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My first big story in the news business was the L.A. riots more than 20 years ago. I thought I’d seen just about everything in this business. But this past Saturday night on CNN I experienced something for the first time in life really.

I had a conversation with someone who admitted that they hated themselves.

Orville Lloyd Douglass, a black Canadian who still lives in Canada, originally got my attention after he wrote an article for Britain’s Guardian Newspaper entitled “I Hate Being A Black Man.”

He wrote: “I can honestly say that I hate being a black male.  I just don’t fit into a neat category of the stereotypical views people have of black men.  In popular culture, black men are recognized in three areas: sports, crime and entertainment. I hate rap music, I hate most sports, and I like listening to rock music such as PJ Harvey…”

My first question to him was what was who do you blame for your self-hatred? His answer, “I think it manifests from society.” To get clarity I asked him if he hated being black or did he just hate the negative stereotypes about black men?

BINGO.  He admitted that it was just the stereotypes.

He explained:

“In pop culture there are, um, the stereotypical image of a black male is to be aggressive, is to be arrogant, is to not to be a nice person. And I just feel like as though there are a lot of black males out there such as myself who don’t conform to those sexist and racist stereotypes.”

As you can imagine, Douglass is being pilloried on social media by people calling him everything but a child of God. When I tweeted that I’d be interviewing him, some of the first responses were get him Don.  Go in on him. And so on (typical, especially of Twitter.)

But, it is the worst thing I could have done, and it’s the last thing that this young man needed. What he needed was someone to be curious about why he feels the way he feels and not judgmental about it.

Had I been judgmental I might not have allowed him the valid point that his experience is one of living in Canada and not America, that Americans think they are the de facto black people of the world when they are not, and that in many ways racism or the discussion of it is perhaps more taboo in Canada than it is here in the U.S.

Orville Lloyd Douglass, whatever he’s dealing with, self-hatred or an identity crisis, or whatever it is. He has the right to feel however he feels. He has the right to say or write whatever he wants. And critics, quite frankly, can react however they’d like as well.

But what’s not so clear to many who take to social media and other forms of media to criticize Douglass is that it’s not really about what you think of him. It’s not about criticizing him or calling him names. It’s about the discussion he has prompted and what we all can learn from it.

It’s about elevating the conversation and not slinging dirt. I may not necessarily agree with everything or anything wrote or said, but boy I learned a lot. Did you?

Now here’s my last question: Would you change if you could?

38 thoughts on “Don Lemon: ‘Would You Change [Your Race] If You Could?’

  1. Jermaine on said:

    Why do the networks only hire ‘Lemons’ to represent African people? ANSWER: Because ‘Lemons’ best suit their White Supremacist agenda. Lemons are nothing more than ‘house slaves’ protecting Massah

  2. Inoe Sen on said:

    I would not change my race, Don. That’s like changing your bloodline. Though we face challenges, we cannot blame it on our pigmentation. What I would change is everything I have control to change. Stereotypes are invented by those who are uncomfortable with us. Usually, the best way to explain this discomfort is by labeling. Like Blacks Only or Whites Only. What we do as a whole does affect the greater sum, and like wise, what we change affects the greater sum as well. If you do not like things that repeatedly happen to you or repeatedly discourages you, change it or separate from it. Don’t allow these burdens to set us back. Every stereotype has the potential to sets us back and when you do not counterattack fast enough, these stereotypes will have a prolong affect on our actions and how others view us and why we do what we do. Changing yourself because of other people’s ignorance is not the answer. It’s like dying for what you (someone else) believe in. Why should I die for what you believe in and not live for what I believe in? Why give someone else that superiority over your life? Change the, now! Change the level of respect. Change the low expectations. Change the injustice. For rightfully, it is only fair for the next generation. Whereas, if you do not change these things, they will linger in existence for the next generation to war against. That would only compile the problems and therefore, we as a whole have not lifted the burden. We are here for many reasons. One is to help another and to show compassion. Running away does not lift the burden. Hating yourselves, ourselves, does not lift the burden. We have to lift the burden from things that strangulate our existence in order to go on. Stereotypes will always be here for us. We feel certain ways about others, however; we have a more educated and advance way of dealing w/ our pressures. We are not people of hate. We are children of God. With that said, we have the responsibility of serving ourselves in a justify manner. There’s no reason to change who we are, but there is every reason – to infinite means to change the world that oppresses who we are!

