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. Alain Manns

    Hi Don! Thanks for sharing your story. I watch you every chance I get and I particularly enjoyed your coverage in India late last year.

    I applaud your success, and I think that you definitely service as a role model for younger African-Americans who aspire to attain a career in journalism.

    While I grew up in the opposite end of the country (the suburbs of Philly), I can relate to some of your experiences, particularly some of the negative experiences that you had with other Blacks. My grandparents, who raised me along with other elders in my community, stressed that I get an education and learn how to present myself exceptionally in society. I was "badgered" constantly to walk, speak, and dress "better" than my white counterparts......since I would need to achieve 2x as much in life in order to get the same amount of respect. In high school, I was ridiculed a lot by my black peers for "acting and talking white". Although I hated it then, I am grateful now that my elders did prepare me well. I graduated from my very affluent high school, went on to Penn State, and later moved to South Florida and obtained my Masters from NSU. Now, I am a licensed psychotherapist running my own private practice. My Grandfather and those other elders would be overjoyed that I fulfilled their dreams.

    What I haven't seen covered in this series, yet, is the phenomena of how and why Blacks can be their own worst enemies. Why does it seem that some Blacks are so quick to attack other Blacks who have worked hard and attained any success. This is how I interpreted Faye Rose's comments written above! Why would she criticize your excellent work, by implying that you are "always reporting like you are a white man".....and that you should "be who you are"? It is negative messages like this that many young African-Americans receive....and thus don't live up to their full potential. Faye Rose should explore her own issues in life.......then apologize to you!

    July 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
  2. Diana

    I just wanted to commend Soledad O'Brien and her entire crew for a tremendous job done in putting together this amazing piece of Black in America. As a mother of two young children I would love for them to see this when the become older. Where can you get a copy of the show?
    Congratulations on showing a piece that does not put blame on one person or the other but lets everyone tell their story and help us all learn that it call comes down to the choices we make as individuals whether we are Black or White or Hispanic or any other race.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:41 pm |
  3. John M.

    Don: Thanks for your story.CNN has done a superb job with the series " Black in America" I've watched it with interest and frequently strong compassion.
    Several things have struck me. The long prison sentences for the non
    violent drug cases, and the failure to bring a ' Manhattan Project" focus
    on improving education in innner city schools are very shortsighted.
    I think the country will improve with Barack Obama as president although we can't put it all on his shoulders.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  4. J

    Everyone judges everyone, on their appearance. You take a loook at someone to distiguish their class. If you want to be taken seriously no matter what color you are, present yourself correctly. I am from Kansas, i know we don't have the same problems as the coasts and the south do with race. Maybe because we are 90% white/native american. Maybe because we hand no hand in slavery. But I would see a black midwesterner (yes there were black settters in the midwest) with similiar values closer to myself than a white person from NYC, georgia, conn., california, ect. I think it is different cultures we are talking about not race that leads us to treat people differently.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:29 pm |
  5. Ms. Mo

    I am a dark brown skinned woman with a very light skinned husband. It's a shame to say this, but I live in LA, have two young adult sons – one is darker skinned and one is lighter skinned, and I have watched with sadness thru the years how my two sons are treated differently simply because of their skin tone – even to this day in 2008 when Barack Obama is running for President. They're treated differently both within and outside our race. Not to mention the difference I see in the treatment between my husband and I – he is regarded highly simply because of his light skin, and I benefit a little more that a dark skinned man would because I'm female. But as bad as that is, it seems those who are MOST hateful towards me are the darker brown skinned females that I encounter while out shopping, etc. They are always trying to "put me in my place," as if that "place" should be somewhere on the bottom of the class ladder. Talk about despising the mirror image!!!

