For the better part of most of the time I’ve known he’s existed, Don Lemon has been a fuckboy. Or at least that’s how he’s presented. From telling black folks to stop littering and stop using the n-word as part of a sort of five-point plan for getting niggas together to even being lazy in his discussion about Black Lives Matter, Don Lemon has largely come across as skinfolk and not kinfolk.
That’s all started to change for me, at least with how he’s begun to come across. I don’t know if Don started reading James Baldwin (for the first time or again, yo no se) or Trump’s election really pissed him off, but in 2017, Don has kind of been with the shits while simultaneously out of fucks to give—a dangerous combination given his vocation as a CNN news anchor. But since the year began, Don has been clapping back at folks, talking (some of) that talk and generally seeming to be a bit more, I don’t know, black.
I realize that calling into question somebody’s blackness is very passe. I also realize that we do that shit on almost a daily basis; Rachel Dolezal almost made the practice an Olympic sport. While we aren’t monolithic, we also don’t enjoy folks who seem to trade in the “We better than you” sciences. Don Lemon, of the Baton Rouge, La., Lemons, seemed to be in that camp with his ol’ judgey ass. At least he did.
Because starting on Dec. 31 and into Jan. 1, Don was like, “Fuck all of this.” He, like most of us, realized that 2016 was awful. And tossed back all of the drinks because of it. From police shootings (too many to name) to white folks’ seeming lack of ability to care to the landmark presidential election of Donald Trump, 2016 was balls.
I think that while Don Lemon spent a bunch of time being black but also looking at the black community with a sort of “get your shit togetherness,” the constant barrage of fuckery lobbed in our direction perhaps caused him to realize that maybe, just maybe, black folks aren’t the only issue. Considering how much time he spent on television, especially CNN, talking to white people who all but publicly blamed each and every victim of brutality or assault on their own existence, I wonder if Don didn’t start to come around and be like, what’s wrong with these motherfuckers? I’d bet good money he’s been thinking that in his head.
And that’s started to shake out in interviews. Don Lemon told Trump supporter Ben Ferguson that he was handing a line of bullshit on live air regarding a conversation about Colin Kaepernick and kneeling. Or the time that he even had to check Paris Dennard and told him not to put words in his mouth. He even laughed at Trump claiming to have a great memory and be smart. On television.
I mean, he almost enjoys going HAM on Trump supporters in that news-anchor way. I laughed through several of those clips at the “Get the fuck out of here with that bullshit” tone that Don held while doing it in a way that wouldn’t get him fired.
Now, look, Don Lemon is problematic. He’s far from perfect. I know this. You know this. He’s been rightly held to the fire several times by the black community in general, to the point where I’m fairly certain he’s been traded as part of the race draft to the white people. And maybe he can’t come to the cookout. Maybe he can’t even bring the potato salad (he is from Baton Rouge—I’m inclined to think he either can cook or knows good cooking) to the gate at the cookout. Maybe he can’t even look over the fence to see who’s at the cookout to make sure that Paris Dennard and Omarosa aren’t there. Maybe.
But the truth is, I’m kind of starting to mess with him because it seems like almost every time I see him talking on CNN nowadays about some issue pertinent to the black community, he’s not playing some separatist us-vs.-them game. Now he seems to struggle with stupidity and get irritated by folks pretending that blackness itself is a pathology or that anything about Trump is reasonable and righteous. Right now, Don Lemon seems like he’s living a black life or dating black and getting checked at dinner and bringing those lessons to work.
Maybe Don will never fully be embraced by the black community. And maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe he’s just out here being famous and will never live down being pwned by Talib Kweli in Ferguson, Mo. Maybe I’ve been smoking too much potpourri, but I don’t know—I’ve said to myself after watching an interview, “Ya know, I kind of fuck with Don Lemon,” way more than I ever expected to in life. I’d take a picture with Don right now, post it and be like, “Hangin’ with my nigga, Don.” That’s where I’m at right now.
Look out. It might be contagious.