  3. Bro Douglas needs to travel some more, to America, to Africa, Latin America. He may not improve his view of himself, but it will clarify his feelings about why he feels the way he do and from where it comes. And he should take Don along

  4. (NO)KNOW your lineage our descendant are from the (JEWS)a stolen race of people from the (MOTHERLAND)BLK.white GREEKS.are the GENTILES.GODS second chose.

  5. I am sure you are well intended, but you have no idea what it is like to be a black person in America. First of all take into account that the Europeans who made up America were the lowest and least of Europe. Europe did not want them. We were brought here to a land that we did not know. Had no idea how it was going to go. We were outnumbered, out eviled, out hated and out weaponed. We had our identity beaten and frightened out of us. We had our families separated and our children didn’t even know who their parents were and vice versa. We were not allowed to even know how to read. Under those circumstances, it’s impossible to hold on to your homeland and with each generation that was slipping away. We Black Americans are not immigrants, we are citizens of the USA and we have invested in this land. If anyone is interested in the truth (and on this issue a lot are not), we have endured slavery, black codes, slave convicts, Jim crow and all sorts of “LAWS” to keep us down. We were supposedly freed in 1760s, yet the law and I mean the law had to come in with the Civil Rights Amendment, Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action, Education Rights and Discrimination in Housing laws that blood was shed to make whites adhere to them. That was the 1960s. The black American could not count on the laws of its own country to protect them. Sadly, by the 1970s, Whites were up in arms about these changes, affirmative action meant it would take more if anything to get that job that the white got just for being white. It didn’t take any more than 15 years for whites to start hollering foul. Now I realize that our race has some major problems because they come from major problems. If you discriminate against a race of people and try and hold them back, the desperation makes them be willing to die to get theirs, thus as generations appear, how we got this way seems unimportant, actually forgotten. I guarantee you that if every black person went out and got a master’s degree, they would still suffer with hate, discrimination and inability to get decent work. I’m not sure how to solve this, but I am trying with my family, and let me tell you, they see and feel the world, it is not easy. I am tired of this welfare crap. Blacks get Food Stamps and they don’t pay the utility bills or buy pampers. I understand what you think, but a person from Jamaica or any other country is not an American Citizen and I am not an immigrant. No one told you could no longer have the name of Valdez and if you didn’t change your name, you would be beaten to death, legally. Nope, no comparison.

  6. This guy is a perfect example of why all Black children need to be sat down and told their history. This color blind society nonsense has created two confused generations of Blacks in America. Our history did not begin with slavery and unfortunately that is what most Blacks think, they view themselves as minorities not realizing that we are only a minority population in this country not globally. Bottom line if you are Black in America you are just an African that’s not in Africa. Africa’s history is what this entire world is built on so their is no reason to feel less than anywhere you go.

  7. Mrs Tonja on said:

    I would NOT change my race. What I would change though is the racist bigots that stereotype my race, hinder my race and belittle everything about my race. There are many African American men/women that are very educated, hardworking and productive members of society. Yet, we are profiled, harrassed, shot at, beaten and degraded at every turn and it is called “justified.” I am just sick and tired of all the race baiting, profiling and stereotyping that goes across America and abroad. It brings to mind the Barney’s article and the van the police was shooting at, plus many more just like them.

  8. I’m NOT REMOTELY INTERESTING IN CHANGING MY RACE (and most certainly not interested in becoming white). I LOVE MYSELF! Why do (some) people choose to always focus on the negative instead of the positive. No doubt it has to do with INSECURITY. I choose to focus on the positive. Yes there are lots of hood-rats; but there are also lots of successful Black Male doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, professors, entrepreneurs, business owners, etc. For the record: MOST Black males are average dudes going about their every day lives trying to make a living, and DON’T CAUSE mayhem contrary to lots of negative comments, and press regarding Black males.

  9. Branding Black Initiative ABSOLUTELY NOT!! With all the knowledge we have of black history, achievement, and innovation why would I cut myself off from that to please a people who’s history is savage? Blacks were on and ruled the globe longer than we were slaves in America. We are Gods first creation and he made us black because black signifies the beginning. The Europeans dominance in the world is fading fast and is just a small moment in time. If you really knew your history and the history of your enemy you would never want to be like them.

