Don Lemon had an interesting guest on his CNN show, CNN Newsroom, over the weekend: The Guardian columnist Orville Lloyd Douglas, who wrote the controversial article “Why I Hate Being a Black Man.”
In his piece, which sparked widespread debate on the Internet, Douglas cited the negative stereotype of being a criminal, and people’s fear of black men, among the factors that pushed him toward his complicated feelings of self-hatred.
Lemon, himself a controversial figure in the African-American community for comments that some see as showing a lack of sympathy for those of his own race, snagged the Canadian poet to discuss the article more deeply.
Douglas said that as a black Canadian, he has had experiences with race and racism that are fundamentally different from those of an African American. According to Douglas, African Americans have the benefit of being more “organized” through groups like the NAACP that promote their causes.
He also pointed to President Barack Obama, now elected twice, as proof of the different dynamics between the U.S. and Canada. Douglas explained that Canada has yet to elect a prime minister of color, and the most multicultural city—Toronto—has yet to elect a nonwhite mayor.
“There are less than 1 million blacks in Canada. Canada is a very Eurocentric country,” Douglas said. “When you grow up in a country where you don’t see a lot of positive images about black people, it does affect you.
“Canadians are very uncomfortable talking about race,” he added, pointing to the fact that he tried to get his piece published in a Canadian newspaper, but no one responded. “Canada engenders this mythology that we don’t have problems with racism. I actually think the United States is more progressive in the sense that in America people are not afraid to talk about race.”
Lemon commended Douglas for how “brave” he was in presenting his contentious argument. “Don’t let anyone define who you are, what is authentic, what is black for you. You are who you are. Don’t let black people decide for you, don’t let white people decide for you, don’t let the news, don’t let the headlines, don’t let the negativity,” Lemon said. “Be who you are, love who you are, but you should actually learn to love being black.”