    I'm always glad to hear about the programs that are in place for the youngsters like Brandon because like the author, those programs weren't available for me in the 70's. It's programs like these that will equalize the skin tone discrimination.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:29 pm |
  6. K, FL

    In my opinion it becomes very tiresome and old having to constantly explain ourselves to non-African Americans. Let's prove ourselves to ourselves and move forward with or without non-African Americans. We seem to feel that we have no stake in what GOD has blessed us ALL with – the gift of life is our all access pass – I don't feel the need to seek anyones approval. Answer to God and be good stewards of all he has given us...the Earth and the fullness thereof. We are to take care of his Earth, plants, each other, and be mindful and kind to other species who inhabit the Earth, as well as, the universe. When we notice variation in other species we see beauty, "Oh what a beautiful plant or animal – it's different!", we say; yet we cannot see this in our own species??? I at times question the human intelligence and the mind's incapacity to comprehend only what God intended to be perfect (variation) and somehow we have undermined his will into something bizarre.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  7. Mosi

    Don, your a good reporter but you turned me off when you told that guy who bailed out a enna 6 youth that he was doing it to get his 15 minutes of fame! I thought that was dumb and malicious of you and something that would come from someone light , damn near white. It was as if you were playing the role of a white man. if that had been a white man bailing a white kid out that comment woud not have come from as it appeared 'eating crow mouth" Anywhay there is hope for you as a hold out hope for myself and this world.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:17 pm |
  8. Mesheba Williams

    It must be nice white people to tell another group how to fell and get over slavery. I guess I would say that too if my people hadn't been forced to come to America and serve for 400 years, Jim Crow, segregation, Trail of Tears.Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, learning of slavery in elementary is shcoking you can't believe another group was SO LAZY and EVIL and UNCARING. You comments show the same uncaring unempathetic soulless people. If a group of people keeps telling you how they are mistreated and you want to ignore it as made up it only shows your ignorance. I know the people stating get over it would not have fought for freedom or equality. In elementary school white parents, some holding babies would throw rocks at our buses this was 1974, how many of you grew up with your parents making racist remarks? HOW IGNORANT YOU ARE FOR TELLING SOMEONE ELSE HOW TO FEEL, HOW IGNORANT YOU ARE FOR CASTING 400 YEARS OF SLAVERY ASIDE, HOW IGNORANT YOU ARE FOR NOT FEELING THE PAIN OF LEGIONS OF OUR LEADERS BEING ASSASSINATED, HOW IGNORANT YOU ARE FOR NOT REMEMBERING WE HAVE BEEN FIGHTING SINCE WE GOT HERE AND JUST INTEGRATED SCHOOLS IN THE 70'S. OH NOW FOR 30 YEARS WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FORGET SLAVERY. officer came from slave overseer learn some American history of others before you spew your ignorant comments

    July 25, 2008 at 1:17 pm |
  9. LUCIE

    Question: When a black person is pulled over by the police, is it always racially motivated? I don't think that anyone would say that every time a black person is pulled over by the police that it's racially motivated, but when a police officer can not even justify his reason for pulling you over what else could it be. Last year, when my ex came in town to celebrate our sons' birthday he told me that he hates to drive his car here in my town because he's always pulled over by the police. Sure enough, we went to pick up the kids birthday cake and we were pulled over. The officer sent 20 minutes running his information looking for a good reason to tell us he pulled us over for. He came back only to ask him "When did he get his tag update?" He said that when he ran his tag (not sure why he ran it in the first place because it had the updated sticker and everything) it wasn't pulling it up. I believe that the only reason we were pulled over was because he was a black man who had a brand new luxury car. He thought that either the car was stolen or he didn't have any insurance, none of which was true. Why should we have to put up with this?

    July 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  10. qBenjamin D crews

    I'm from W.Va and your hx mirrors my own, except the light skin priveledge was not as prevalent as you stated. It is good that this information is known to other's because what white America gave to it's people is absent of the hardworking parents and grandparents who emphasized education as the only way to survive the struggle. History books, newspapers, and documentaries have sheilded by ommitance the true plight of the African American family from the end of slavery to today. All through government sponsored discrimination we educated ourselves and never lost sight of where we needed to go. However the struggle remains until we acheive access to every oppurtunity available to whites.Why, because the constitution was written for all Americans. I believe this concept has finally become a reality.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  11. Jen

