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CNN’s Don Lemon schools white conservative: ‘Your privilege does not allow you to see… certain circumstances in society’

By Megan Carpentier
Saturday, July 20, 2013 19:31 EDT
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CNN anchor, Don Lemon, began his Saturday segment on racial profiling with conservative Ben Ferguson a bit skeptical — after all, it was only yesterday that Ferguson appeared on CNN to accuse President Obama of suggesting that all white women racially profile all black men during his Friday remarks. Lemon called into that show to share his own experiences with being racially profiled, and invited Ferguson to think about it and return on Saturday.

Ferguson, however, was not to be deterred. He said that any woman in an elevator by herself were going to be nervous regardless of the man in it with her — effectively suggesting that African-American men were being too quick to attribute incidents like those experienced by the President and Lemon to race rather than gender. Lemon’s response was, “Ben, I don’t disagree with you for some of that, but if you think it’s equal, then I — I don’t mean to call names — but think you’re sadly naive. Or you’re just being… just doing it on purpose.”

Ferguson then — none too subtly — attempted to get Lemon to admit that he believes all white women to be racist. “Are you saying Don,” he began, “That every woman in America that’s white is automatically one hundred 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?”

“No,” Lemon began to reply, as Ferguson smirked and said, “That’s an incredibly broad brush.”

“What you’re implying,” Ferguson tried to interrupt, “Is that every white woman in America is automatically terrified…” at which point Lemon cut him off. “That is not what I’m implying. That is what you’re hearing.”

“They what are you saying?” Ferguson asked.

“Listen to me,” said Lemon. “I’m telling you about my experience. The president is telling you about his experience. And you’re saying that we’re not having that experience. And 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, ‘Oh, That’s not happening!’ How can you say that? You don’t live as a black man! You don’t know that!”

Ferguson was not to be dissuaded, and attempted again to twist the anecdote about a white woman on an elevator to prove that African-American men are really the ones profiling white women. Lemon interrupted, “I am not saying they are feeling profiled about getting into an elevator. We are sharing experiences with you. That is not the only way that people profile.”

Ferguson yet persisted in trying to prove that Lemon profiles white women. “Do you think that most white women are afraid of any black man in America?” Lemon explained that he had asked white women on his staff about their experiences, and that they had agreed with his assessment, and encouraged Ferguson to ask women of his own acquaintance. Ferguson’s response was, “Well, Don, first of all, I’ve grown up my entire life in a community where I was, in fact, a minority. I also grew up where my father was in law enforcement. I’ve also been the victim of a gun crime. What I’ll say is this: I have been profiled and the police told me I was profiled. But I don’t assume every African-American man — even though two of them shot at me at point-blank range — are out to kill me. And I think that’s an over-generalization to put it in race in such a simple term, that paranoia of white people in America to the point where every black man is a suspect.”

“It’s not paranoia,” replied Lemon. “Ben, simply just from… a place of, it’s not entitlement, but you’re at a place in society…”

“Oh, I came from poverty, so I don’t think I’m entitled,” interrupted Ferguson.

“Yes, but you’re still have a certain entitlement as a white person that many people of color don’t have.” Lemon replied. “You don’t see that?”

Ferguson countered, again, with his humble beginnings, but Lemon interrupted. “Scratch that, scratch that, I should say a place of privilege,” he said. “I should say a place of privilege, not a place of entitlement. And you’re filtering it 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. And what I said on the air yesterday, let me finish, what I said on the air yesterday was that I hoped that you would sleep on it and at least think about it before having a knee-jerk reaction to what the President was saying — the most powerful African-American in the world — telling you that there is an issue and you’re telling him that his circumstances and what he sees and what he lives is not valid. And that is insulting to do that.”

“Well, I didn’t have a knee-jerk reaction,” said Ferguson.

Watch more video of that part of the segment, courtesy of CNN, below:

(Watch the full 7 minute exchange, including Ferguson’s full comments from Friday, at Mediaite.)

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
 
 
 
 
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