Chris Cuomo jokes with Don Lemon: I'm black on the inside, you know

Before our hypersensitive times, this might have qualified as a lighthearted moment. Now, one has to wonder whether Chris Cuomo should be canceled for cultural appropriation. That’s literally the accusation coming from Sister2Sister managing editor Aisha Staggers after this clip made the rounds, in which Cuomo explains to a clearly amused Don Lemon how he still knows the lyrics to the theme song of Good Times.

Not to defend Cuomo too much, but this at least somewhat unfair. Part of the problem is the length of the clip, which cut off the context in which Cuomo and Lemon riff off the lyrics (CNN’s transcript has some errors, clearly made by someone who doesn’t recall the song):

CUOMO: I had somebody hit me with something today that hurt. She said to me, you know, I don’t have to tell you about how I’m living with my family and how setback we are by this because there was a TV show that was all about it in the 70s and it is the reality for too many people of color all over the country.  And I said, what? And she said, I’ll give you a hint. She said that this was the end. Just looking out of the window watching the ash fall grow. And again, how it all looks handy down.

LEMON: How do you know the words “Good Times?”

CUOMO: You know I’m black on the inside.

LEMON: “Good Times” any time you need a baby.

CUOMO: So, good times, so Florida, who, by the way, was a hugely educated. I think she was a Yale. And of course, Florida and James Evans the portrait of being stuck in the Chicago projects —


CUOMO: — drugs, unending poverty, the anger and outrage of being incapable of getting past systemic oppression. Their son Michael, you know, being caught in revolution —


CUOMO: — and all these angry ideas.

LEMON: J.J., the brother-in-law who is the basketball player that never could get it off the ground.

CUOMO: Dynamite.


CUOMO: So, I look at the lyrics again and I got to tell you, it was like a reality slap in the face. Other than the fact that it was an amazing song. Any time you meet a payment, any time you need a friend.

LEMON: Any time you need upbringing.

CUOMO: Any time you are out from under, not getting hassled, not getting hustled, keeping your head above water.


LEMON: Keeping your head above water, making a way when you can.

CUOMO: Making a way when you can.

LEMON: Temporary —

CUOMO: Temporary lay-off.

LEMON: Good times.

CUOMO: Easy credit rip offs.

LEMON: Good times.

CUOMO: Scratching and surviving.

LEMON: Good times.

CUOMO: Hanging and jiving.

LEMON: Good times.

CUOMO: Aren’t we lucky we got them —

LEMON: Aren’t we lucky we got them. And had the organ.

CUOMO: And people having to live small, take solace in each other —


CUOMO: — and I can’t believe we are back there 50 years later.

LEMON: Yes. Well, 40 some years later.

The exchange — at least as shown in the clip on Twitter — got received every bit as well as one would expect:

“It’s fucking offensive. Black isn’t something you can just say you feel you are inside without having to deal with the racism that comes with being physically Black on the outside. This is cultural appropriation,” tweeted Sister2Sister magazine Managing Editor Aisha Staggers.

“Black is not a costume, I don’t get to be white when I don’t feel like not dealing with racism or racist police or just regular bulls— Black people deal with. I can’t even hide at home because I can be killed there in my bed, so understand, there was nothing silly about this,” Staggers added.

Others echoed her comments on social media.

“Chris Cuomo just said to Don Lemon OUT LOUD on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN, ‘You know I’m Black on the inside,’ and we had to turn off the television because I’m not here for that nonsense. @CNN needs to have some sensitivity training with their on-air personalities,” one user said.

Another asked: “Are the Cuomo brothers competing for S—-iest Cuomo rn?”

There’s no competition for that honor, trust me. This doesn’t make much of a case for a renewed contest either. Cuomo clearly wasn’t claiming a reverse Rachel Dolezal here; he was making a joke about his recollection of one of the more unique and catchy TV show theme songs of his youth. (I can recall most of these myself, plus the lyrics to The Jeffersons and John Sebastian’s theme for Welcome Back Kotter.) Lemon certainly understood it as a joke, not a serious claim to the Black Experience. Cuomo’s point — that little has changed in 50 years — is objectively wrong, but one can debate that without accusing anyone of either cultural appropriation or racial hostility.

Of course, if progressives have decided that it’s time to throw the Cuomos under the bus after having the Andrew Cuomo narrative blow up in their faces, then any pretext will do. That doesn’t mean we need to play along.