Don Lemon and April Ryan Debate Intensely Over Kamala Harris’ ‘Blackness’

White House correspondent April Ryan and CNN anchor Don Lemon got into an intense debate over 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris’ ethnic identity.


The debate on CNN Tonight on Monday was a particularly heated one. Lemon seemed to get riled up in reference to Harris’ response to a question posed by Charlemagne the God on “The Breakfast Club” about how the Oakland-born politician identified herself.

Lemon believes that Harris failed to acknowledge if she is African-American. Ryan defended Harris by reiterating that she was born in Oakland, Calif., and had lived an experience as a Black woman.

Harris addressed Charlemagne’s question. But it’s a question which, ultimately, didn’t need an answer.

“I’m Black, and I’m proud of being Black,” she said in the interview. “I was born Black. I will die Black, and I’m not going to make excuses for anybody because they don’t understand.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, for all intents and purposes, is a biracial woman. The California Democrat was born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father within the United States.

Harris is American even though she moved to Canada at the age of 12 with her mother and does identify as a Black woman. Harris attended Howard University, and is a member of the first African-American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., which was established at the university in 1908.

In some ways, it is obvious that she aligns herself with being Black. It’s not uncommon for Black diasporans to go to historically Black colleges or universities also known as HBCUs.

There’s a movement among US-born Blacks to have a separate identity from other African immigrants and diasporans. Typically, they refer to themselves as ADOS (American descendants of slavery). Lemon argued with Ryan regarding that distinction.

Ryan countered Lemon’s point regarding Harris’ lineage, arguing that many enslaved Africans landed in Jamaica “and all these other Caribbean islands.”

“So she could indeed be African-American mixed with others, but she is a Black woman,” she said.

“Jamaica is not America,” Lemon said, interrupting her again. “Jamaica did not come out of Jim Crow. I’m just saying.”

However, the Western Hemisphere, which includes North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, makes up what is known as “The Americas.”

Technically, every African diasporan born on this side of the pond is a “Black American” and subsequently “descendants of slaves.”

In an attempt to establish a national identity like most other diasporans, U.S. born Blacks are creating an identity based on a fallacy by using #ADOS. This is not an indictment on Blacks born in the United States, either.

The main caveat in this situation is that other diasporans such as Black Cubans, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Haitians and etc. place nationality above race in their respective countries even though they, too, are descendants of slaves.

That was not the case for U.S. Blacks. Instead of identifying by country first, Blacks here identify by color. Which, by the way, is a distinction given to us by whites who owned slaves in this country.

It was a systemic, purposeful differentiation meant to take away a Black person’s worth. Fundamentally, the adaptation of race over nationality stripped away the contributions of enslaved Blacks in the U.S.

“Number one, what does ‘Black enough’ mean” Ryan began. “[Harris] is a Black woman. She is a mixed-race woman. When you see her, you see her Blackness. But she is also South Asian and her dad is Jamaican. She is a Black woman.”

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