    • Royalty1022 on said:

      You are so right. If Blacks only knew their true history they would be nothing like some of them are today. When the European came out of Europe everywere he traveled around the world he found nothing but the Black man. He vowed to destroy and conquer and that he diid. Learn your true history people. They put the knowledge right in front of your face and you won”t even check out…

  10. This Skin
    L. Aaron

    This skin I’d jump out of in a minute.
    Cause my life slips away every second that I’m in it.
    If I could get the reverse effect of tanning
    Until my legs fall off that line I’ll gladly stand in.
    Waiting for my chance to be something other
    Anything, but stuck with the skin of a brother.
    If I could peel away this is skin that I’m in.
    There’s no doubt I’d be given the chance to win.
    I know what you think, it’s just self-hate.
    Black is my fate but you, you’ve made it my mistake.
    I don’t hate what the creator has made or my life that he gave.
    What I hate is the fact that my skin is defined as more than a shade.
    That my manhood is secondary to my skins tone and hue
    So this skin I’d jump out of in a minute how about you.

  11. This Skin,
    L. Aaron

    This skin I’d jump out of in a minute.
    Cause my life slips away every second that I’m in it.
    If I could get the reverse effect of tanning
    Until my legs fall off that line I’ll gladly stand in.
    Waiting for my chance to be something other
    Anything, but stuck with the skin of a brother.
    If I could peel away this is skin that I’m in.
    There’s no doubt I’d be given the chance to win.
    I know what you think, it’s just self-hate.
    Black is my fate,but you, you’ve made it my mistake.
    I don’t hate what the creator has made or my life that he gave.
    What I hate is the fact that my skin is defined as more than a shade.
    That my manhood is secondary to my skins tone and hue
    So this skin I’d jump out of in a minute how about you.

    • The only problem for me is what other color would I want my skin to be. For the life of me I cannot imagine being white, It is rather a nasty look to me. The smell if also puts me off a bit. Thanks to this article, something has become clear. I love the skin I am in. I hate the evil and ignorance it invokes in others.

  12. I am not quite sure what you mean by we must forget our past. That is risky. If you forget where you come from, it sure better be a good place, because you might return. I don’t think we can ever forget, but we must decide to move forward and that includes self love, not just meaning “you,” but love of
    Black People, enough that you will make a decision to do the right thing for them. In the height of our struggle, there were courageous Black men and women doing just that. Let us not forget how we got here. Let’s do what’s right for your family, for the black babies who have not yet grasped the policy of I am less than because I am black. Interracial child bearing is okay in a perfect world. Right now, we need to contribute as much self confidence in Black Power as we can. Maybe that is the path to a more perfect world.

  13. Timekeeper I respect what your saying Brother you don’t allow people to tell you what to think or how to feel!! As far as the Black male vs Black female that can be stopped over night. Feminism and welfare destroyed black relationships. Before welfare illegitimacy in the Black community was around 30% that’s all. However after welfare its at 75% and rising, it helped create generations of people who were raised with no Fathers which is detrimental to any child and the bad behavior keeps cycling itself. Feminism pulled the Black woman away from the Black man and told her to go for self when we as a people had not achieved equality yet in America. Listen to the music, watch the movies and television in our culture, all the emphasis is put on women doing for self. Nothing has changed they divided us purposely. Sisters come home.

    • I am so ready to come home. I have concluded that my mate is locked up or standing in a bread line and we will never meet. I love my brother, but I don’t feel like he loves me. It’s not because I don’t have anything going for me, it’s because he is locked up in an image of black success that does not include me. It has some European look and just like the brother was broken and trained to forget the love he had for his country and his name, he was trained and broken into believing anything white is right and a status symbol. Anyone has a right to do and being with and what they want to. I just thank God for the MLKs, etc. who saw the beauty in being Black and fought or them, alongside them and just pick up their marbles and ran away. No race of people is strong if the male of that race is weak. We as black women and black children can do nothing but struggle without our black men on our side. We have not gained enough power, money, and all the things that go with making a difference, to turn around and give it back to whites and their families. Maybe in another time and space. We are losing ground, we really need to get it together. Don’t think I am a Swirl hater I am not, it is just not my idea of what my people need to do to achieve as a people.

      • Sister your mate is not In prison or in a bread line I guarantee God has something better planned for you. Visit your local Nation Of Islam mosque and you will see plenty of Black Men who represent the ideals that you are looking for. I don’t know what your faith background is but don’t let religion separate you from opportunity The Nation Of Islam has produced some of the most powerful men in Black history.

      • I agree with Aaron. All is not lost. It can even reach far beyond religion with your mate. Sometimes our blessings can be right under our noses and we don’t realize it for many reasons. Continue to seek and God promises that you will find. You are the treasure as I mentioned below.

