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. AHerbert; San Diego, CA

    James Johnson you really need to take time out and speak with a black person and listen. See these little tidbits of being black in america is great but it gives people like you a chance to say that "it is all in our mind" until you walk in the shoes of a black man/woman you can not make such a blatant statement. The immigrants that come over here from china, mexico what ever comes with a perconceive ideal that they are better than or more intelligent then blacks .... we built this country "free labor" and made so many contributions that none blacks will try to down play. Yes being black in America is trying but God gives us no burderns we can not bear.... reality bites they say .... and keeping it prejudice is all around blacks as we have been socilized from coming from Africa to America that we are less then.... and the sad thing is the world has been socialized the same way.... not crying or complaining it is what it is ... but one thing it is not is "all in our heads" and NEVER do we want anyone to feel sorry for us.... jails, aids etc.... will not keep this race down.

    Thank you.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:04 am |
  2. Carol

    I can truthfully say I was raised with no prejudice, was taught in twelve years of catholic education that prejudice is sinful, and raised four children that are adamantly against prejudice. They knew it was totally unacceptable.
    When I was in my 50's and shopping in a medium priced department store in a retail mall, I asked someone at the cosmetics counter for help. She said she was not able to help me, but the cosmetic rep for that product would be right back. I thanked her and told her I would come back later, which I did.

    When I returned she still had not gotten back, so I asked someone else the same question. She asked me if the person I originally spoke with was black or white. I thought for a moment and told her "I don't know", and I honestly did not see what color she was. I saw her as a person selling cosmetics of whom I asked a question and she answered.

    Until we can ALL interact with everyone regardless of color, or any other difference that could potentially separate us, we will not have overcome prejudice. We are all related and all live on this one small planet. Please, as Rodney King said so many years ago, "Can't we all just get along?"

    July 25, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  3. Steve

    I know Jesus mourns over the pain that His children regularly inflict on each other. Like the Rev. King dreamed so do I dream – one day we will all (black, white, brown, tan, beige, etc, etc) we judge each other by our character, not our skin color.

    I hate to admit that buried deep within me is the sin of prejudice, but I take it to the cross daily and crucify that sin.

    Christian brothers and sisters, let us continue to pray that God's children of every color one day treat each other with true Christ-like love.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  4. Greg, Erie PA

    I have enjoyed the series greatly. That doesn't mean that I have agreed with everything that has been stated.
    I attended an inner city high high school and have taught in one for the past 15 years. I have seen and known many students with problems in education and with social skills both black and white.
    I have seen the struggle that African American children have in both reading and math skills. There are many reasons for it, to many to be mentioned here.
    I have come to see African American children as polite and charming. Often times more so then their white counter parts.
    The difference between them many time is how African American students handle themselves when things are not going their way. African American students have more of a tendancy to act out and express the anger the only way they know how, which is often fill with violance and vulgar language. i know that this is purly cultural but I still believe that parents should do a better job of socially preparing childern for the social world.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:01 am |
  5. Green Lantern

    To James Johnson – no article/documentary is needed for White in America. It is culture that is "legitimate" in mainstream eyes. No one needs to see this documentary because it is glaringly obvious what it means to be White in America: it means that you are part of a cultural default that never has to explain itself. It means that most likely when you go to buy a car, or a house, or apply for a loan, or get a job...you will be greeted with a face that looks like yours, and a mind that is shaped by experiences that are similar to yours from a racial perspective. It means you are not an IMMEDIATE suspect. Why no documentary for all that? Because it is the way it SHOULD be for ALL Americans, and it is not. Minorities of all races (and women) have a different reality to tell you about. And you are not listening objectively. This is the source of the Black community's assertion that the White mainstream is naive. Black America is NOT the same as White, Yellow, or Brown. White, Yellow, and Brown people are the descendants of (mostly self-selected) immigrants. It's much easier to succeed when the system has always made legal allowances to facilitate your assimilation. If you want to compare Blacks to another cultural group, try Native American.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:00 am |
  6. Carol

    I feel you my brother. I was born and raised in New England. I really felt the effects of racism when I got to high school. The white calculus teacher would steer the black students into trade school careers when we seemed have trouble navigating advanced placement calculus. She would tell us we were incapable of analytical thought (I became a software engineer), but would not say that to the white students that were flunking. I have experienced the inferior treatment in retail stores, even to this day. I know all too well about that whole dark skin/light skin issue we have; it is a shame we cannot unite as a people.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:57 am |
  7. meredith, SLC

