Langston Hughes Warned Us About Trolls Like Don Lemon

By Riley Wilson Jun 23, 2015

It has come to the point that the mere presence of Don Lemon warrants me to take a deep breath and possibly a shot of some dark liquor.
On one hand, it is perplexing how off-the-wall, insensitive and lackadaisical Lemon has become. But on the other hand, Langston Hughes forewarned us of the arrival of someone like him in “The Fun of Being Black,” an essay published in 1958’s “ The Langston Hughes Reader.” In the acerbically funny piece, the Harlem-based scribe pokes fun of the idea that gabbing blacks (and whites) thrive on fighting racism in America at the time.

So I do not know why some folks (me included) are always lamenting the particular fact that we have a race conflict in America—because a great many people get a great deal of fun out of our contemporary white-Negro battles, not to speak of the jobs that are held as a result.

Hughes sarcastic description of  “crusaders” who “off the public platform” were “some of the happiest-looking people you could ever hope to meet” actually applies today. Now we call that person a “troll.”
For those of you who don’t know, a troll is someone who raises controversial, discredited or irrelevant arguments for the sole purpose of making people angry, creating confusion, fueling discord and getting attention. Trolls aren’t concerned with engaging in an honest debate. They just want a strong emotional reaction. They satisfy their thirst by manipulating passion points.
Don Lemon is a troll.
He pulled his latest stunt during yesterday’s “CNN Tonight With Don Lemon” in response to President Obama using the word “nigger” in a podcast about racism in America.

On "WTF With Marc Maron" Obama now famously said, “Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.” This is a good quote from the president because he hints at racism being more than a bigot hawking slurs, that it’s systemic. But that’s not what captivated Lemon. He disregarded Obama’s entire quote to focus on the n-word.
At the beginning of the offending segment, Lemon held up the Confederate flag and asked, “Does this offend you?” Then, he held up a black and white sign that read “NIGGER” (in all caps), and asked the same question.

I can tell Don was trolling because the exercise was sensationalist; he could have easily spoken without a prop. And why ask a rhetorical question like, “Does this offend you?” in reference to the n-word as if he’s not a 49-year-old black man and well versed in the history of the slur?  
Shoving a sign with the n-word in all caps in our faces for the supposed purpose of pushing the conversation about the Confederate flag and racism forward is beyond insensitive. It’s lazy. And gimmicky. And adds nothing to the conversation about systemic and cultural racism plaguing the country. Everyone knows the n-word is offensive.
What annoys me even more is that Lemon, as Taffy Brodesser-Akner describes in her May 2015 GQ profile, is totally fine with being wrong. “This is Don Lemon, after all,” she writes. He “[declared] on the scene at Ferguson that there’s the smell of marijuana in the air, ‘obviously.’ This is the guy who asked if a black hole could be responsible for the disappearance of Flight MH370; who asked one of Bill Cosby’s alleged rape victims why she didn’t stop the attack by, as he put it, ‘the using of the teeth.’”
Lemon uses these antics because he thrives on conflict, being called wrong, and being that one crazy Negro everyone loves to hate. It’s also proven to attract viewers. In April, when Baltimore protests began," CNN Tonight with Don Lemon" beat out MSNBC in the 10 p.m. slot for 25- to 54-year olds.
In "The Fun of Being Black," Hughes writes: “This racial struggle of ours in America has so many intricate and amusing angles that nobody taking an active part in it can ever be bored. Individuals, like nations seem to thrive on struggle.”
Lemon is no different. I’m talking about him. You’re talking about him. We’re watching him. Again. So, he’s doing his job. He’s trolling conflict. Langston Hughes called it.