    The article about the Wisconsin student being harassed for not joining a black sorority is interesting. My college roommate went to Wisconsin and rushed for the AKA sorority. She was not accepted most likely because she was a gorgeous biracial women. She took it hard. She grew up in small-town Wisconsin and wanted to establish some friendships with black women. The sorority sisters were mean and hateful towards a person who is beautiful inside and out. She ended up leaving the university partially because she was rejected. It really caused a lot of confusion for her when she was trying to figure out her identity at that time in her life. Today she seems to be at peace with who she is.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:13 pm |
  12. Mya Smith-New Jersey

    It is truly sad in this country, that black people would exclude their own because of the shade of their skins. I could relate too many of the things said about light skinned people, being light skinned myself. On one side, being light skinned I was look at differently by the outside world and given chances a darker skin person might not had been. Still I would never be a member of the exclusive “white club” because at the end of the day I’m still a person of color, and I’m okay with that. Then on the other side, my own people reject me saying I’m not black enough, I’m trying to be white, I think I’m better then them because my lighter skin and hair. I don’t understand why would we are hurt each other, where there are so many other trying to hurt us already.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:10 pm |
  13. Paula Wiese

    Don, Enjoyed hearing about your life and how you have moved on but am very sorry for those of you who have to experience racism on a daily basis, regardless of their status. I watch you regularly on CNN and have always singled you out as such a good, credible reporter. Not all are! Not only that, but you are very easy on the eyes! I commend you for reaching out to your younger counterparts. I have a neice who is from a mixed union and have watched her suffer similar humiliations. We should all be continually praying and doing our part to try to make an impact on existing racism in today's world.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:08 pm |
  14. Vince VanLear

    When will we and/or the media show the other side of black America? Namely, the middle class. Almost everything in the Black In America program emphases our struggles and/or internal problems. What about the millions of us who deal with problems in a productive manner and achieve middle class heaven?

    Our kids relate to what they see on TV and the movies. What will they think after watching this program? I know many have already indicated that there seems to be no change in America and as a result maybe there is no real purpose in trying to do better. Is that what we want from a news program? Hip Hop music sells the thug live. News only shows black men going to jail. Now a news information program makes it seems as if everything we thought we had accomplished was an illusion.

    Show the other side of this wonderful culture. What about the thousand of black men and women running Fortune 1000 companies? What about the black scientist paving the way new energy and medicine? What about the black working on new technology to keep our soldiers safe and more productive? What about the average black person that goes to work everyday, raise their kids, and mow their lawns?

    Come on guys. Don’t try to destroy us will misplaced tough love.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:08 pm |
  15. Trey

    This is in response to Robert, who posted "Question: When a black person is pulled over by the police, is it always racially motivated?"....There are times where racism blatantly plays a part, for instance: I purchased a new car for my birthday with no bells and whistles, just a basic full size sedan. While driving (in traffic) up a four lane street, I was pulled over because "the temporary registration in the window has to have the name of the seller facing outward" – according to the officer.....Now, if a policeman sitting 3 lanes over on a private street can see a temporary registration in the lower right portion of the windshield of a car going 25 mph, then his talents are being wasted on the LAPD. Needless to say, I did file a complaint (having friends on the force made that part easier) and am waiting for the response.....Point is, some cops are just racist....Not saying everyone is but unfortunately, they won't admit to it because "they know a few blacks on the force"....

    July 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm |
  16. John Robinson

    One thing that gets lost in the call for RESPONSIBLE BLACK FATHERHOOD is the fact that MOST Black men love their children as much as anyone else. To suggest that this is an epidemic specifically confined to the Black community would suggest that there is something inherent in the Black Man’s DNA that would cause him to proliferate and then go AWOL. However, there is a social disease that exits in our community that we Blacks have coined: "BABY MAMA DRAMA," whereby a scorned mother will do everything within her power to disenfranchise the father from a meaningful role in the parental process and ultimately prevent the father who is initially willing, from having a stake in the life of the child. (The funny part is that these are the same sisters who meet their girlfriends in coffee shops and bistros to talk about that idea that there are no good Black men out there). Every unmarried brother I know with a child has gone through this. Why is there never a light shone upon this aspect of our “issue?” Why doesn’t Oprah ever feature a show on this?