    Dang it all Don...you made me cry.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:57 am |
  8. mjBruce

    This has always been a crazy thing to many of us. What the heck the color of a persons skin. Just so stupid. And of course lets stop going back 400 years and rerunning all the slavery stuff. Whites had slaves and black had slaves. Stop it all and lets move on to the humanbeing factor. Its so old now and been driven into the ground so often we are numb to it. Bringing it all up just makes it worse. The majority of the people want peace, to prosper, to marry and raise a family and to help each other. Utopia for sure but stop all this nastyness.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:57 am |
  9. Cherie Dennis

    Don, what a touching article! I have always admired the openness and compassion that you bring to CNN with your interview style and sincere points-of-view, but this article explains a lot about your values and maturity. You are amazing. Thank you so much!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:56 am |
  10. Mike in NYC

    To: Kat

    What you went through in majority non-white schools was as bad, and worse, than what blacks in majority white schools ever experienced. Beaten up, groped, sexually threatened … and then told that complaining was “racist.” Not to mention that a quality education is impossible to get in such an environment.

    Why didn’t your family move? Was it because they couldn’t afford to?

    Do you still consider yourself “privileged” for being white?

    You wrote:

    “I think twice before I go into any store or neighborhood that is mostly black.”

    It’s called learning from experience. I wish you the best.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:55 am |
  11. Tony Hood

    Good read. Jeff of Peoria said it right. American society is made up of bigots. First post from Faye Rose gives credence to the saying "Crabs in The Pot". Anyone in this country can reach their goal and excel if they have education, drive and focus. Faye Rose, stop being a crab in the pot. Keep up the Great work Don,

    July 25, 2008 at 10:54 am |
  12. ciara jackson

    It doesn't help that a large majority of Black professional athletes and entertainers prefer to date and marry women other than Beautiful, Chocolate Brown Skinned women. Even though, in most cases, these men have mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters that were hard working, loving and dedicated to them and also Beautiful Chocolate Brown Skinned women.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:54 am |
  13. Drey

    I have read some of the posts here and I really like the discussion. To those with the "I get stopped too!!" statements, have you been stopped for speeding and not given a ticket, but asked to get out of your car and your car tore apart looking for drugs??? This has happened to me twice while in was in high school. I had a nice car my mother had brought for me and twice in the same day I was pulled over and my car searched and the passengers with me questioned. The second time I refused and I had to wait until they bought a drug dog to sniff around my car. And I still wasn't given a speeding ticket, for which I was supposed to be stopped for. I know that somtimes when I get stopped I deserve it, and when I get a ticket I know I earned it. I just want it to be that way, you stop me, give me a ticket or whatever is appropriate, but don't pull me out of the car, tear up my trunk and glove compartment, and have me sitting on the side of the road for all to see like some criminal.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:53 am |
  14. Mitch

    When I read this piece, and when I see others similar to it, I realize that those of us who are white ought to realize the losses that discrimination has visited upon us. By historically closing ourselves to the talents and skills and genuine brotherhood of all men, we perhaps have squandered the opportunity to know more Brandons, more Barack Obamas, and, yes, even more Don Lemons. We would have been enriched by their potential contributions to our society over the years, and we would be better for having known them. But I see a changing world, too, and this will be a change for the better. The walls of separation are falling. There is hope for us yet.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:52 am |
  15. Bioseh - MD

    How about being black, African and a college student at a HBCU in the mid 70's in Alabama.

    You had no friends, no family and did not understand what in the world was going on around you.

    You fall back solely on the discipline and lessons imparted by your parents. Life is not about what is giving to you. It is mostly about where you desire to go.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:52 am |
  16. Diane

    I am a 62 yr old WF. As such I was raised in a black/white society. Most white children didn't know anything about why we weren't supposed to associate with blacks. We just did what we were told. Schools were intergrated when my oldest son started 1st grade. I never had a problem with his black teachers or classmates-my problem was when he would be the only white in the room. Today, most people really don't pay attention to the color of a person's skin. What they do pay attention to is when people of color can obtain expensive houses with 3% loans & no matter how many times they have their homes repossed-they are into another one within the year. They have most of the state/federal jobs in the south-even when they are not the most qualified. There is racism on both sides, but not withstanding the KKK & such hate groups, blacks are much more racist against whites than the other way around. I am proud of any person who can better theirselves but I believe you should earn it just like I have. I applaud you Don on your success & wish anyone whos works the same success.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:51 am |
  17. Damond

    Faye Rose,

    It's ignorant comments like yours that bother me. How would you suggest he present himself? I think he presents himself well keep going Don.

