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Problems The Black Community Faces; Don Lemon's Suggestions

Aired July 27, 2013 - 16:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I want to talk to you because we're going to take a break from the headlines to talk about something I've had on my mind for quite some time now. So much so that I felt compelled to bring back our segment where we hold politicians, leaders, and pundits accountable for what comes out of their mouths. It's time now, again, for No Talking Points.

The Trayvon Martin murder case got just about everybody talking about race, and not just specifically how it related to the case. It got some, many on the political right, wondering why the so-called liberal media wasn't talking about other problems in the black community.


JUDY MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Let's talk about race. Let's talk about black-on-black violence.

DAVID WEBB, HOST "THE DAVID WEBB SHOW": The outrage that I have is in the lack of really the national attention to what is an epidemic of crime in the black community committed largely by blacks.


LEMON: Why aren't we talking about it? Good question. Actually, that's not a good question. We talked about it many times on this show and on CNN. It's actually a good deflection as I've said a number of times to a number of guests here on CNN and also on the radio.


LEMON: David, do not that false equivalent. That is not --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not trying to equivocate --

LEMON: But, listen, crime happens all the time and because a crime happens, it does not mean that you should shift the focus from what happened here. Let's stick to this particular point so continue and let's talk about this case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this case --

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: So, that's the reason I didn't want to discuss at length crime in the African-American community or how to fix other ills that seem to be plaguing the community in general. But now that the jury has reached one that everyone must accept it's time now for some tough love on the subject.

Someone on another network got the chance to go first because I couldn't go during the week. I'm only here on the weekend, so listen to this --


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African- American family.


LEMON: He's got a point. In fact, he's got more than a point. Bill?


O'REILLY: Raised without much structure, young black men often reject education and gravitate towards the street culture, drugs, hustling, gangs. Nobody forces them to do that, again, it is a personal decision.


LEMON: He is right about that, too. But in my estimation, he doesn't go far enough. Because black people, if you really want to fix the problem, here's just five things that you should think about doing. Here's number five, and if this doesn't apply to you, if you're not doing this, then it doesn't apply to you, I'm not talking to you.

Here's number five. Pull up your pants. Some people, a lot of them black, gave me flak for saying that recently on "The Wendy Williams Show."


LEMON: If you're sagging, I mean -- I think it's your self-esteem that is sagging and who you are as a person it's sagging. Young people need to be taught respect and there are rules.


LEMON: Sagging pants, whether Justin Bieber or No-name Derek around the way, walking around with your ass and your underwear showing is not OK. In fact, it comes from prison when they take away belts from the prisoners so that they can't make a weapon. And then it evolved into which role a prisoner would have during male-on-male prison sex. The one with the really low pants is the submissive one. You get my point?

Number four now is the n-word. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY-Z, RAPPER: For our generation what we did was we took the word and we took the power out of that word.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: We took this word, and we made it into poetry.


LEMON: I understand poetic license, but consider this: I hosted a special on the n-word, suggesting that black people stop using it and that entertainers stop deluding yourselves or themselves and others that you're somehow taking the word back.


LEMON: By promoting the use of that word when it's not germane to the conversation, have you ever considered that you may be just perpetuating the stereotype the master intended acting like a nigger?


LEMON: A lot of African-Americans took offense to that, too. I wonder if I gave the right advice, I really did. But confirmation came the very next day on my way home when I exited the subway in 125th Street in Harlem. This little kid in a school uniform no older than seven years old, he was crying his eyes out as he walked down the sidewalk with his mother.

I'm going to be honest here, she turned to me, and she said "I'm sick of you. You act like an old ass man, stop all that crying, nigger." Is that taking the word back? Think about that.

Now number three. Respect where you live. Start small by not dropping trash, littering in your own communities. I've lived in several predominantly white neighborhoods in my life, I rarely, if ever, witnessed people littering. I live in Harlem now, it's an historically black neighborhood, every single day I see adults and children dropping their trash on the ground when a garbage can is just feet away. Just being honest here.

Number two, finish school. You want to break the cycle of poverty? Stop telling kids they're acting white because they go to school or they speak proper English. A high school dropout makes on average $19,000 a year, a high school graduate makes $28,000 a year, a college graduate makes $51,000 a year. Over the course of a career, a college grad will make nearly $1 million more than a high school graduate. That's a lot of money.

