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. Elaine

    As an older Black American in my fifties, I will say that racism does exsist in America. Everything in this country is based on black and white and has since the beginning of slavery.Hatred of races on both sides has been passed down from generation to generation; however with the beginning of intergration, younger whites and blacks have realized that all the things that mom, dad, grandma and grandpa said behind closed doors really wasn't true, and as a results many blacks and whites have truly come to understand each other and appreciate their differences.The only way for black people to stop the destruction among ourselves is for our young mothers and fathers to teach their children from birth the importance of an education. It will take a lot of sacrifices but I promise you that it will pay off. When I grew up my parents were not rich but they constantly instilled in my head about getting an education; no one can take that away from you.I did the same with my daughters and I am proud of my girls today. We don't have all of the opportunities that we should have in this country but the ones that we do have we should use them to our advantage.Our people perish for the lack of knowledge!

    July 25, 2008 at 12:11 pm |
  2. valery saintilme

    Black in America documentary sort of hit the spot, but i believe we should also visually expose the African Americans who are making a difference and who are improving their lives and are hard working more in the documentary. The Black America i know is one where I only come to the realization that i am black when a caucasion man or woman experience my intelligence and are intimidaded or they see how nice i am and are suprised, or when they want to make a racial comment and then they look at me as if to say "can i say this"?, yet non of these factors or any racial bigotry can make lose track of my ambitions and goals. You just have to try to not let it affect your own personal success. Thats what i believe alot of African Americans have come to.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:08 pm |
  3. John Mallow

    As an African American male, I am offended by the constant articles on CNN about how blacks have a harder time in life.

    I am a successful black businessman and I have worked very hard to get where I am at. I had the same opportunities everyone else had, no one made it more difficult for me, no one discriminated against me, etc.

    I either brought value to my employer and clients or I didn't.

    I worked very hard to speak English well, to have no criminal background and to live a life that would make my family proud.

    My success is based upon my merits and I don't think the black community should continue to make excuses about their lack of success.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
  4. Leslie Jones McCloud

    I think we suffer in this world from the, you-cannot-have-it-all syndrome and as a friend puts it, " nobody likes you when you are too proud, too free."
    It is sad but when anyone has high marks in all of the categories deemed important in our American culture, you will get some backlash. Excellence must be coupled with a negative in order to fit in. People are happy to realize you have a bit of misery going on in your life and they are happy to provide it–if you allow it.
    That is what I think the Black caste system is based on–misery. Many of those light skinned babies were born of violence, not love lust or passion. But what fault is it of anyone what color their skin is?
    Or the texture of their hair?
    Don, I'm glad you chose to become an anchor/reporter and I enjoy your news reports. You add just enough personality to your delivery to make me pay attention.
    By-the-way: does it bother you that you missed out on good hair? I don't have good hair either–and I'm dark so I catch it most times!
    Really, really good story, Don.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
  5. kia

    nice article
    It brings a tear to my eye. I am a white women, but I don't understand why we all cant just get along and not care so much about race. I hate the fact that some whites hate blacks, some blacks hate white, and now some blacks hate different levels of black:( There are whites hating white as well (but usually on income level, ie "white trash"). It seems like we place so much emphasis on race. Even Obama talks just about being black all the time, but he is white too. He should be proud of both sides and not feel the need to chose. Maybe I am too idealistic, but I have a few mixed friends tell me "black +white=black"....I tell them , I am white and I never even thought that before. Wwhen someone is both black and white, I think of them as both black and white.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  6. Leslie Jones McCloud

    I think we suffer in this world from the, you-cannot-have-it-all syndrome and as a friend puts it, " nobody likes you when you are too proud, too free."
    It is sad but when anyone has high marks in all of the catagories deemed important in our American culture, you will get some backlash. Excellence must be coupled with a negative in order to fit in. People are happy to realize you have a bit of misery going on in your life and they are happy to provide it–if you allow it.
    That is what I think the Black caste system is based on–misery. Many of those light skinned babies were born of violence, not love lust or passion. But what fault is it of anyone what color their skin is?
    Or the texture of their hair?
    Don, I'm glad you chose to become an anchor/reporter and I enjoy your news reports. You add just enough personality to your delivery to make me pay attention.
    By-the-way: does it bother you that you missed out on good hair? I don't have good hair either–and I'm dark so I catch it most times!
    Really, really good story, Don.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  7. Chris B