    James Johnson,

    You and people who think like you are the reason we need to continue to educate people. So called freed people die at the hands of their so called fellow citizens just a few decades ago for wanting the same thing they had. If the roles were reversed the title of the show would be White in America. Most immigrants are treated better than most blacks, who just happen to be lagging behind the majority already. "Free you mind and the rest will follow". Never mind that might be to hard for you!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:51 am |
  18. pat brown fredericks

    This is such a touching and true story. Everything that you said I can remember it all as if it were yesterday about our small town. It is good to tell the true because we never know who's reading it. Don, I attend the church where your grandmother was a member, and your aunt still is. I remember what a sweet person your grandmother was. She loved her church and we loved her. I know all about the main highway that runs through this small town and the railroad track that divided the races. We are so proud of our hometown son. This shows that if you are totally commited you can be anything you desire to be .

    July 25, 2008 at 10:50 am |
  19. Judy

    I am sorry, but I had a hard time following your article. You address these issues on a superficial basis without going into more detail. I honestly have to say since coming over here to the United States, I have never experienced so much self-hatred and concerns about skin color. This issue is being handed down from birth on. I know other countries specificially South America and Asia have similar issues where whole governments are built upon the lighter the skin the higher you rank. I personally see this issue of division not getting any better as there is a huge influx of the latin population now moving into the United States. I myself feel looked at at times when I pass people of latin descent with my very fair-skinned husband, which they all think is latin. No, I always feel like saying, he is black just like me, except that I am darker. But, in the end change starts with us. We need to teach our children no matter what color you are, you are beautiful.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:48 am |
  20. Michelle

    I applaud you Don Lemon. I really enjoy your anchoring
    and reporting on CNN. I happen to think you are a stellar
    interviewer who really tries to get at the heart of the matter.
    One way for parents to confront these images is for them
    to direct their kids to people like Brandon. When I have kids.
    I would much rather they watch CNN for a couple of hours
    than the music video channels. Which leads me to an
    important question, will there be a day when CNN would
    have a news program for kids, teens and young adults
    ages 18-34.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:48 am |
  21. BHowell

    Wow, J Johnson your statement just proves how closed your eyes are. We are all different and that's okay. Everyone doesn't have it easy in life like you may have. No one is the same again that 's okay but its not okay when blacks are still being disciminated against in this day and age. Did you not watch the segement at all? I feel sorry for you if you didn't.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:44 am |
  22. Charles

    Admittedly, the proclaimed racists haven't helped anything in America, but a much bigger problem the last 40 or 50 years have been the liberal do-gooders and poverty pimps. Being white and having married a black woman in 1969 Texas and moving to Oklahoma gives me some authority to speak, I think. For the most part, there has never been a problem. We experienced very little racism and were accepted by our friends and co-workers with no problems. Generally there was never any mention of our different races except by the liberals who were constantly trying to convince us that we were being treated differently and we should be pissed about it. Just like this series, that is what is dividing America. If the liberals would quit trying to make a living out of racism and get the votes of minorities, it would have improved a lot by now, but they are constantly trying to stir the pot.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:44 am |
  23. Orlando

    Good perspective of life.
    Icaution people to who get caught up in the "pro" backwoods country view of african american society, where simple comforts are the norm and recognize that just as every american in this country our experiences develop our personalities. Just because one black person "sounds white" and beleive me I've beentold that I'm the whitest black guy a white person has ever seen. lol, even though I grew up in the middle of watts, Los angeles california. My mother stayed on us about diction, saying noone wants to deal with someone that can't speak well or speaks sterotypical, it's the creme that rises to the top that people want around them. It's the content of character that people look for. Being dark skinned was a curse when I grew up, the 6 darker skinned kids from Elementary – High school "i included" where constantly made aware of the "inferiority" of darker skin by our peers, and the journey of reconciliation was not short and was not happy. I hated darker skinned people for a long time, even though I was one. That shame is nulled now, I have my children now and it is my duty to instruct them in the ways of morality, patience, truth and pride. These are qualities I cannot shirk or they "will" end up in jail like the rest.
    With this said, thanks for sharing, stories are like genetalia, everyone has them, but it's how you use them that leaves a legacy of positive growth or severe drought or morals upon the planet.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:43 am |
  24. Sarah