    My personal story chronicles an 11 year (since the very birth of my child) journey of countless court appearances to enforce my parental rights. Today after a long fight and considerable expense and an exhausted 401K account, I now have full custody of my daughter. Had I not had the resolve and resources to wage this battle against "my baby mama", my child may have grown up without a father. Most Black men however, DO NOT have the financial resources to enforce their rights and their child's rights, so at a certain point they just give up. My own father went through this with my sister's mother. As such I did not meet my own sister until she was 26. Her scorn and bitterness had far more collateral damage than her intended target. This is the "B" side of the record that people like Barrack Obama miss when they make their grandiose speeches. In order to have BLACK RESPONSIBLE FATHERHOOD, you must have BLACK RESPONSIBLE MOTHERHOOD! In our society, the presumption of the court is that the child fares best when the mother has primary custody. That is B.S. Our plight as a people would be CUT IN HALF if the laws were changed to provide JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY to both parents once paternity is established. Especially if it is sought (as in my case) by the father. But that will never happen because family law and family court is BIG, BIG business in this country, and we’d be asking lawyers (the congress) to take money out of the pockets of their brethren. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm |
  17. Mark

    Damielle,...thanks for reconsidering your position. If you listen to all these other comments you'll find that most miss the mark. Racism,...both within the black communtiy, and outside of it,...always goes back to "JEALOUSY". These people will talk about this subject for a thousand years, when we can end it all right now. Racist people are jealous people,.....with a little fear mixed-in for good measure.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
  18. Ike

    I liked you from day 1! You come across very sincere ... careing I can tell that they (CNN management team) keep trying to change you ... to have you come across more agressively on camera (I'm on the other side of the table that's how I can tell, the ad agency side). I detect subtle changes day to day ... your delivery mostly ... your moves etc. Don't get frustrated ... be you ...fresh and always sincere. That's the real you ... not the way "they" want you to be.

    Your article only reinforced my thoughts about you. "What a neat guy!"

    July 25, 2008 at 1:02 pm |
  19. Robert

    Amen! Thank you for writing this. I have light brown skin and 2 multi-racial daughters and every day I thank the Lord that they will grown up in a more understanding better world than I did.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:01 pm |
  20. Tracy

    To David Fitzmorris: people such as yourself is the true problem with this country. I can love my country and not be happy with its ills. I can love my country enough to be the voice of dissent. Racism in this country is alive and well. Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. Be a part of the solution.

    July 25, 2008 at 1:00 pm |
  21. Brenda

    I am not an American. I do however live in this country and have for the past seven years. I can not understand how white people (and I am white) can not see how terrible people of minorities are treated here in your country. It is so very obvious and blantant is it appalling. This whole country needs cultural diversity training. So do your human resources departments. You are suppose to treat all people equally here but you don't. You need to be ashamed of yourselves.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:59 pm |
  22. Johnny E. Odom Jr. Philadelphia Pa.

    Although I watched this series with great anticipation I have to say that I'm so tired of simply talking or hearing engaged conversation where black and white are concerned. I'm 52 years old, raised by parents who were the product of Jim Crow South Carolina and yet they taught my siblings and I to be color blind. To their credit I did, even after we moved to Southern Florida for a year in the 60's where as teenagers we faced racism head-on. I did everything that I could to remain that way, even teaching my children to do likewise. However; in the past 10 years I've witnessed treatment toward African Americans that have caused me lately to develop a very different reaction to this whole color blind state of mind. I can no longer bear the injustices that I witness against Black America in my current position as a legislater. From where I now sit, I have a birds-eye view of the vile and vicious plan that was put in motion against my people and no one but us REALLY wants to do something to change the way America operates when it comes to fair-play on behalf of Blacks in America. We've wtached these same injustices and reactions on television my entire life, these same issues have been discussed over, and over..... with no joint plan in place to bring about change simply because the dominant culture wants the status quo. When we try to help ourselves, when we try to do all that is right in accordance with the law and in the eyes of God we're still wrong. Please... no more talking; let's do something.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:58 pm |
  23. suzie

    I am a 67 yr. old white grandmother. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest where there wasn't any one of 'color'. For some reason I have never felt anything but good about all people. I now live in the SW and have many friends and very few are Anglo. My best friend is Black and grew up in the South and spent most of her life in a Midwest city. When Don Lemon first came on CNN I felt that he was someone that deserved to be noticed. He is smart, kind and very good looking! I really enjoyed reading about his youth and how he rose above what was going on in his life. My grandparents had a big part in my growing up and I know how that affects our lives. Keep up the great work!

