Don’t go by the short clips circulating on social media. Watch the entire debate over Black Lives Matter between CNN’s Don Lemon and actor Terry Crews, who has vocally warned about the extremism in the BLM agenda. One might think this would turn into a shoutfest, but instead it’s a fascinating conversation in which both men engage, and to some extent still talk past each other.
At the heart of this is Lemon’s objection to Crews’ description of BLM as “extreme.” What’s so extreme about ending police brutality, Lemon asks? Nothing, Crews responds, but that’s not what BLM is all about either:
It’s impossible to excerpt this and give a good representation of the give and take, but there are a couple of highlights that are worth noting. In regard to the tweets that drew so much controversy, Crews says he’s seen how BLM activists treat other African-Americans who want to work with others to find ways to live together. Marginalizing people like that, Crews says, shows that BLM is a supremacist movement itself:
CREWS: And when you have the leaders of the black lives movement, who are now talking about, you know, if we don’t get our demand, we are going to burn it down. Other black people who are talking about working with other whites and other races, being viewed as sell-outs or called Uncle Toms, it starts — you start to understand that you are now being controlled. You’re not being treated as loved. You’re actually being controlled. Someone wants to control the narrative.
And I viewed it as a very, very dangerous self-righteousness that was developing, that, you know, that really viewed themselves as better. It was almost a supremacist move … where they view that — their black lives mattered a lot more than mine.
Lemon gets annoyed when Crews brings up black-on-black crime as an argument that these communities have to start healing themselves. Lemon fires back — correctly — that this phenomenon is not limited to black communities and has more to do with proximity than race. The issue, Lemon says, is police brutality, not cancer or HIV:
LEMON: The Black Lives Matter movement was started because it was talking about police brutality. If you want Black Lives Matter movement that talks about gun violence in communities, including black communities, then start that movement with that name.
But that’s not what Black Lives Matter is about. It’s not an all-encompassing. So if you are talking about — if someone started a movement that said cancer matters, and then someone comes and says, why aren’t you talking about HIV? It’s not the same thing. We’re talking about cancer.
That’s the disconnect, Crews responds. BLM is not just about police brutality now, if it ever was solely concerned with it. It is, Crews argues, a fully formed political movement with a multi-point agenda, and that agenda is extreme:
CREWS: Listen, I understand what you’re saying. I totally understand. It is about police brutality. That should never be accepted. I am not saying that that’s not it. But they are — there’s more there. And when I look — if they have more on their agenda, we need to ask them about what else is on that agenda, other than police brutality. And that’s all I’m doing — questioning, warning, and watching. And if that bothers you now, that bothers me.
LEMON: I’m over. I’m over, Terry.
CREWS: We’re equal. I should be able to say something truthful.
When you read Crews’ tweets, that’s been his message. Not that we shouldn’t address police brutality or policing in general, but that we should approach those questions from a starting point of equality and brotherhood. If that’s controversial, that controversy and anger over Crews’ tweets say more about this moment than Crews’ tweets do.
Still, Lemon and Crews put on a fascinating and intriguing debate on these topics, and give Lemon credit for allowing Crews to make his argument fully.