And number one, and probably the most important, just because you can have a baby, it doesn't mean you should. Especially without planning for one or getting married first. More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock. That means absent fathers. And the studies show that lack of a male role model is an express train right to prison and the cycle continues. So, please, black folks, as I said if this doesn't apply to you, I'm not talking to you. Pay attention to and think about what has been presented in recent history as acceptable behavior. Pay close attention to the hip-hop and rap culture that many of you embrace. A culture that glorifies everything I just mentioned, thug and reprehensible behavior, a culture that is making a lot of people rich, just not you. And it's not going to. That said, though, the political right is not off the hook.


KRISTEN POWERS, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: If conservatives are so concerned about black-on-black crime, it's a little concerning the only time I hear them talking about it is when they want to stick it to the black community.


LEMON: And that's today's "No Talking Points."

OK. So You can love what I said or you can hate it. Matters not to me. But it sets the tone for the rest of this show. So, let's go there, my panel is here after the break.


LEMON: All right. Welcome back @donlemoncnn, I'm getting a lot of tweets. As I said some people love what I said and some people hate it. It matters not to me, it needs to be said.

So joining me now, radio talk show host Larry Elder, Michael Skolnik, the editor in chief of the and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chicago congresswoman Robin Kelly. Thank you all for joining us. I really appreciate you coming in here on a Saturday. All right.


REP. ROBIN KELLY (D), CHICAGO: Thanks for having us.

LEMON: Thank you. I'll start with you, congresswoman, did you take issue --


LEMON: -- anything I said or do you think those are tough words that people need to hear?

KELLY: I mean, I think it's depending -- there's some people that fit what you're saying but also we tend to -- I told you I felt like it was a little harsh because we tend to talk about black-on-black crime but if you look at the percentages, there's white-on-white crime. If you look at the mass murders, those are mostly whites, white males that have killed in a massive way.

LEMON: But African-American, young African-American men, commit more crime than any other age group, any other ethnicity combined, so why would -- why is that even an issue? Why are you concerned about white- on-white crime when the problem appears to be in the African-American community among young black men, congresswoman?

KELLY: Well, I'm concerned about all crime. Not just one crime or another crime, I'm concerned about all crime. And I think there's been a lot of conversation. We had our summit yesterday about justice isn't really blind and how young black men are treated as compared to other races also. And the opportunities that they have.

LEMON: Michael Skolnik, I talked in that segment about the so-called thug culture that the hip-hop and rap community promotes, and you are a -- you are a proponent for hip-hop and rap. You don't believe that we should stop saying the n-word.

MICHAEL SKOLNIK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GLOBALGRIND.COM: Don, I think your comments sounded like a conservative preacher on a Sunday and certainly Bill O'Reilly should welcome you on his show. I'm disappointed in you --

LEMON: Yes, but -- go ahead, I'll let you finish.

SKOLNIK: Here's the thing. You are talking about sagging pants. I've heard the rap for years. Let's not talk about sagging pants and let us talk about why we incarcerate 2.2 million people in this country and why young kids look up to guys who come out of jail. We waged a war against black and brown people 40 years ago, the war on drugs and it failed miserably and now we are reaping the repercussions.

LEMON: But Michael, -- Michael --


LEMON: Not every black kid is in jail and there are rules and people should know where that style comes from whether it's a black kid or a white kid whether it's Justin Bieber or any -- that is glorifying prison culture. Who wants to see someone's butt crack?

SKOLNIK: No. The community has been destroyed. Black men went to jail as diseased drug addicts and they came out as criminals because they taught them criminal behavior in prison. We destroyed the black community.

LEMON: Then why do you have to glorify that through rap and hip hop culture?

SKOLNIK: It's not glorifying it, it's a reflection of our society. Our society incarcerates 2.2 million people more than anyone else in the world. It's a reflection, it's a mirror. Don't break the mirror. Look at yourself.

LEMON: Isn't that -- Larry Elder, help me out here, isn't that what I'm trying to do here by telling people, "Hey, listen, I love you, but these are things that you need to work on." I'm just being honest here. Do I like having to say these things? But it's the truth. The facts don't lie. LARRY ELDER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Don, your list of five doesn't go nearly far enough. Bill O'Reilly doesn't go nearly far enough. People like Walter Williams and Tom Sulphur for 50 years have been telling you this is about bad public and bad fiscal policy, between 1890 and 1940 if you look at the census record, a black kid was slightly more likely to be born in a nuclear intact family than a white kid. What happened? Lyndon Johnson lost the war on poverty in 1965 with the best of intentions and the number of children born outside of wedlock went from 25 percent to 75 percent.

Back in 1995 "The L.A. Times" did a poll and asked poor people and nonpoor people the following questions -- do you believe that young poor women sometimes or often get on welfare to have additional children? The majority of nonpoor people said "No," However 64 percent of poor people said yes. We've been giving people incentives to marry the government and allow men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility.

