During his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. declared that he wanted people to “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Almost 50 years later, that dream is still a long way off, judging from the clash on Saturday in which CNN Newsroom's black host Don Lemon told conservative white guest Ben Ferguson that because he doesn't “live as a black man,” he can't understand what people of that race are experiencing. Doesn't that also mean that non-conservatives cannot fully understand and be fair to conservatives? Read on for more.
The interview came one day after President Barack Obama made a speech in which he said black shooting victim Trayvon Martin “could have been me 35 years ago.”
In addition, Obama spoke about his experiences of women clutching their purses or locking their car doors when he passed by.
Reacting to the Obama speech on Lemon's program, Ferguson, a Dallas radio talk show host, used that statement to accuse the president of stereotyping all white women as profiling black men.
"I have seen women, when I go to my parking garage every day, they are nervous when they are by themselves, regardless of the age or the man that’s around them because they’re in a vulnerable situation. That’s not only during issues of race," Ferguson said.
Lemon responded: "If you think it’s equal, and I don't mean to call names, but I think you’re sadly naive."
“Are you saying, Don, that every woman in America that’s white is automatically, 100 percent of the time, terrified of an African-American man in any one of these situations, but they would not be terrified if it was a white or Hispanic man?” Ferguson asked. “That’s an incredibly broad brush.”
“That’s not what I’m implying, that’s what you’re hearing,”Lemon said as he continued pressing his view that non-blacks cannot understand or accurately summarize the views of black Americans, a strategy typically used as a justification for affirmative action policies and mandatory racial diversity. “I’m telling you my experience; the president’s telling you about his experience.”
And you’re saying that we’re not having that experience. Who are you to tell us we’re not having that experience when you’re not living it? You’re not in our bodies. It’s insulting for you to say “No, that’s not happening.” You don’t live as a black man, you don’t know that.
Ferguson stated that he had grown up in a poor and racially diverse community, which gave him insight into the experiences of racial profiling.
“I have been profiled, police have told me I’ve been profiled, but I don’t assume that every African-American man, even though two of them have shot at me from point blank range, are out to kill me,” he said.
“You have a certain entitlement as a white person that people of color don’t have,” Lemon declared. “You don’t see that? You’re filtering [this] through a place of privilege that you don’t understand. Your privilege does not allow you to see certain biases and certain circumstances in society.”
Using the CNN host's philosophy that only blacks can understand the views and experiences of other black Americans, would that mean the vast majority of people in the mass media -- who are white or members of another race -- cannot fairly report or comment on what's happening in the nation's black population?
Also, since studies have shown that most of the reporters in the media are liberal, does that mean they cannot cover conservatives and objectively explain what that segment of the American public is thinking or doing?
Perhaps it's a good thing that Martin Luther King Jr. is not here to see what little progress his dream has made -- or perhaps become a nightmare.