    In my opinion – black people are not asking for pity here but are trying to give some background to help people understand better how they feel. My white friends often say I'm not black because I seem to "act white" by my dress, use of language, music choices, etc. Likewise many of my black friends/family don't understand my preferences and more than once I've heard "So you think you're white now". Likewise its not uncommon to hear whites with very black preferences referred to as "wiggers". Asians might be harassed, but not by their own people simply because they don't fit a stereotype or expectation. Prejudice is something that may blacks face from both blacks and whites leaving them with no clear cut identity. It is an unusual position because many lighter blacks are obviously both African and European but can trace their ancestry to neither. That is something truly unique and unfortunate about being black in America. That is the point that so many either don't or cannot ever understand.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  8. Nancy H.

    Don, I have admired you on CNN for quite a while and enjoyed this article. It struck me about how artificial we are.....that a person's skin color and hair type are so important! I know that was and is the reality but it's so sad to me. It's what's inside that counts.

    I don't care what color your skin is, what your hair looks like or where you came from or went to college. I just know you as a warm, wonderful journalist and I will keep enjoying you for a long time, I hope.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  9. Rose

    I am an outsider looking in. I am of African descent, very light skin complexion, light brown eyes and living in America. Yes, I came to America as an Immigrant. Do I feel the racism in America? No. I feel that racism is the excuse used and given by most those who have failed in their endeavors. Instead of getting up and trying again, they convince themselves that they failed because they are black. Well, I am sorry, but to some extent, I don't believe it. I am black, an Immigrant (unfamiliar with the American culture when I first came to America) and I made it. Yes. I even earned a Master of Laws degree for the University of Georgia, a reputable university. With that, I have managed to get jobs that continue to get better and better as the years go by. Now I have both the education and experience to keep forging forward in America. To me, racism will only exist if you want it to. It will continue to haunt you if you choose not to forget it ever existed. Forget the past and look to the future! Continue to do the right thing for you, your families, children and society. Do unto others (black, light skin, white, green, etc) what you want others to do unto you.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  10. Brian from Chicago

    I'm white, and I used to be a magnet for getting pulled over in my hometown. It turns out that my car matched the description of what drug dealers were driving at the time.

    So how much of "racial profiling" is really "auto profiling"?

    July 25, 2008 at 12:03 pm |
  11. ATL's Finest

    Enjoyed the piece, but here is my question. I understand some things still exist that can be considered to be racist. What I don't understand is why some keep repeating the same things over and over. I am a 33 year old African American women, and although my father was exposed to some racist things. I refuse to allow it to paralize me. If you are unhappy with the way you feel you are being looked at, then speak up about it, educate yourself and stop self hatred against your own kind. Support your seed, stop commiting crimes and better yourself. Yes, whites have a 400 year start, but women are ahead, because we have changed our ideology and adapted to the ways of becoming successful. We only wish we had more men as equals to help us further our goals of having successful Black families. Yes there are some, but they are few and far.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm |
  12. Ralph Holder

    The problem with society is that it tends to lump all people of one particular race, culture or heritage together when it makes a decision about their interactions. Rather than dislike the race of the person that did your wrong, it should be the person you dislike or distrust. Not everyone is the same, nor do they all harbor the same feelings about others. My best friends growing up were white and philipino. I still considered them my best friends, even though I have been treated with contempt and scorn by whites because of my race. My motto is your my friend until you prove me wrong. I don't dislike the white race, I dislike the white person who engages in racism.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:59 am |
  13. Mike

    I can't wait until we are all mixed. Oh, wait, mixing DNA doesn't guarantee the extinction of ignorance.
    Let me correct myself;
    I can't wait until our DNA is all mixed and we are all educated. Our civilization will be a bunch of Jango Fett clones (Star Wars reference).

    July 25, 2008 at 11:58 am |
  14. Sherry ( from NC)

    With all the piercing things that are going on with blacks in america, I really feel that black women are forsaken by the black men when all they want is to date out of their race, like white woman and they know we are hurting. And to add to it black men contiune to have multiple relationships ( they just can't be faithful).

