CNN anchor Don Lemon has emerged as one of the most incisive commentators on violence against African-Americans, including the recent death of George Floyd in police custody, and the protests that have risen up in response.
On Saturday night, Lemon, who is Black and gay, called on celebrities, especially those who are people of color but white celebs as well, to speak out. “Since all of this chaos broke out this evening, no call for calm,” he said, as some protests in major cities had been accompanied by looting and vandalism.
“I sure would like to hear that,” he added. “I sure would like to hear that we are all Americans, and we all need to stick together.”
“A lot of people I ask to come on this show, to talk about this, [such as] wealthy celebrities, wealthy political people, [say], ‘I can’t do it. I’m mad. I don’t want people to see me mad. It might hurt my business. I’m so upset that I had to go to my country house,’” Lemon said.
“Where are you?” he continued. “Why aren’t you fighting for these young people? If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it? … When the hell are you going to do it?"
“Step up, people,” he said. “Step up, Black Hollywood. … “Beyoncé released a message. You can’t?” He called on celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Ellen DeGeneres, Anthony Anderson, Jane Fonda, Tyler Perry, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Kim Kardashian West.
He also said he wanted to hear from Barack and Michelle Obama, although both have tweeted about the need to address racism (and just Monday morning, the former president published an essay on Medium). Lemon said he’d even like to hear from the current president; Donald Trump’s primary contribution to the conversation so far has been a series of incendiary tweets.
But some celebs, such as Halsey, Jamie Foxx, John Cusack, Tinashe, Kendrick Sampson, and Paris Jackson, have joined in protests, The Washington Post notes.
The Saturday night remarks, which came in a conversation with civil rights activist Rev. William Barber, are far from Lemon’s only commentary on the situation facing the nation. Last week he addressed CNN colleague Chris Cuomo, whose show precedes his, on the need for white people to take a stand against racism.
“Imagine if that was me on the ground, how you would feel as a friend, as someone I spend a lot of time with,” Lemon said, referencing how Floyd was pinned to the ground by the officer charged with murder. “Imagine how people around this country feel when their friends, like you, both of us are of a different background, when their friends say nothing. When they do nothing. Except send out a tweet or say, ‘Oh, man, that’s terrible. I can’t believe that happens.’”
“Then when they see everyday racism, they don’t stand up for it. Imagine how that feels to people of color in this country. It feels terrible. Is that really being a friend?” he continued, adding, “I’m not saying you specifically, you understand what I’m saying. You know what I’m saying.”
Cuomo answered, “I totally understand and, you know, the only word I can use is just hurt, it all hurts.”
Lemon also interviewed gay Black journalist Keith Boykin, who was arrested and detained while covering the protests. And before Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with causing Floyd’s death, Lemon questioned how the FBI could possibly need more information about the matter.