Flashback: CNN’s Don Lemon Asks If Kamala Harris Is ‘African American’

Don Lemon and Kamala Harris
CNN/AP

Former Vice President Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate on Tuesday, reigniting public debate over her ethnicity.

The Democratic National Committee called her “Black” and “Asian American.” But it also called her “African American.”

Harris was born in California to a Jamaican father and an Indian American mother. She was raised in Berkeley, California, and moved to Canada when she was twelve.

She has characterized herself as “from Oakland,” a city with a large African American population, since she was born in the Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. But she has also characterized herself as Asian American and South Asian American.

While many Democrats and Harris’s supporters lashed out at those questioning whether Harris was “African American,” CNN host Don Lemon posed the question himself last year.

In February 2019, Lemon was debating April Ryan, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for American Urban Radio Networks, on whether Harris was “African American.” Lemon said:

The people who are saying, ‘Is she Black enough?’ That’s bull, that’s B.S. But to want a distinction to say, ‘Is she African American? Or is she Black or is she — whatever. What’s — there is nothing wrong with that. There is a difference between African American and being Black.

Lemon went on: “Latino people are people of color, but they’re not Black. They’re Brown people. OK?”

Ryan protested: “She is a Black woman.”

Lemon responded, “I agree with that. But is she African-American?”

He added, “There is a difference. There is nothing wrong with that. No one is trying to take anything away from her… . All she had to do was say, ‘I am Black but I’m not African American.”

Ryan then argued, “Many Africans landed in Jamaica and all these other places.”

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

 

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