    Some of these responses I'm reading show me that America is still in denial of its race issue. When Lemon said he got pulled over for having a nice car many of you responded that it wasn't the reason at all and he shouldn't make himself a "victim". I guess you dont realize how many towns (mostly small towns) still operate in a racial manner in America. As a white female I know this still happens, my friends tell me stories of situations where they were treated poorly based only on the color of their skin and I have also seen it occur. IT'S NOT MADE UP, THIS CRAP STILL HAPPENS. I just wish people would stop acting like minority groups live in a perfect world and just take it for granted and focus on their past. White America will never understand their struggle, the least the rest of you could do is maybe be ENRICHED by another culture for a change. Stop being too prideful to realize where these people are coming from with these feelings, you would feel the same way if it happened to you.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:41 am |
  25. Joyce

    I have watched CNN Black in America each night along with all of the comentary. I came up in an all white neighborhood during the 50's and 60's and have since lived in an intergrated neighborhood, and have many black well educated femail friends. My insit to this I was aware of but not to the extent that the program offered. I truely enjoyed this article and truly it is harder for all people of different skin colors along with women of all color including white. CNN keep up all the great programing!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:41 am |
  26. Tewuayana

    I really enjoyed this article from the beginning to the end. I wished that our race of people would stop saying that they cant make it in life because the white man is holding them down. Anyone can make it in life if they put GOD first. Yes, black people have had it hard in life and is still having it hard today. If our ancestors/slaves had given up back in the day where would we be. We have struggles in life but its only to make us stronger and to let us know who is really in charge. We will never be able to go forward if we dont stop living in the past. I see and hear things that go on in life today that concerns blacks but I cant stop living and start pointing fingers. I dont understand how we as blacks can walk around and call each other the *N* word and whats up my dog and have no problem with it, why get upset when another race use the same words. You have to respect yourself before you expect others to respect you. Its not right to be called the *N* word by anyone whether black and sure not someone thats a different race. We all can make a change or at least try to. GOD BLESS !

    July 25, 2008 at 10:41 am |
  27. JG

    I have read this article as well as some others about the Black issues. I just always don't understand why its always questioned why blacks are arrested and pulled over. Why does it happen? I think all you need to do is look at the statistics of crime. There is approx 18,000 murders a year in the US. Of these about 70% are done by mainly Black males. This is not a 1 year stat or 5 years or 10. This goes on and on and yet they wonder why they are arrested and why cops pull them over. This never seems to change either. If you want to be respected and you want people to trust you then start by making these statics cleared. Stop murdering each other, get to school, and start thinking that life is valued by all.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:41 am |
  28. Robert from Ohio

    I am a white male from a northern state and I have to say that this article totally opened my eyes, I never knew that there was discrimination between Light and Dark Skinned black folks, its bad enough that they have to deal with it at all but amongst their same race ??? Also I agree with J S Bazile, the media does go off on the deep end and show the Black male in that light, its kind of how you treat other people or even a child, you cant just show them all of the BAD they are doing, you also have to uplift and show the GOOD as well. Young Black men do not have enough good role models for inspiration and part of that is the media's fault. If you wake up every day and all you see and hear is this is the way black men are I think at some point you will start to believe it. Its like anything, if you hear it enough it becomes truth. By the way if the bartender in Male, I get ignored by him too..... There is discrimination everywhere and there shouldnt be, without knowing each other, we all owe each other as human beings a certain amount of respect (most people dont give each other this), that respect should be there until the other person gives you a reason to take it away. Never NEVER go into any situation with a pre-determined idea on how another person is for any reason. Let them show you what they are and then except them for who they are.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:40 am |
  29. Dan in St Louis

    I enjoyed reading about the challenges Brandon faced and how very positive he is trying to be. I can only hope that those of us who are white will start to overcome our bad behavior towards the black community. I have been taught by a good mother to treat all people with proper respect that I would like to be treated with “the golden rule”. But unfortunately to many white people don’t want to change for whatever reason and I try as I might to tear down those walls with hopefully a positive behavior model for them.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:39 am |
  30. Cheryl in T.O.