    July 25, 2008 at 11:56 am |
  15. CAR

    Faye Rose, before you try to "dis" this brother who has made a major accomplishment in his career by anchoring on CNN, I've watched him since he was on NBC in Chicago, the word is "sell out"! And he is NOT ONE! We are such haters of one another....so sad!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:55 am |
  16. Mark

    Jealousy comes in all forms. There's no such thing as racism in-between blacks over the shade of their skin. There is, however, jealousy within all races over a myriad of issues,...skin pigment being one amongst some blacks. I hate to see everything being lumped under the category of racism when the root cause might not be as dramatic as you think. "Jealousy",.....no more,..no less.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:53 am |
  17. Jessica

    One more comment from me- Dr. Dyson is brilliant!!!!! I was so happy to see Spike Lee in the series too. He has been instrumental in bringing positive black images to film. Being in my late 30s, I remember how his movies made a difference in my life. I was in college at the time and his movie School Daze was the first time I saw a love scene with a black couple (who were in love) on the big screen- it had a tremendous impact- people who actually looked like me. That opened the door for what now is a variety of choices of black movies (dramas). I can be a little more sure today that my children will have people to view that look, talk, and act like them. I don't let my children watch Disney or Nick because their programming reflects a white cultural stereotype that I don't want my children immulated or admiring because it does not reflect their culture and values. Imagine turning on your TV and the only supposed smart, articulate, beautiful people are people who are not from your culture or background. As an adult I can often sift through this. But young people cannot often separate fact from fiction. We still have a long way to go, but slowly making progress.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  18. Tracy

    I grew up in a southern town, Richmond, Virginia and I must confess I never saw or experienced the light-skinned/dark-skinned thing in my neighborhood. My friends were all different shades of the sun as African-Americans are. We accepted one another. Being smart was a good thing. No one thought you were being "white" for speaking correct english or thought you were a "sell-out" for achieving. Our community was not affluent, but we did have friends who were middle-middle class to upper-middle class and we, for the most part, got along. I've heard stories of "lighter" people of African descent being "bullied" by those of darker hues more now than any other time in my life and I am no spring chicken. I know it to be true, but I honestly didn't know the problem was so wide spread. I appreciate the information, and feel hurt by the fact we cannot come together as a people. This is our biggest issue. Has anyone ever heard of "Willie Lynch" (point out the differences and make them important enough to separate the slaves-in order to keep control of the slave)? To my dissappointment, it seems to be working as efficiently as ever. Splitting us over issues that really don't matter. Does it really matter if you have straight hair and I have kinky (especially when I can buy straight hair)? We need to place aside these petty issues and come together – TODAY.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:50 am |
  19. Ashawan

    Don Lemon ,Soledad O'brian... GEE where are the dark skinned Cnn Reporters? I mean so yeah Don your light Skin does give you advantages in White America.. They feel more comfortable with you so they hire you FIRST!!!..read the Willie Lynch papers...and yes light skinned people do have an air about them. alot have bought into there being this pecking order and their light skin moves them up. I remember going to meet my fathers wife for the first time in Baton Rouge, LA and the first thing out her mouth was "Why is he so Daaaaaark"! My dad is all mixed up too. So let us break these "divide and conquer" chains of slavery.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:48 am |
  20. GF, Los Angeles

    BTW – define what is "acting white" ?

    July 25, 2008 at 11:46 am |
  21. Henry

    A few people will get upset with what I'm about to say. History does prove me right. I want you to really think about what I am about to say. There is no such thing as racial discrimination. If there is any racial discrimination, it is against the human race. I consider myself human. This racial discrimination you are talking about is not skin color, but where you come from. It is the culture that is being discriminated against. Here are some of my reasons: 1) Different cultures scare many people, they are uncomfortable with the unknown. 2) Even among their own culture, they discriminate against each other. 3)Respect of others no mater what the culture is not being taught with words and actions. 4) Even in the history of the US there is proof of culture discrimination. Irish, German, American Indian, Polish, Italian, African American, Japanese, Chinese, Homong to name a few. All have discriminated and been discriminated against by each other and their own group as well. 5) Self-esteem. Good self-esteem doesn't discriminate. It doesn't make others feel less human. It does help them become more understanding of others. Their culture, their abilities and faults, and the person's own culture, alibility, and faults.

