Terry Crews joined Don Lemon, who anchors an evening CNN news show, on July 7 to explain his concerns about the Black Lives Matter movement but instead ended up in a heated debate with the anchor.
Lemon opened the segment with two recent Crews tweets that have sparked an outcry — the first warning about a “#blacklivesbetter” sentiment emerging from Black Lives Matter; the second announcing that he would “die on this hill” after receiving threats for his decision to “unite with good people, no matter the race, creed or ideology.”
Lemon introduced the actor by saying, “Man, you stepped in it,” eventually closing the segment by talking over Crews about the meaning of Black Lives Matter.
If Lemon’s intent was to increase viewers, he did his job. But I find it difficult to go along with his premise which seeks to limit both the definition and scope of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As the author Christopher J. Lebron explains in his thought-provoking “The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea,” the movement itself remains grounded in history — Black history. Specifically, with the murder of young Trayvon Martin in February 2012 — a tragedy I personally experienced and covered as the then-editor for The Miami Times.
Since then, the movement, particularly with the recent murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, has secured its place in both American and world history — a far cry from its origins less than a decade ago when it was merely a social movement hashtag — one which will undoubtedly define today’s generation.
Crews went on to say, “there are some very, very militant-type forces in Black Lives Matter. What I was issuing [in his June 30 tweet] was a warning … When you issue a warning and a warning is seen as detrimental, how can you ever, ever have checks and balances? Other Black people who are talking about working with other whites and other races, they’re being viewed as sellouts or called Uncle Toms. You start to understand that you are now being controlled. You’re not being treated as loved, you’re actually being controlled.”
“If you are a child of God, you are my brother and sister. I have family of every race, creed and ideology. We must ensure #blacklivesmatter doesn’t morph into #blacklivesbetter.”
Crews said he sees a “dangerous self-righteousness” developing from the movement, where certain people “really viewed themselves as better.”
“Are all white people bad? No. Are all Black people good? No. Knowing this reality, I stand on my decision to unite with good people, no matter the race, creed or ideology. Given the number of threats against this decision, I also decide to die on this hill.”
I won’t bother to continue the exchange that ensued between Lemon and Crews. But I must, again, support Crews in his belief that in any movement, there should be a “nonracial element.”
And while there is something profoundly powerful about the three words “Black Lives Matter,” I posit that its founders would never suggest that in their struggle to demand change in America and the end of centuries of violence against Black bodies, that they — or rather, the movement — exists in a society where “only” Black lives matter.
Rather, this new-age philosophy pushes us toward the precipice when African Americans will finally, and rightfully, be placed on a level of human equality with whites — something our so-called “wise” Founding Fathers found it impossible, or perhaps far from prudent or profitable to do.
Black Lives Matter suggests both a political agenda as well as a philosophical system. In both instances, it must by necessity continue to evolve and morph. At the same time, and as Crews asserts, it cannot be bound by the over-simplification that its three-word title might suggest.
It’s great that Lemon chose this topic and invited Crews to explain his views. But I’m not convinced that Lemon is the best person of color to advocate for marginalized Black folk, given his own history. Lemon hasn’t always been a cheerleader for Black rights or for gay rights, but in recent years he has used his “pulpit” toward both agendas. For that, I applaud him.
However, the complexity of the mission which undergirds Black Lives Matter remains far too complex and significant to be reduced to a 10-minute debate followed by pages of tweets.