    Thank-you Don Lemon for sharing your story. We have quite a few things in common, even though I am African-Canadian. Certainly, I have not had to endure the obvious injustices of the American south, but Canada has it's own problems of race relations, albeit to a lesser degree. I truly admire your tenacity. You are a wonderful journalist, one that deserves more exposure. I do hope CNN will give you your 'just dues'. Did I mention you're pretty easy on the eyes as well? 🙂 Good luck in your endeavours, Don!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:39 am |
  31. Kim

    I grew up in a military town in Texas. People from all over the world came to my small town due to the military. So, my environment has always been diverse and I did not realize how much people segregate themselves until I moved away for college. I am thankful for my upbringing because it prevented me from attaining the mentality of "sticking with your own kind." I am two ethnicities (not races because there is only ONE human race) and was taught to be a part of both instead of picking one over the other in order to belong/fit in. I believe the main reason why people stick to their own and encourage/force others to do the same is because of adherence to negative stereotypes. One day I hope Americans will stop putting forth the effort to stick to their own, because you do it on purpose. And the reason behind the effort is probably rooted in fear, ignorance, and adherence to negative stereotypes. So, if I were to create a banner expressing my solution to the prejudice people practice in their lives and infect into the social/economic systems of our nation it would be: "STOP TRYING TO STICK WITH YOUR OWN!" You try too hard.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:38 am |
  32. V. Brown

    Always enjoy your reporting at the anchor. I by no means consider you a sellout. That is the same ignorance that has so many young people at risk today in the black community. I am a minister who deals with at risk youth who for some odd reason that they should portray a lack of intelligence, good diction, and respect for our elders who laid the ground work for us. I truly know from my experience as the only black baseball player at my university, to being a young black officer in the Air Force, you set the standard for your people as well as becoming a stereo type buster. Kudos to you my brother for being real in all you do!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:38 am |
  33. Fab

    Good column on life perspectives, racial issues, and the forever changing life living environment! Great read and congradualations on a great article!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:37 am |
  34. E B

    First of all, I am still digesting the series "Black in America" to make heads or tails of it. Not sure what the point was or if it hit it's mark. Secondly CNN please give Tara Wall her walking papers. She is my homegirl, but she is horrible(not an original thought in her head and her arguments are whack and weak)
    Oh yeah, please stop putting on jerks like Joseph Phillips to push their poorly written books and poorly crafted points. His presence was a very low point in the program. A discruntled black man.

    Like the series, I feel you have put more attention on the things that are more difficult to change and may always exist. Prejudice. Within and outside of the Black community. If we were able to focus on the things that could change it would weaken this prejudice. Change these laws that are designed to put more black men in prison. Make education a priority. If higher education were acessible, more children would finish high school. Kids know at a very early age a high school degree has very little worth in this nation. Don, where your from, children know college exists, but it doesn't for them. I can bet you went to college because you knew it existed and it was going to be your reality.
    When I was growing up, people who went to prison, wnet to get rehabilitated. Rehab is only for the rich and priviledged today. Make one mistake your life is all but over today. That has to change.
    We will not change the attitudes we have toward one another, until the things that are designed to keep us apart are changed.

    E B Smith

    July 25, 2008 at 10:37 am |
  35. Brian

    Great article.. it still appears that some persons (of all races) do not really understand the longlasting and deep scarring effects of Americas racial history.. I am willing to bet that any African American if given a TRUE chance to succeed would willingly take it and if it unobstructed would commit to living a righteous life. However as James Johnson points out, he believes that we are all the same when frankly we are not..