  14. the Timekeeper on said:

    This is just one man’s opinion. Yes, some and I stress “some” black men do stereotype women. But guess what, some sisters also stereotype brothers too. While I do not feel like this man does, I do empathize with some of his thoughts. There is a certain expectation that people have about black men that I certainly dont fit into. And I’ve been called all kinds of names for it. By guess who, US!!!
    Thankfully, I’ve learned that being black is not a color, but rather a State Of Mind. Yes, Collegiate clothe wearin’ Beatle music loving black man and if you cant get with that Step Off!!

    • You sound so angry. That is not my intention. I am not challenging your right to do and be with whomever you want to. As a Black Woman I wish we could dialogue about what is best for our race. As far as music, you can’t miss me, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Melissa Manchester, Bobby Womack, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Reba McIntire, Blake Shelton, Nelly and the beat goes on. They are all on my Ipad. I did not respond so we could do the angry debate. I responded because we do this to each other and it’s wrong. We as Black People, men and women are some of the most versatile people in the world. We were taught anger by the infamous destroy the memory of your home land and your home name. You will now be called what the White Man deems you will be called, you will think as the white man deems you to think and you will worship what the white man tells you to worship. As the white man infiltrates our system, skin shades and hair grades because a divisive force. The downright white is right, even in women. I have been asked by Black men, even ridiculed with stupid questions like why do you live in that neighborhood, why do you eat in that restaurant, etc., there’s nothing but white people here. I don’t know, except possibly that’s what I like and God gave me the ability to do these things. I am going to stop right now, because this is not a 3 paragraph problem and it belongs to the Black Race, no one else. We have to weed out the poison in your mind. This is hard because you have to choose the battle and stick to it. Just like civil rights worker did. Work unselfishly for the Dream. Better yet for our children. They are beautiful just the way they are.

  15. This guys problem is that he views Europeans as some type of supreme group which is why he is so worried about how they view him. What does a Black man have to prove to a group of people who savagely raped, robbed and exterminated entire populations? If he would stop trying to emulate and befriend his enemy he would have a much easier time navigating through life. Once a Black person removes the Eurocentric view from their mind they will instantly find peace.

  16. Deb, Thank you so much. I agree with everything you wrote. Don’t think because they are white they are treated better that’s a big lie.

  17. Yes, He has every right to feel that way. He also have to deal with the backlash that comes with it. I’m not questioning why he feels that way. What if he said that he hates been gay?

  18. I am a black woman. It is frustrating to constantly being stereotyped. We as a people are stereotyped by everyone, even the black man. I like being a black woman, though I really don’t know the difference. I admit it Is depressing to be stereotyped as angry all the time. Enough of that would make you angry. I have a dream that one day black men will realize how much we need the leader of our race to raise us up. White men have always done this with the white woman whether she is all that or not. It is to protect the power in his race. I know that black men won’t do that, they are so busy picking up the toys of white men. That is how they measure their success. I wish this wasn’t so, but it is. In a perfect world this would not matter, but as you know this is not a perfect world.

    • Deb
      As a black man, let me say this in response to your post.
      Black women are a treasure and have a history unlike NO OTHER race of women. Your history has strength, endurance, sacrifice, love & hard work as its foundation. White women can’t say that. White men deep down in history recognized your worth to the point where they took advantage of you. But you still held on to your foundation. What black women have on the inside is worth more than anything a white woman may THINK she has to offer. Give me a black woman with her bloodlines than any other race of woman ANY DAY OF THE WEEK!! Don’t worry about the stereotypes. Don’t allow what others say and do affect who you are what you have on the inside. Everyone is stereotyped in some form or fashion. Sad, but true. Just be true to you, do you stay in touch with your roots. Some black men recognize this and value this. I do!! White men talk to white woman any kind of way and really treat them any kind of way because most white women are spineless and don’t have the foundation and history as a race as black women. Black woman, YOU ARE A TREASURE!!

      • Angry Black Woman
        L. Aaron
        As much as I hate to say it and add fuel to the flames that
        singes away at the souls of a race of beautiful women.
        I must confess that I am an angry black woman.
        She and I are one in the same and yet one of many.
        I accept this title with acknowledgement and realization that
        it does not define me and the essence of my being.
        It is not the single most relevant characteristic of who I am as a
        woman of African descent. It is however an identifying emotion
        of my life experiences, trials and misfortunes.
        It is an effect of many causes. These causes have in fact made me
        angry, but have not destroyed me and to great extent have strengthened
        me and are the root of my endurance, perseverance and survival.
        It is ironic, that which strengthens me, is also that which
        handicaps me and casts my dark shadow in the world.
        My anger drives me to act, propels me to success, only to hinder
        me from the completeness and fulfillment of love, love of a man,
        my country and most importantly love of self.

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