    July 25, 2008 at 12:53 pm |
  24. KAB

    Once again, the blogs are getting so angry. I guess it is better to vent in a blog than to kick the dog or something.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  25. Kevelyn N.

    Don, I really enjoyed reading this article. You are one of my favorite anchors so thank you for sharing your story. It is encouraging and I appreciate your honesty about 'real' situations that exist in our community regardless of how other's feel or perceive it. After reading many of the comments here, I don't feel like you are asking anyone to feel sorry for Blacks. You are simply expressing your reality and the reality of so many others. I'm proud of young men like Brandon and love to read the POSITIVE things they are doing in lieu of so much negative. Again, thank you and keep up the good work.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:49 pm |
  26. Chris

    Don, thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm the son of a white man and a black woman. Much of what you wrote mirrors many of my experiences growing up. The realization of being accepted and rejected by both whites and blacks came early. I too have had the unfortunate experience of being called the "N word" by whites. At other times I have been accused of wanting to be white by blacks. For some reason the latter experience cuts deeper. I, like everyone reading this, had no control of who my parents are or what color my skin is. Despite this I would not trade who or what I am for anything. I realize that my complexion may serve as an advantage and allow faster acceptance by some. But it may also be a disadvantage and foster rejection by others. Despite any advantage it is the merit of my character that determines who or what I will become.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:48 pm |
  27. Sarah

    Wow...as a completely pasty white female I totally know what you mean! At least you could try to look white. Me looking black?! I'm almost pink! lol Forget about blending in in Philly....

    I think everyone just needs to take a pill and get over it. Whoever said it's an economic divide hit it on the nail. All people face problems of acceptance and blending no matter who they are. Focusing on personal responsibility for behavior in all communities would probably be more productive than victimizing and guilting people.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:48 pm |
  28. Claire

    Wow, reading some of these comments from today and from T.J.'s posts yesturday just prove racism is alive and well in America. It's really sad that people can be open-minded enough to see someone's side of things.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  29. carmen

    Don, I enjoyed very much reading this article and am reminded that the best way to begin changing the world is to start by changing ourselves and hopefully help others do the same along the way.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  30. Randi

    My son's father asked him, an eight year old, if he wore sunscreen while he was at the beach. He didn't want him to get darker. I need to have him read this, and maybe a few more things about the "dark skin, light skin" issue. Oh..and he did wear the sunscreen, as the sun is dangerous, and he did indeed get darker, but he is and always will be as beautiful as the day he was born..regardless of his skin tone!

    July 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  31. Mike in NYC

    Mrs. Charles Arvada Colorado wrote:

    "My friends are of every hue, from white to beautiful black."

    I would say "beautiful white to black."

    But that's just my personal taste.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:42 pm |
  32. Tom Kurlinski

    I have some observations about the "reverse racesm that I know is alive and well in America. To start, as a tirage nurse at a busy local emergency room, I peronally had the experience of having a black man come into our waiting room wich was quite full ay the time, and seeing that he would have a wait to be seen shouted out " can't a black man get any servicew here". I stopped what I was doing and apprached him saying in a loud enough voice that I saw him just comming into the room, and if her wanted help he would have to wait in line just like everone else. (Of course, if he was displaying an acute problem like a heart attack, he would have been screened and brought to the treatment area immediately, as he would have been questioned for the nature of his visit as he signed in, which was an immediate process.) Further, I told him if he thought he would get faster service at the busy emergency just down the street he should go there, as we don't discriminate based on race or color, and his bigotry won't change the way we screen or treat out patience! I was gald to see him turn around and leave. This was in Colorado.
    I grew up in northern Wisconsin, the only black person I ever saw was the conductor on the train that stopped at our town. My parents raised all of thier children not to be bigotted, and ever confronted bigots when they moved to Florida in later years. I've experienced many similar cases asa the bove mentioned story since living here in Colorado. My neighbor lady who works as a waitress complains of rude an bigoted behavores by the blacks she waits on, and like me and my black friends, deplores the bigotry on the part of both blacks and whites.
    Clearly, America will never become a truly unified nation so long as both black and white bigots continue to hold any power in the national dialog and way of life.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  33. mamanas