    July 25, 2008 at 10:36 am |
  36. Rudy of Illinois

    This is a subject that I have studies closely over the years. However, I must point out, that a lot of those things that minorities point out as racism (i.e. being followed in stores etc.) might not be as racially related as you think. I have noticed that this same pattern happens to poor people in general these days. 15-30 years ago might be different though. I am as white as white gets. I am of scottish descent, so I get that glow in the dark white going. However, I was raised by bikers (true bikers, not the weekend bikers) and therefore quite poor. I found that I was followed in most stores throughout the 80's, as were my friends. Even today, when I have been working outside and have to run to the store, I get followed if I am a little dirty and in old clothes. I have been pulled over by the police for the same thing. At one point, I moved out of Georgia due to the constant harrasment (almost daily) by the police. I noticed that this very much depended on whether I was in an old beater or in a nicer car. So my question is... has anyone entertained the idea that some of this is geared toward poor? not race? Not that I am saying that minorities dont have it rough, but I am also aware that many minorities think that being white, is the same as being born with a silver spoon in your mouth. I am a designer these days and worked my way out of place I was at.. even now I notice an odd trend. When designing print material for clients, there is only one ethnic group that is consistantly allowed to be removed from a document due to their color... and that is a white person. We are openly allowed to take white people out of a photo, but we have to make certain that all other races are represented properly at some point. I have found that odd. I believe that everyone is so concerned about race that they end up becoming racists themselves. I personally try to not think of race at all. How could I. I come from trash. It's hard to point fingers when your own parents are worse than most ethnic stereotypes.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:35 am |
  37. Ben Turner

    This series is eye-opening for all of us Americans. I disagree with fellow Whites who argue that we are feeling sorry for Blacks in America. Thats not the point of the series. For all Idiots who have never taken American History listen up! Turns out Whites & Blacks Have had very bad relations in this country forever. Guess What? Maybe if we attempted to understand blacks we could relate more and finally put this race issue behind us like the rest of the world has done. Get it?

    July 25, 2008 at 10:34 am |
  38. evelyn curry

    All I can say is I thank God for this younger generation of black and white kids who are catching on fire for Jesus. They are the ones who will tear down the wall of racism on both sides. All they want to see is other young people saved and enjoying life. They don't care the color of the skin or how much money the other one has in his or her pocket.
    I for one am so tired of all the fighting and bickering between the races and within our own race.
    People lets get it together before we all tear this planet apart with hate and violence and no one will be able to claim the victory.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:33 am |
  39. Regular Guy

    To the flight instructor: You have a great message, but it could be expanded to include just about anyone (Irish, Jews, Muslims, poor people) who has ever succeeded despite terrible circumstances. To use myself as an example, I'm the product of a mid 1970s teen pregnancy. To make matters worse this happened in a small town in back woods, Bible belt Arkansas. Where did my teenaged dad go? Who knows, somewhere in Iowa last I heard. Some of my first memories are of my mom holding my hand in her coat pocket as we walked, before daylight, to the Head Start across town on her way to work. Fast forward a couple of decades; I've worked my way through college and grad school, and now in my early 30s I'm in senior management for a large defense company. Considering my start in life, I'm pretty successful. I work around a lot of what I like to call "blue bloods” y’know the Harvard graduates, the "I studied in France for a semester" types. They don't always treat me like an equal; it rubs me the wrong way, but who cares! We all put our pants on one leg at a time.

    Don't get me wrong, the circumstances of your upbringing were probably terrible, but it looks like you've broken through the cycle of poverty and crime and bad decisions. That's the beauty of America! For the most part, what you become is completely up to you. It’s the decisions YOU make with the circumstances under which you were born that determine whether you'll end up living in a nice suburb or in a penitentiary. So, I encourage anyone with a less than perfect start...black skin, dark skin, light skin, Irish, Jew, hillbilly...whatever! Get the chip off your shoulder and make something out of what God has given you.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:32 am |
  40. Nathan Bernstein

    I'm glad to see CNN is finally running a story that doesn't just target white people as being racist.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:31 am |
  41. Ron Tempesta

    I met Don when he was in Philly and he did a story on my daughter who was very ill at the time, he was very professional and caring, he left a good impression on me which says a lot, because Philly is very hard on news people in general, and I am glad he made the jump to national news and I wish him the best.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:31 am |
  42. Natasha

    Thank you, the world already knows the struggle...... That is the next step. Stop whinning that the good had no time on the air. Everyone wanting the spot light. Your help to the community should speak volumes if you are truly for helping. Those of you who are mentor,teacher, and leaders, good job. CNN did the right thing to show the problems we face. Now, what are we going to do about it? Bill Cosby was correct in what he has said to us. And crime runs wild where there is no teaching present of GOD. Let's get to work.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:31 am |
  43. Ollie

    I attended an HBCU that was probably the inspiration for Spike Lee's "School Daze". We had our first dark skinned school Queen in 1970 when James Brown challenged us to "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm proud!" I have met light skinned women who sought the darkest mates that they could find to ensure that their children would not be subjected to the treatment that they encountered. For some of the whites who commented on this article, I appreciate your attention to the subject but I challenge you to look deeper to try to understand what is being said and what actually happens. Black males do get pulled over by the cops and asked questions like, "Is this your car?" and "Where are you going?", while receiving no citation (DWB). We do occassionally speed. But when we do, the situation could vey rapidly go from simply being issued a ticket to a life-threatening event. Why?

