Written by: Anthony Hall
A few days ago, Don Lemon, a television host on CNN, raised eyebrows when he made the controversial statement that rich Black celebrities need to use their voice to speak up, and not just on Twitter. He stated, “A lot of people I asked to come on this show to talk about this, wealthy celebrities, wealthy political people, ‘I can’t do it, I’m mad, I don’t want people to see me mad it might hurt my business. I’m so upset I had to go to my country house,'” Lemon stated. “Where are you? Why aren’t you fighting for these young people?” The problem with Don Lemon’s point is that he doesn’t go far enough.
Getting upset because celebrities will not come on your show is one way of looking at it, but I think there is a more reliable point. There are enough wealthy Black Americans in this country who carry influence that they can hire the best lobbyist to write a bill, and lobby Congress. Those celebrities could use public pressure to force Congress to pass a bill. See, we are looking at this all wrong.
We are viewing protests and lobbying in a vacuum. Protest by themselves will not work, and without protest, Congress will stall on making any real change. If Black Americans want to see a difference on the ground, then the protesters must work together with Black American celebrities. Jay-Z was correct: “we need to look towards the next step.” However, with all respect to Jay-Z, the next step is not making friends with the one who oppressed you in hopes that they will eventually see you as equal. The next step is to use your money, power, and influence to pressure Congress to make a change.
Dr. Martin Luther King understood this. He used the protest and the violent images to pressure Johnson. Who is urging Trump? Who is pressuring Biden? What new law is Biden vowing to pass within his first one hundred days in office that will limit the types of tactics police can use on someone who is already handcuffed and laying on the ground crying for their mother for eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
Don Lemon was correct, but not because his precious celebrity friends won’t go on his show. Don Lemon is right that Black Americans are not using their power. Imagine if Oprah decided that she was going to write and lobby Congress to pass a bill protecting unarmed Black, Hispanic, and Arab Americans from police brutality? Do you think she would get some attention? Do you think Oprah could place some pressure on members of Congress? I hear she knows former President Obama. Think he has any influence? Black wealthy Americans have power, but they are not using it the correct way.