    This is an interesting conversation which comes at the same time that my sorority, AKA received some backlash for having a light-skinned Barbie as a celebration of our 100 year anniversary. Ideal, I would want to believe that skin tone is not longer a issues, but these conversations make it clear that the wounds are still alive.
    I have brown skin, (darker than the brown paper bag) but have three bi-racial daughters who are very fair. If I am honest with myself I would agree that they have received preferential treatment by both whites and blacks. If becomes my responsibility to make sure that they know that they are no better or less because of their skin tone.
    Classism has and continues to be a struggle for our family. We come from an educated family and while we want to make sure we expose our children to different socio-economic class, I also don't feel that the only way I have to do this is by living in the ghetto. Yes, I do want my daughters to attend schools in which the primary focus is to attend college. I think many middle class blacks struggle with wanting a middle class lifestyle without feeling that they have "sold out".

    July 25, 2008 at 12:39 pm |
  34. Reggie Hammond

    Thank you CNN for "black in America."

    July 25, 2008 at 12:37 pm |
  35. V

    Sherry I totally disagree with your statement. There are plenty of black men who are faithful I am one. Or I actually like to say I'm brown becasue that is my skin color. And It would not matter what color my wife is. No where in the world but this country does people care about the color of a persons skin. Who cares ,your black ,brown, white or any hue in between it doesn't matter. What does matter though is when people discriminate based on color which is just wrong. You limit yourself from meeting anyone for a relationship if u only decide to date someone so called black. Oh how dark does the person have to be dark dark black or light brown there are so many various shades this kind of racism is a joke.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  36. Mrs. Charles Arvada Colorado

    Thank you for this provocative and insightful piece. I am a light complexioned woman from Tennessee. My hue has been both a blessing and a liability. In our society, some treat you better for it, others treat you worse. My friends are of every hue, from white to beautiful black. To this day, and to my surprise, comments still arise about my being "light". I don't understand why it's such a big deal. We're all just people; that's how I like to see it.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:27 pm |
  37. Courtney

    Toneism is very real in Black America. I'm actually glad to see this story on CNN. Many individuals don't understand the "brown paper bag" test and when I told my roomate about it (who is white) she thought I was joking. "Black in America" openned eyes to issues of discrimination that still exist today. I attend a predominantly white college and even though I feel that blacks have come a long way, there is so much more we have to accomplish. I mean, 20 years ago having someone black graduate from my institution was absurd.
    I talked with my friend the other day (who is white) about some of the discrimination faced. She made a good point about it being about poverty; money does make the world go around. But I still feel that it's racial. I hate that some individuals feel that everything is "equal"...even though that's idealistic, we will never be "equal". No one in America will ever be equal. Honestly, Mexicans are the quote on quote " new negroes" of America. I feel that America is like any other country who oppresses certain races or nationalities (religions included) because of skin color or beliefs. This world is always going to have a race at the top and a race at the bottom; one race considered superior, one inferior. We must ALL come together and abolish these thoughts of discrimination. An eye for an eye leads the world blind; and this thinking will definitely lead to our downfall.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:26 pm |
  38. David Fitzmorris

    Booo! Hooo! Another typical liberal CNN story. If blacks or for that fact any ethnic group in this country is unhappy because they perceive discrimination. Leave! Go back to your mother land if this country is so tainted with descrimination. However, you'll never see that happening. Wonder why?

