“CNN Tonight” anchor Don Lemon said he’s been transfixed by media coverage of the ongoing trial of former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin, and the focus from some outlets on the vilification of George Floyd, “a human life, that ... by any objective account, was murdered.”
Chauvin currently faces three charges related to the killing of Floyd in May of 2020. Cellphone footage of the incident went viral, inspiring massive marches in protest of systemic racism and police brutality, both in the U.S. and abroad.
“We watched him die, and it looks like the police officers were the only one people on the scene who didn’t see his humanity,” Lemon remarked Friday on Boston Public Radio. “Everyone else there did, everyone else was screaming … and they were the only ones who didn’t see an issue and continued on doing what they were doing.”
The conversation was sparked by the March release of Lemon’s book, “This Is Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism.” Much of “This Is Fire” deals with the death of Floyd and the lingering reality of racism in the American psyche — which he described as the “one subject” that a substantial portion of Americans chooses to ignore.
“When George Floyd happened, I felt sort of guilty about the country that I was handing off to my great-nephew,” he explained.
“I couldn’t be with him physically, so I sat down and decided to write a letter ... to tell him that I hope that he’s able to help create a world that’s a better world than I helped to create, and that he learn to love and accept his blackness and his beauty with an ease that I never mastered when I was younger.”
He also credited James Baldwin as a major inspiration for writing the book, which he called an “ode” to the celebrated writer and activist. Lemon specifically cited Baldwin's 1963 essay “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation.”
“He began his book … by writing a letter to his nephew about the times that they were living in then,” Lemon explained. “He said, ‘We were celebrating the emancipation proclamation 100 years too early.'”
Asked what white Americans can do to address their own racial biases, Lemon said that growth often comes out of diverse relationships that are, as he put it, "beyond surface level."
"People aren’t perfect," he added. "We live in an imperfect country. We live in a country that was build on the backs of slaves We live in a country that promotes white supremacy. When you consider the real history of this country — and if we want to be honest — how can people come out of American soil and not have racial blindspots? And not prioritize white issues over Black issues?"
"It shouldn’t happen, it’s not good, it’s not something that’s positive," he said. "But it’s reality, and if we’re all going to figure this out, if we’re going to make it better then we all have to have a hand in the process.”