As a black man who deals with issues of race on a regular basis, there are times when I do not want the opinion of white men who have not and will not ever experience some of things that are commonplace for people of color. I would imagine this is similar to women who don’t always want to hear some dude’s opinion about what she should do with her body or deal with sexism. This isn’t an earth-shattering concept. Unless your name is Jamilah Lemieux.

Last Thursday Lemieux’s life was turned upside down when a random tweet about a new black Republican magazine she was sent was responded to by someone who then brought in other folks including RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams. When she said she didn’t want any more info about Carson’s project, Williams responded “hoped you would encourage diversity of thought.” This was when Lemieux responded with…

She was unaware that Williams was black, but when she found out she apologized and alerted him that she still had no urge to have this discussion. This set off a firestorm that would ignite virtually every right-wing blog and news site and would garner a press release by Chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus. Virtually every account of the story ignored the facts and instead painted Lemieux as a raging hateful racist and anyone who defended her was then branded as one as well.

So we decided to help set the record straight, as we #StandWithJamilah:

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And on today’s show we followed up with more information plus a discussion around what is becoming a regular thing within social media–attacking Women of Color with a combo of racism/sexism and an overall lack of respect.  Imani Gandy and I unpacked this today.

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All this makes us wonder: Can we actually have a conversation about race without it turning into name calling and death threats?

45 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    Cacti says:

    Now raise your hand if you’re surprised to learn that the sprog of Juan Williams works for the RNC.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    I’m sure Jamilah Lemieux is a nice person, but why is the RNC Chairman getting involved in a Twitter war. That’s kind of pathetic.

  4. 4
    JustRuss says:

    …she didn’t want any more info about Carson’s project

    Who the hell is Carson?

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Garbo says:

    Slightly OT, but here’s a follow-up story on Shanesa, who was arrested for leaving her kids in the car while she was in a job interview.. She is out on bail and the fundraising effort has resulted in $66,000.

  7. 7
    the Conster says:

    I do not want the opinion of white men

    Me neither.

    /white woman

  8. 8
    kc says:

    Can we actually have a conversation about race

    Um . . .

  9. 9
    BobbyK says:

    All this makes us wonder: Can we actually have a conversation about race without it turning into name calling and death threats?

    No, simple answer to a simple question, as Atrios would say.

  10. 10
    Ash Can says:

    @Garbo: That’s good news. I hope she’s back together with her kids too.

  11. 11
    🍀 Martin says:

    @JustRuss: Almost certainly a reference to Ben Carson, the latest shiny token thrown on the GOP checkerboard.

  12. 12
    Amir Khalid says:

    The Twitter argument sounds rather like Jamilah Lemieux is trying to fend off an annoying salesman who won’t take no for an answer. I know which side has my sympathy.

    À propos of nothing, Ms Lemieux has the same given name as my mother.

  13. 13
    Warren Terra says:

    I’m not going to pretend to be an authority on Race, nor especially am I an Arbiter of Blackness. But: Juan Williams is for the sake of his extravagant livelihood a supplicant to the allies of institutional racism (there’s a term for that, the which I’m uncomfortable using; think Samuel Jackson’s character in Django Unchained), and his son lacks Juan Williams early distinguished career at The Washington Post (nor his father’s long second act as a bland yet prominent nonentity at NPR, not to mention his father’s subsequent time as a mole in NPR giving languorous blowjobs to members of George W Bush’s administration on Morning Edition), and Juan Williams’s son is far more blatantly a mouthpiece for the enemies of tolerance, inclusion, integration, and advancement even than his father is. I’m not sure it’s possible to disrespect this nepotism-empowered pissant excessively.

  14. 14
    garbo says:

    Sorry, link about Shanesa didn’t come through in first post (FYWP):


  15. 15
    Warren Terra says:


    go ABL!!!