    I try and at times fail to respect the other person and to understand the culture where they come from. But I keep trying. The mass media doesn't help when they promote discrimination on their TV shows, in print, on radio, movies and other forms of "enterainment" What needs to be done is to take each individual, show them the respect they deserve. People learn more by seeing the actions, then hearing or reading the words.

    We are more alike in many things and areas of life then we are different. It is these small differences that scare and cause the discrimination. Realizing this can this discrimination be stop. Think about it.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:41 am |
  22. Kevin

    Getting followed around by security guards, getting pulled over for having a nice car, getting ignored by restaurant and bar staff huh? Sounds like me as a teenager ten years ago, or as an adult now. It also sounds like what every other teenager has gone through, as well as middle to lower class people in this country.

    Oh, and by the way, I am white and in the military.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:41 am |
  23. Matt

    Don, why don't you address the reality there at CNN? You, along with T.J. Holmes and Tony Harris are all light-skinned black men. Fredricka is a light-skinned black woman.

    Do you think you'd have a shot at being on CNN if your skin color were 3 or 4 shades darker? Before you answer "yes," look around your newsroom.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:40 am |
  24. East Indian

    I am really appalled that most white people think that racism is absent in America and black people should get over the fact they get discriminated against in daily life. I am an East Indian, which by the way is frustrating to admit instead of saying that I am Indian. It’s surprising that we people from India were Indians long before Columbus came to the Americas and thought that the Native Americans were Indians. Anyway I am dark skinned than an average black person here. I initially thought like most white folks here that black people make a big deal about racism. Once I moved to Atlanta and started working, my whole perception changed. I got pulled over for no reason. And I got followed in the malls. Of course sometimes the cops or the security people in the mall apologized once they could look at me clearly and recognize that I am East Indian. I agree that most white people are not racist. There are racist people regardless of race. Racism is all about power and most of the times cops abuse their power just because they can. I think white people in this forum should realize that racism is not a thing of the past. My experiences are a clear example of this fact. And I have no bias against people of any race. Some black folks deal with it positively and not let it bother them but some people might not deal with it effectively.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:37 am |
  25. Vern

    It seems that some people just don't get it & will never. James states that he has nver seen an article that says white in America. James, just what world are you living in? This is a white world..you see these articles every darn day. Also, black people aren't immigrants they are American. This is the kind of ignorance that we have in America.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:37 am |
  26. Birgit Ferguson

    Racism in this country is still very large in existence. I used to go in the ghetto and taught children about Jesus, but also that discrimination is wrong and not to commit crimes. The children were all black and I was white, that certainly brought the attention of the KKK to me. I found a lot of hateful racist remarks in the last few weeks made to me in Naples Florida by Hillary supporters, I found that quiet disturbing. I just found a noose made out of rope on my patio table, it was not there before since I cleaned it and the person who could have put it there, said they played with rope all the time, but they supposedly no longer had access to this property.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:36 am |
  27. Lee

    Don, I hear a couple of things here. The obvious historical absurdity of blacks discriminating against blacks because of color and the fact that some people, including yourself, describe themselves in terms of the tone of their skin. I had to go to Google Images to see more photos of you since you consider yourself "light-skinned". Maybe the photos do not depict you well, but I don't see you that way. You and I are about the same complexion, but I never saw myself as light-skinned and my sons, who have lighter complexions than I, were not raised to think of themselves in terms of their complexion. My point is there is not only a problem with how people treat each other, but also how we perceive ourselves. The healthier perspective would be to not focus on skin tone at all.

    In response to Fay Rose, Fay please tell me and the rest of the world how Don reports like he is a white man. The ignorance of that statement is astounding. Is he supposed to shuck and jive or have an "ethnic" sound like James Brown to be viewed as reporting like a black man? He is a black man, therefore he is reporting like a black man. If you believe we are all supposed to look, sound and act only in accordance with your stereotypical perspective of black people, the only one thing I have to say to you is you need to get out more often. You obviously have limited exposure to your own race, otherwise you would know how incredibly ignorant your comments are. Don is not a sell-out, you, on the other hand, need to open your mind and grow. With the perspective you have you, yourself, are no more representative of the black community than you claim Don misrepresents it.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:35 am |
  28. norm

    This is a response to the guy who said he grew up in Venezuela and there was no racism there.