    July 25, 2008 at 10:30 am |
  44. Shawn

    The more you bring up a sense of inferiority, the more those who fit into the physical mold of the perceived superiority will assume they are entitled to that state of being... and vice versa. The whole "being black in America" is doing and will do more harm than good. What the article is doing is segregating the population even more into two separate groups. Black and Non-black. Now all we need is Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (the kings of the American Black Race) to voice their opinion (which we've been hearing for decades and has only escalated a sense of segregation).

    If you really think about it, don't you think this is a back-handed way to keep black people thinking they are inferior, rather than empowering? This segment does NOTHING... it just points out the obvious... no one is more informed because of these articles and segments. I watched the program on CNN a couple nights ago and all i heard was "we need to........." about 1,000 times.

    Do it or don't do it. STOP TALKING ABOUT IT! ACT!

    "Oh, poor me, I can't get a taxi to stop for me, people at resturants ignore me." Stop whining and DO SOMETHING! no one gives you a free ride anymore.

    What segment is going to air next year? "Still Black in America"?

    This is a joke.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:30 am |
  45. Sharon of La

    I hear lots of talk from white people going on about the crime of black people. Well if you sat daily and watched CNN you would see it is not so. Sometimes I watch my local news and a crime is commited and the race is not said. That's when I know it was a white person. If it is a juvenile being killed and they can't release the name the media will somehow show a feet going in the ambulance to let you know they were black. If I thought like white people I would be afraid to go to college because I would lump them all in the category of school shooters but I don't. I could also think they were serial killers, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Danner, the man who put his daughter in the basement for 18 years and commited incest, the list goes on. And I'm not saying blacks are not killing each other, but they are not the only ones commiting crimes.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:29 am |
  46. Pamela

    I've totally been there! Here I would be having a conversation with a darker skinned black person and a white person together and be perceived by both of them as two different colors at the same time! I've been an enigma to both sides because of what we do as people–we have to categorize each other. There are many different facets of ourselves and to put everybody into one group limits us all.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:27 am |
  47. Jeff L.

    There are white people who do not discriminate. I feel that I am one of them. I also don't deny that there are many who are racist.

    I have been ignored, pulled over many times, and declined jobs in the past. I am not sure why, that's just how life is sometimes, for all of us. I think some of the examples being used over the course of the past 2-3 days are truly race-based, and others are not.

    I commend you for your story and wish you and the students all the best.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:26 am |
  48. Jermaine

    People like Robert, Casey amazes me. (shaking my head)
    Dont try to use this guy situation to all black people are not trying because it doesnt always turn out this way. by the grace of guy it worked out for him. the outcome is always the same for others and stop trying to use this story to justify the problem the GOB (Good Ole Boys) is still causing for people of color.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:26 am |
  49. Ron in Fl.

    I just wanted to add that besides enjoying your article I found it refreshing to hear you story. I myself find until we start to realize there is but one race the human race we will never get past the race issue as a society. I'm a self proclaimed mut and am not sure what all of my ancestors are (as most are not even if they think otherwise) but have found people will always descriminate for one reason or another and even though a person of darker skin may be treated differently they do not ever have to let the ignorance of others dictate there own actions or future. You seem to be a stronger better person for your past as am I and hope you inspire more to do the same.
    Thank you

    July 25, 2008 at 10:25 am |
  50. Ralph Perez

    Congratulations CNN and Soledad O'Brien. The Series was excellent I am sure it will win many awards. I was pleased to see that you pulled no punches and showed the whole picture of the black experience in America. Including both the horrors and legacy of slavery, second class citizenship and racism, as well as the self inflicted injuries including absent fathers and poor choices made by single mothers, criminals etc. I would suggest that CNN undertake a project called White in America in which you can parallel a lot of the stories about the impact of poverty, drugs, Columbine style disaffection, crime and some heart rendering stories about overcoming obstacles, personal achievement and the role of institutions like the church. You might also want to tough upon reverse discrimination.

    July 25, 2008 at 10:25 am |
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