    July 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm |
  39. linda

    Don I see you on CNN every chance I get , I remember you I think when you were in phila for a short time, well anyway I am so proud of you and I am glad you told your story, and most of all glad your sharing your story with a up and coming younge man and keeping it real. Just stay encouraged and keep being who you are, regardless of what folks think about us, its more about our attitude which will determine our altitude in life. Because whats for you is for you. Stay encouraged.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm |
  40. Proud Navy Wife

    I'm a white wife of a black man and mother to our two daughters, aged 5 and 2. Faye you are ignorant for calling Don a sell out. Don, you are a great anchor, I enjoyed reading a bit about your background. I always enjoy watching you report the news. I watch lots of black anchors report the news and am not really sure what a sell out is??? How are they SUPPOSED to report the news?? Whatever. Anyway, I am happy that CNN chose to present "Black in America." I've read a lot of comments that people said they thought it was pointless, but I disagree – we all need to be paying attention, and maybe changing the way we think. My daughters are still too young and innocent to understand the ugliness of racism, but I know they will face it eventually. More than anything I want them to be happy in their own skin and not worry or care that they're "too light" for some, and "too dark" for others. My husband and I are raising them to know both sides of their heritage, and to be proud and confident. GO NAVY!!!!!!!!

    July 25, 2008 at 12:24 pm |
  41. Danielle

    Mark, I will concede your excellent–it's mere jealousy within the black community, not racism. I stand corrected.

    Many may say we need to "get over" slavery, but that aspect of jealousy (light vs. dark skin pigments) stemmed from there and have been passed down from generation to generation (the blacks with lighter skin received better or preferential treatment than blacks with darker skin, hence, blacks with darker skin became jealous of those with lighter skin). Unfortunately, this exists in the hispanic and middle-eastern communities as well.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  42. V

    All I can say is racism is here and blacks are experiencing it everyday. Being black, but sometimes I like to say brown because that is my true skin color, I would just urge blacks to get the education Let me fill you in a little. I have an MBA and my undergrad is in information systems. It is kind of funny especially when I speak with whites and we talk about anything. Eventually I will expound on my education and almost in every instance they seemed shocked. Yes I'm a black man or in my book brown man and I have a masters. If you are black and you want to blow away these screwed up, jacked up stereo types get you education straight and you have just leveled the playing field. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it that is a lie. I was told my senior year to not even bother with college because I was more focused on sports than school. However, after living outside the US I came to understand how bad the racism is. It is ingrained and it even ingrains in blacks which is hard to understand. I guess if you get treated badly all the time you come to expect it. Well people there are places where people will not treat you bad I got that experience and it changed my life. As the article says change your world everyone reading this has the power.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  43. Joe America

    Discrimination in the Black community is no different than discrimination in the Jewish, Arab, Asian, European community. They have all been brainwashed to view the mythical image of Blond hair, fair skin. (hence America is the capital of the planet for hair dye, and plastic surgery.) It is just that...a brainwashed myth.

    And do not forget, the concept of RACE was non existent prior to 500 years ago. The Romans would have laughed in your face over the idea that a human of a certain color is any less than another. Theirs was based on cultural and intellectual accomplishment and the power of brute force.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  44. Gilbert

    The Jews had a very ruough time too! Many familes were completely broken. When they arrived to the US, people gave them a really really hard time. But look at where they are now. They are the richest "group" in the country ! The point is Blacks really need to forget the past and stop using it as an exuse for their recent failures. Slavery was a very sad part of American history but it was more than 100 years ago. Three generations have gone by. And yes then their were the inequalities until the mid 60's. But it's not an excuse to have children you can't afford with many different partners out of marriage. It's not an excuse for the drugs and gang violence in black neigborhoods! I live in Newark and I experience "black issues" first hand. But I think Black leaders along with fighting for social justice – they need need to adress the Black Community what they are doing wrong. It would really serve a much bigger purpose!

    July 25, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  45. Susan Bracket

    There is so much talk right now about overcoming the "racial" divide...

    From my vantage point its not a racial dividebut an economic divide. Poor white people have many of the same problems to overcome. navigating and avoiding drugs, underage child birth, and education to name a few. Growing up as poor white it did appear that in my world the people with power/money were rich white people. These rich white people did very little to help people outside their social economic group regardless of race from my vantage point. I was often pulled over by the cops because as a poor person in a crappy car it was assumed I was either drunk or on drugs (STOP PROFILING). security in malls would idenitfy me and other white friends as possible shoplifters because we looked poor.