    First, let me state that I grew up in New Orleans of italian, spanish, and french, descent. A very diverse enviroment, and a very african american one too.

    My dad is from Colombia, and I got to live there as an adult, and travel to Venezuela and Panama due to my job.

    First there is racism in latin america. And it relates to how light or how dark you are, what side of town you come from, do you have any indian blood in you, etc.

    As a white person who's father worked for an oil company, I am sure you got to see the priveleged side of things and at a younger age were not aware of the inherent racism most south american countries have.

    Go back to Venezuela, and took a look at the skin tones of the maids there, and then think back on your no racism comment.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:34 am |
  29. Daniel

    As a hispanic person, I too have had the same thing happen to me as I am a mix as well. I have often told people that the people who treated me the worst were the other hispanic people. I because of it all don't culturally play on any racial field anymore. I just be myself and not worry about what I should be doing. It's so ridiculous that all of us are truly the same and yet the color of your skin gets all the fuss. I mean who likes the same color of anything?

    July 25, 2008 at 11:33 am |
  30. Chris

    When will Black America realize that America is a capitalist country and not a racist country? America is not like some unindustrialized country where they employ this race-based cast system; that's just completely stupid and fitting to lesser educated demographics. Why do Black Americans actually believe that various shades of skin color have any bearing, whatsoever, on your social class? I honestly believe this is the root of the so-called "Black in America" problem.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:29 am |
  31. K n VA

    GREAT story... Positive and uplifting!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:28 am |
  32. Ms. D

    To the blogger who says we have to shake off our past. Our past still haunts us. We as americans all have to come to together and find a healing process for the black communities. We can't act like racism never existed and still don't exist. Just like it takes hundreds of years to get us into a mess it takes hundreds years to get us out. And one example is going being George Bush and cleaning up his mess.

    Whites and Blacks do not start on a even plain so you can't say just let forget the past and work on the future. We have to heal from our past in order to work on our future. You have to get ot the root of a problem and stop putting a baidage over a open wound. When you are in counseling they don't say you have to forget about your past and focus on getting better. You have to discuss your past and get the hurt all out before you can move forward!! Institutionalize racism is what is really hurting our community along with racial disparities.

    I know the black communities have issues that we as community have to deal with but when you add racism and racial disparities to the equation it only hinders the progress!! Put yourself in our shoes for a moment sometimes!!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:25 am |
  33. C. Greene

    To all of those who think Blacks are getting too much attention: Every group as far as I know except for two, have had anceators or relatives who could make the choice to come to this country. Native Americans were already here, but Blacks never really had that chance and this has been evident all along.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:24 am |
  34. Amar

    As an Indian, I just want to say I know what you mean. Even in our community, there are subtle and sometimes not so-subtle biases towards lighter and "fairer" skinned Indians. Even in India you can still see TV ads for cosmetic products guaranteeing "whiter skin in just 15 minutes".

    I wonder if it is because people the world over have a semi-unconscious urge to be more like the dominant, more developed nations who are pretty much all white. I wonder what things would be like if the roles were reversed; if africans or asians founded America and became the dominant race. Would whites want to be darker skinned? I wager yes, and for different reasons than just to look tanned.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:23 am |
  35. Drew

    Thanks for this article. You know as a black man I almost forgot to hate all white people for a second. I’m about as black as you can get and I grew up in the south, there’s just one big difference between you and me. I don’t blame my misdoings on white people I blame them on myself. Take personnel accountability for your actions you weak little man! I know not all black people feel this way because I sure don’t, so stop the racist slander and making us sound like we need everything handed to us on a silver platter. You make me sick!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:21 am |
  36. Todd

    Wow, another Black success. Imagine that. AC, now Brandon.... Congrats to him, but come on. It doesn't matter what color you are any more. You are what you make of yourself. Forget perceptions. Now its a problem of black parents telling their children they will face a problem instead of letting them spread their wings and fly on their own. Parents are setting their children up for failure. Yes I am white. I am a hiring manager and I've never really apprecited the antics of some of the black people I've met in my life, but I would never not hire a black person if they were qualified for a position.

    How long is the violin supposed to play?

    July 25, 2008 at 11:20 am |
  37. Willow

    Don, I enjoyed reading your story here. I see you on CNN, and you have a lot of personality, this just added to it. I am a Grandma of a 16 year old boy, who would rather be at my house. We have to limit him to once a week, or he'd pack a bag and move in. LOL.