And as far as bad fiscal policy is concerned, under Ronald Reagan, the dastardly Ronald Reagan who lowered the top marginal rate from 70 percent to 28 percent, the percentage of blacks, of unemployed blacks fell faster than the percentage of unemployed white. Black teenage unemployment fell faster than white teenage unemployment. My dad, Don, was a janitor and he worked two full-time jobs as a janitor when I was a kid, he never read (INAUDIBLE) but he also said I never got a job from a poor person.

LEMON: But Larry, you're going to have a hard time convincing people that Ronald Reagan is (INAUDIBLE) whatever to help African-American people. I mean that is a tough sell in itself and I see Michael Skolnik in the middle fuming there. He wants to get in.

Michael, you and the congresswoman will be able to respond right after this.


LEMON: I want to get back to my panel real quick because I know Michael Skolnik who is the editor in chief of takes an issue with what we just said. Quickly, Michael, because I want to run a story that I want everyone to see. What's your problem?

SKOLNIK: No, I don't have a problem. I think this is being taken out of context. The gentleman, Larry, talking about the war on poverty and the children out of wedlock because of the war on drugs and Richard Nixon started in 1973, that's what destroyed the black community, not the war on poverty.

LEMON: That may indeed be true, but what about the people who are using drugs, they shouldn't go to jail for using and selling drugs?

SKOLNIK: No, those who used drugs should go to rehab, they go to drug courts. This reform on drug courts because it's hardly wrong and it has failed and it has cost this country trillions of dollars. We do not have any success.

KELLY: Don, can I respond quickly?

We need to look at the lack of opportunity. We also need to look at the lack of opportunity that our young black men have. It just seems like your opportunity is determined by your zip code, schools, jobs, et cetera.

ELDER: Don --

LEMON: Larry, I'll let you respond after this. I promise I will.

But, listen, that brings us to this, because a lot of people have said that the problems in minority communities that no one is talking about it, and no one seems to be offering up solutions until this week.

On Wednesday Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It was the first meeting of the newly informed congressional caucus on black men and boys and yesterday in Chicago the Congressional Black Caucus hosted a national emergency summit on urban violence and in New York, I take a look, I went to take a look, at a brand-new multimillion program aimed at getting young black and Latino men off the streets. Here it is --


TYREE HICKS, MEMBER OF YOUNG MEN'S INITIATIVE: I will try to change, but it was, like, I will try and go back into doing negative.

LEMON (voice-over): 25-year-old Tyree Hicks has spent nearly half his life in and out of jail starting at 13.

HICKS: My mother passed away and I guess you could say I shut down. Hanging in the streets. Doing things I wasn't supposed to. Joining gangs, things like that.

LEMON (on camera): Because you had no supervision after your mom died.

HICKS: No male model really, it wasn't a strong male model I guess could say was around.

LEMON: With no father and no mother, the streets took him.

(on camera): And then what happened?

HICKS: After that you get into the street life. That's drugs. You know, doing things in your community you shouldn't be doing.

LEMON (voice-over): It wasn't long before he found himself behind bars.

(on camera): So, you are out of you said at least five times.

HICKS: Uh-huh.

LEMON: But every time did you say it's not going to happen?

HICKS: I'm saying to myself, this is the last time, man. It wasn't. But I'm pretty sure this last one was because I actually went through this with my child being born. You know, you can't touch them, be around them, that's a wake-up call. I was telling him, daddy's away at college. Then one day I felt to myself it was a lie but I wasn't trying to tell him daddy's in a bad place.

LEMON (voice-over): Tyree decided to do something his own father never did, be a positive role model to his son, but he needed a role model of his own.

(on camera): How long have you been his mentor?

SHAWN BERRY, MENTOR ARCHES PROGRAM: I've been Tyree's mentor for about seven, eight months. A lot of these young men don't have a full-time male role model in their life so having somebody that they can relate to and can relate to their experiences, to actually come to them and tell them there's a better way.

LEMON: How does that happen? Like, how do you have all these people? Because he said for him it was dads weren't around.

BERRY: Personally I think that's just a product of the whole crack generation and these kids that's coming up, the fathers are gone, dad in jail or just not in their lives no more, so there was a need.

LEMON (voice-over): The mentoring program is part of the Young Men's Initiative in New York City, a $127 million effort to get minority youth off the streets. Linda Gibbs is the program's director.

LINDA GIBBS, DEPUTY MAYOR FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: When you look at these data, the black and Latino boys lag behind their white peers, they lag behind the girls on so many fronts.

LEMON (on camera): What is behind that?