    If everybody who is on the outskirts of the social economic fence looking in banded together instead of making it a race oriented divide and put the focus on the social economic divide the size and power of the group would be an unstoppable force for change. My great white hope is that Obama can bring an end to the race debate because theres a lot of white, asian, black, and tan that are all discriminated against.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:18 pm |
  46. Danielle

    As a black woman, it does pain and embarass me to see the racism that exists within the black community. I also think much (not ALL, by any means) of the mayhem in our communities is brought on by our own black brothers and sisters. There needs to be a little more responsibility taken for our own actions (especially, where parenting is concerned).

    However, all of the silly comments about "White In America" and why aren't there special programs for whites are just that–SILLY. And, I don't see a need to waste any time explaining why those remarks are foolish.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  47. Anna

    In response to James, maybe someday white, black, brown, whatever will be the same, but blacks were enslaved by whites in this country. This makes our experiences fundamentally different from a group of people who were never bought and sold as property. Whites have never been denied their human rights to the point of not having control over your own body, your family, and your future. You cannot ignore history because it has a profound impact on our present and our future.
    I'm not saying that we should use that as an excuse for poor decisions being made today, but it isn't something that can be ignored.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  48. Joe America

    James Johnson, allow me to share with you that NO OTHER group of Americans have endured the murderous holocaust of Slavery, and cultural persecution as those forced upon these shores by the millions as HUMAN SLAVES.

    That is what makes their history unique in America. America succeeded on the centuries of sweat, tears, and labor of Black Americans creating the crop (cotton) that propelled America into prominence.

    No other group of people endured the forced rape, murder, illiteracy that was abundant against Blacks for centuries here.

    In spite of that...American Blacks survived. It is now, as always the responsibility of the Family to ensure education is the sought after gold medallion. My Father used to say "son, they can take away your money, they can insult you, but they can NEVER take away your education. It just keeps growing with life". This applies to ALL Americans of every color.

    The actions of early America's White power elite and later of the general pop. in this country, is one of the most despicable in the history of the planet. Never before had a people been stigmatized because of the color of their skin. Yet it was the nation that was founded upon "Freedom" where human subjection took on a hellish new meaning for humanity. This nation was built upon human bondage from the beginning. So yes, Black America's experience is unique in it's level of drive, strength, and sheer determination to survive against all odds.

    No one feels sorry for Black America, what America feels is deep seated earned shame that it does not know how to recognize and deal with.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:13 pm |
  49. John Robinson

    One thing that gets lost in the call for RESPONSIBLE BLACK FATHERHOOD is the fact that MOST Black men love thier children as much as anyone else. However, there is a social disease that esits in our community called "BABY MAMA DRAMA" whereby a scorned mother will do everything within her power to disenfranchise the father from a meaningful role in the parental process and ultimately prevent the father who is initially willing form having a stake in the life of the child. My personal story chonicles a an 11 year journey of countless court appearances to enforce my parental rights. Today after a long fight and considerable expense and an exhausted 401K account, I now have full custody of my daughter. Had I not had the resolve and resources to wage this battle against "my baby mama", My child may have grown up without a father. Most Black men however, DO NOT have the financial resources to enforce their rights and their child's rights, so at a certain point they just give up. My own father went through this with my sister's mother. As such I did not meet my own sister until she was 26. This is the "B" side of the record that people like Barrack Obama miss when they make their grandiose speeches. In order to have BLACK RESPONSIBLE FATHERHOOD, you must have BLACK RESPONSIBLE MOTHERHOOD!

    July 25, 2008 at 12:13 pm |
  50. Dr. Brian Elliott


    Great to hear about the trials and tribulations you went through as a youth in the purgatory of racial existence, as I went through the same issues myself, and continue to do so- being light skinned, and well spoken. What many do not realize is the difficulty of maintaining ones sense of self whilst migrating between the different social circles you spoke of. Some may see this as selling out, or not being true to yourself or beliefs, but in reality it come down to the 'ol "when in Rome" cliche. And quite frankly, for those who haven't been cast that lot in life, and lack perspective, it may simply be a difficult concept to understand.

    Keep on keepin on, you're doin a great job.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:12 pm |
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