    I am, after studying my genealogy several years ago, what used to be called an Octoroon. I have always lived in the white world, and found out that I have an ancestor that was married to an AA woman, having five children. So I really live in one world, and look at another. It certainly changed my thought patterns a bit.

    what we all need to realize is that color is carried on one simple gene. Blue eyes/brown eyes are a huge amount of genetics, so really our eye color is what makes us so much different. (Really!). Thank you for your story, and thank you for what you do as a reporter on CNN.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:19 am |
  38. patrick,corona,ca

    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,

    I agree with you on that issue however remember, many of those white immigrants were purpously brought over to replace and basically overrun the black community. The same thing that happen in Latin America.So what is one to think when somebody is given a free ticket here with rights most blacks didnt have as natural born citizens.??

    July 25, 2008 at 11:15 am |
  39. TT

    Thank you for sharing this story. Sometimes I believe that the younger generation somehow forgets what our parents and grandparents went through to get to the point where we, as African Americans, are today. Anger lies so deep within many of Americas youth and blinds them to the point of being misguided. So, its encouraging to see that a young man that lives in a racially challenging area can overlook all of that and see his potential.

    I appreciate the fact that you mentioned the involvement of your grandmother in your upbringing.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:14 am |
  40. Dazed of Seattle

    I am also a light-skinned African-American. I live in the Northwest and up here it seems to be more of a closet prejudice place. people don't the average stereotype interfere but you can tell that most whites are still uncomfortable with blacks in their presence. I come from a hard side of life in Seattle but I have never been caught up in any racial wars between blacks and whites unless it was blacks degrading whites for not being cool enough. Seems like the blacks here have it a little better then blacks in the South. I have tons of white friends and they are very cautious and aware of how to speak to and with their black friends. I can admit that i make more then most of my white friends and that attributes to their respect for me and how I conduct myself. I will say that more black people are at a disadvantage when it comes to career opportunities, but I also have to say that you can't let anyone or anything detour you from your passion of becoming successful.

    Thanks from Seattle, the true Emerald City:)!!!!!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:12 am |
  41. patrick,corona,ca

    Well i hear everything everybody was saying however, things were systematically designed for Blacks in america to fail. Sure blacks were free of Jim Crow, segregration and etc, but it was still made tough to function. Thats like the story the other day about Spike Lee saying it was hard for him to make a story portraying Black men in a good depiction because thats NOT what corporate american(white) wanted to be seen. He went on to state , that as long as he was portraying black folks in the negative manner as usual, he had access to millions of dollars. As far as the light skinned , dark skinned things.....Tell me how light skinned blacks suffered so much vs their darker skinned counterparts??..............It was the darker skinned blacks who actually had to do the protesting and marching because it was them who had discrimination coming from all directionss. Light skinned blacks just rode the curtails when it was convienient.

    Sad but true!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:12 am |
  42. Kevin (Va)

    Kat; I too grew up in a city, went to a black school and had been rolled or mugged 6 times; some violently. All the perpertrators were black males!

    For all the advantages that black folks have in this country, they by and large, squander it!

    However, if you look at the African continent, I cannot think of a stable country on it. Kenya use to be considered a model for democracy, but in recent years it has had it's problems.

    I bring this up because so many black folks are infatuated with their African roots. There is an insistance on being refered to as "African Americans."

    Oh what a diferrent perception we'd have if everyone departed with their hyphenated status and just considered themselves "Americans"

    July 25, 2008 at 11:12 am |
  43. Sharbob

    Black on black discrimination is not uncommon. Even in Jamaica where I am from the same problem exists. What bridges the gap is to know who you are and how to get what you want. This country has many opportunities that other countries do not. We are blessed to be able to live here so we just need to try and live together. Sure some light skinned people might have it a little easier but all of us need to be confident that if we educate ourselves and project a positive attitude we will prove the masses wrong.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:11 am |
  44. dorcas

    Racism is ongoing in America and all over the world that's why black people cannot "put the past aside". Everyone knows that whenever there is a report on someone getting shot by the police or beaten we don't even need to hear the race. We know. Do you think this is only coincidence? Be in denial and pretend if you want to but please don't insult our intelligence by saying it does not exist anymore and to move on and stop talking about it.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  45. Kelly Hembree