GIBBS: Let's be frank, we live in a society that continues to experience the effects of racism and disadvantages that applied to black and Latino men in particular disproportionately, and if we want to make a difference, we've got to face that, we've got to really call it, take it out straight-on, honestly and truthfully, and be very explicit about that and say this is exactly what we're trying to overcome.

LEMON (voice-over): She says the program is working.

GIBBS: We've seen tremendous improvement in the justice system in particular. Huge drops in the number of young people who are now in the juvenile justice system, huge drops of the number of young men in the adult justice system, so the really, really encouraging thing is that you can make a difference.

LEMON: It's made a difference for Tyree. He believes he's finally broken the cycle.

(on camera): Do you think that this program has helped you and is going to help you? You going to stay with it?

HICKS: Of course. Of course. I graduated from the program and I still go.

LEMON (voice-over): And he no longer has to lie to his son, a step towards becoming the role model he never had.

(on camera): So, daddy's out now, daddy's out of college and it's fine?


LEMON: Does daddy plan on going to real college?

HICKS: Yes, I do. Yes, I do. I want to take up social work and then business.

LEMON: Good luck.

HICKS: So, yes.


LEMON: Yes, good luck to him and, you know, I have to be quite honest, the odds are against him, but good luck to him and all the other young men who are involved in that program and others around the country.

Let's bring back our panel now, I want to get to radio talk show host Larry Elder, you were champing at the bit, that young man is trying to do something. What do you make -- what are your comments?

ELDER: Well, he sure is trying to do something and, Don, you're absolutely right to highlight that, that's what George Herbert Walker Bush called the 1,000 points of light. You have to get people involved in the community to be hands on. But you also have to deal with the public policy that caused the problem in the first place and if it's just poverty and racism that caused it why, then, during Jim Crow and the Great Depression you didn't not find this criminality? Because black families were still more cohesive even under slavery, most salves lived under a roof where the biological father and biological mother were --

LEMON: Wait, are you saying that -- it sounds like you're saying, Larry, that slavery is good. I mean, come on, let's not go there, please.

ELDER: What I said was even under slavery a biological mother and a biological father under one roof had most of their children. We don't even have that right now. 75 percent of black kids are born outside of wedlock, 85 percent at some point, Don, will be in a home without a father. What's going on?


ELDER: Unless you're prepare to say blacks are genetically inclined to have kids outside of wedlock, we have to ask what has happened in our culture? What has happened in the last 50 years?

LEMON: We know that there are mitigating circumstances, racism certainly plays a role, and the congresswoman, go ahead.

KELLY: No, I definitely think that racism plays a role, and as I mentioned before, it seems like your zip code in a lot of cases determines your opportunity. So many of our kids don't have jobs. The school system where they or they're located aren't the best. The justice system isn't always as blind as it says it should be, so I do think racism and prejudice definitely comes into play in the black and brown communities.

Plus yesterday in the summit, that's what kids were saying, you don't want us on the block, but we have nothing else to do. We need to have community centers. We need to have mentoring. We do need to have a village of men in these young boys' lives.

LEMON: I only have a short time left here and Michael Skolnik, and Michael, you are fuming with me. I know I'm going to get a phone call after this show. Go ahead.

SKOLNIK: Yes, I love you, Don. I want to commend the congresswoman. I think that there's been a lot of talk since Trayvon Martin that not enough talk black people are doing enough about black-on-black violence and I think that's hardly ignorant statements. The congresswoman and just brand-new to her job has hit the job running and yesterday I was in Chicago at the town hall, at the summit that she put together with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus --

LEMON: So what's the fix, Michael? You're a white guy -- I had you on the n-word special, why didn't you have any white people on the n-word special, Michael Skolnik, hello! What's the solution then, Michael?

SKOLNIK: I think there's a lot solutions to the violence problem. Certainly, I think one big solution as the congresswoman just pointed out, there's a piece of legislation, Larry, called the Youth Promise Act that the Republicans will not support that talks about prevention and intervention and gang prevention and after-school programs and ideas coming from communities like the south side of Chicago to fix the south side of Chicago and --

LEMON: And Michael, I've got to run, because we're out of time, but I have to say, end some tough love, because you have to, you've got to clean up your own house first. No one's going to come into your house and clean it up.

ELDER: Everybody nibbled around the problems, Don. Nobody got to the problem.

LEMON: We've got to run. Thanks to all of my guests. We appreciate you. I really appreciate you coming on. I'll be back at the top of the hour with all the day's news, including the latest on the tragic pre- wedding boat party accident that claimed the life of the bride-to-be.

"SANJAY GUPTA MD" starts right now.