promise word will get around regardless of color or gender.

    The black community must shake off their past and embrace their future. I think they have held on to the past and hurt themselves. They must stop seeing themselves as victims so they can have all the success that is out there to have. I don't care and I've never heard of someone talk about how dark or light a black person is (and really no one is 100% anything specific so color is really how you see yourself). I think America is further along than the black community thinks. If they will change how they think, I believe they will find they can accomplish more.

    I also think I see black women ahead of black men. I don't know if that's because being the ones having babies they had to face that they didn't also get help from the fathers so they changed how they thought faster. Regardless.. they're in college and they'll be rising faster in business. You have to persevere and find ways to make it. The women are the ones in front.. the men will have to follow.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:40 am |
  44. Steven

    Since I grew up in Long island and mixed with many different races and many oother blacks of different hues, also being a "brown" skined person, I had no knowledge of the issues that a "light-skined" person had to endure. I always thought that they had the best of two worlds. They were desired by the girls because they could make pretty babies and they were more accepted by whites because they were closer to their color. It wasn't until I had conversations with my son, who is very light, that i came to understand the acceptance issus they deal with. I guess I never looked at them as anything else then my friend and never rejected or accepted them because of the color of their skin. We need to sop the follishness and realize that they are black just like us and stop hating on them because of the color of their skin or the type of hair the have. We are stil one tribe!

    July 25, 2008 at 9:39 am |
  45. J.

    This is a stirring, informative, and thought-provoking piece. Thank you.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:39 am |
  46. Wanda

    Don, Thank you for sharing your personal story and enlightening those who may never ever understand. We can indeed impact each other's world we just have to want and desire change. This is a huge world we live in and when we decide that change begins with us then and only then can it ever happen. Thank you!

    July 25, 2008 at 9:39 am |
  47. dmac

    It is amazing what people can accomplish when afforded equal opportunities. Good Job Brandon. You make me really proud!

    July 25, 2008 at 9:38 am |
  48. JSG

    Loved what you wrote, sorry you had to and glad that you have gone past it. Always look forward to your reporting on CNN, in Atlanta and on-site at various points. Enjoy your manner and infectious smile. Appreciate your career climb more now! We all need to cross those lines and keep on moving – we're getting there.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  49. Faye Rose

    I watch you on the weekends and during the week when I have the opportunity and it seems that you are always reporting like you are a white man. Noone is saying do something wrong to support Blacks, just be who you are and be fair. Sometimes we see reporters who will sale their souls for their jobs. I think there must be a time in your life and mine that our principles take front seat; and if you are right and qualified the jobs will come.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  50. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    Glad to see you tell your story. As a light skinned African American I know just what you are talking about.

    Brandon seems like a really smart young man. We should all just keep going regardless of what happens in your life. At the end of the day regardless of what someone has done to you or what they didn’t do to you, you are still ultimately responsible for yourself and the way your life turns out.

    I believe that in 2008 yes it may a little harder for an African American to make it, but it’s definitely possible to become whatever you wish. Look at Barack Obama as living proof. The difference in people who find success in this country regardless of race and the ones who don’t are the excuses some I think it’s high time this country stop making excuses for why things are they way they are and start making results.

    July 25, 2008 at 8:54 am |
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