    When you ask someone how they view the world that is a window to their soul. If you see racism then you are racist. If you see the world as one race against others then you are part of the problem. It is nothing but perception. There are bad people in all races and walks of life but you can't let them jade your view of how life should be. You will get back what you give in life. Maybe not from the same person that you gave it to but it will come back to you. On that thought, if you are a positive thinker you will live a positive life. If you are a pessimistic thinker you will always live a negative life. Change your view and you will change your world.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  46. Scott

    This story was well written and non-offensive. Reading Mr. Lemon's story reminded me of an incident in Jacksonville Florida in 1981. I was a truck driver delivering to a Winn Dixie warehouse for the first time and asked the dock worker if I could use the restroom and where it was located. I located the restrooms in the warehouse and noted two (2) male facilities located side by side. Being 23 years of age and not exposed to bias (I'm white) , I commented upon my return to the dock worker someone had changed one of the restroom labels (male and female). The dock worker laughed and informed me the warehouse was very old...

    July 25, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  47. Renee-from Atlanta (originally Louisiana)

    I appreciate Don Lennon for expressing his frustration of being a light skinned African American. Yes, the African American community does discriminate against lighter skinned Blacks. However, this is a result of the environment that has surrounded them for years. I am from Louisiana and only in Louisiana am I viewed a brown skinn with yellow undertones. Whatever! I am a proud African American that does not care what shade she is. Although, I have seen discrimination towards darker skinned African Americans. I felt the same discrimination while I was in grade school (5th grade). My best friend bi-racial because her paternal grand mother was White. She was accepted among teachers of both races, Black and White. The black teachers would compare us and tell her that I was jealous of her. I tried to seperate myself from her to prove to her that I am not jealous of her. She was hurt that I did that. We graduated form the same high school and today exchange family photos. The lessons I have learned you have to rely on Jesus as the authoritative figure in life and let him make the decisions for you. Brandon, Don and others hold your heads up high. Be proud of the skin you are in and push forward. We as African Americans have to stick together. Obama 2008!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  48. Jim Tapscott

    This piece brought back so many memories. I did not grow up in the south but I did experience that split world. I remember the term "high yella" being thrown at me by some of our people. I did'nt understand it then & only partially now. I glad ths was expressed & I am passing it on to my daughters & grandsons. We, as a people have got to open up the closet & throw out the trash. It means we have to be able to take an honest look at the baggage we have been caring that we picked up in our dispair & pain. Until we free ourselves from it WE WILL NEVER BE TRULY FREE! We have to talk to each other and then act responsibly & with love!

    July 25, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  49. Judy

    Also, to tag on from my previous comment. I do not consider your skin color to be that of a light-skinned person. I know this article is written from your own perspective and experience, but it should have come from someone like who resembles Soledad O'Brian. Then it would have been more authentic. According to my husband's experience who truly should have experienced what you wrote, it was a moot issue. You only let certain things get to your head, and the issue of being light-skinned was not one of them.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  50. Steve

    Lets get this out of the way righ now. I am 37 and white. Do I dicriminate? Nope. But I do feel discriminated against when I turn the t.v. on and listen to white jokes told on BET by black comedians.

    I do however know that all this America hates the black man crap has got to stop. Its dumb and ridiculous. Blacks have more of an edge then they want you to think. We all have the same oppurtunities here in America. Some take advantage of them and some stand around and keep dredging up the old slavery and racisit(sp) jabber.

    Racisim will never go away until we shut up about slavery. Yes it happened but it didnt happen to you so be quiet! You cant blame me for slavery any more than I can be blamed for my German heritage for killing millions of Jews. To blame todays white man for slavery is the same as me blaming everyone in Japan for Pearl Harbor. That would get laughed at eh?

    So if the black race keeps bringing up real or imagened discrimination and they keep telling their kids that white people dont like them (and some blacks according to the article.) then we will be talking about this stuff for decades. Hey there are plenty of diverse races here in America that deserve attention also. But for CNN to print an article like this just helps distance the races yet again.

    Here is an idea. Lets retrace every black persons line until we get a home country. We can send them on an two year stay at taxpayers expense and when they get back we will hear about just how bad they really have it here.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:06 am |
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