    I’m generally a fan – but I saw someplace in passing that she jumped on that blitheringly misguided #CancelColbert mishegas that some entrepreneur of internet notoriety started, started because that person (Park, not Gandy) either couldn’t understand blatant satire or didn’t care about accuracy.

  16. 16
    jl says:

    OK fine, she hastily jumped to an incorrect conclusion, and twittered it. Big deal. Everyone hastily jumps to an incorrect conclusions once in awhile, and anyone on the tweeter will twit without thinking things through at least once.

    Seem to me it would require a certain grievance-seeking attitude to turn that into a firestorm. Which I guess the GOP and teabaggers have unto overflowing.

    Another entry for the annals of GOP outreach.

  17. 17
    Betty Cracker says:

    All this makes us wonder: Can we actually have a conversation about race without it turning into name calling and death threats?

    Nope, not if the Twitter hordes weigh in. But Coates and Chait are trying, and it’s been interesting and illuminating if ultimately inconclusive.

  18. 18
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @BobbyK: Definitely not when Rethuglican scum are involved in any way.

  19. 19
    James E. Powell says:

    Can we actually have a conversation about race without it turning into name calling and death threats?

    I’m sure we can talk without name calling and death threats, but I’m not sure we can have a conversation in the sense of dialogue with others who are not like ourselves in which ideas are shared and, if we are lucky, some understanding is reached. EJW says

    As a black man who deals with issues of race on a regular basis, there are times when I do not want the opinion of white men who have not and will not ever experience some of things that are commonplace for people of color.

    As a white man, I get what you’re saying and I don’t feel like I have an opinion on most such experiences beyond “that’s messed up.” Like most white people I don’t have to deal with race unless somebody else brings it up. But I do have questions and I do wish to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, so I always hope we can talk about stuff as it comes up.

    When I was younger the Af/Am guys I knew would say something like, “I know you have no clue but I am going to tell you about it so pardon me if I yell but you need to understand.” More recently, it’s more like “I know you have no clue and you will never have a clue and there is point in us talking about it the gap between us can never be bridged so just let it go.” I miss the older kind of talk, but maybe that’s because I came up in the hippy days.

  20. 20
    DougJ says:


    Beat me to it.

  21. 21
    the Conster says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Exactly – and I give Chait huge props because he’s actually listening, then responding to TNC in a very considered way. Good for him! It feels to me like Chait’s just beginning to perceive the contours of his white male privilege. As we say in Boston, light’s dawning over Marblehead.

  22. 22
    Amir Khalid says:

    My sense of the GOP’s outreach to minorities is that their hearts don’t seem to be in it. They’re not putting any serious thought or effort into winning people over, which requires understanding their concerns and at least pretending to share them. And then, when people are not won over, they decide to call them a bunch of mean ol’ doodyheads. And this quite counterproductive Twitter argument with Ms Lemieux seems to be an instance of that.

  23. 23
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @jl: Well, to offer an example, there’s the “magic Negro” meme. The guy who brought it into the media spotlight in reference to Barack Obama happens (this will shock you) to be black. He’s also gay. This did not stop vile racist asshole Rush Limbaugh from jumping into it and using it for his own as usual racist purposes. Limabaugh took off with this without knowing the race of the person who made the meme “a thing” out there in the media landscape. And not understanding the meme in the first place.

  24. 24
    april says:

    WE cant have conversations with Rthugs that don’t start and end that way. Bullying is what they do.

  25. 25
    J.D. Rhoades says:


    They search the wide world over for things to be outraged about, and if they can throw a little race-baiting into the mix, they’re ecstatic.

  26. 26
    kc says:


    You know, what I’m seeing from [some] black people on Twitter is that white liberals are just as bad as Republicans, they [we] just don’t know it.

  27. 27
    sophronia says:

    The two parties (Dems and Reps) are speaking at cross purposes. Dems are talking directly to minorities and hoping to get them on board with the Dem platform. Reps are talking to white people about POC and don’t care if the POC are won over or not, they just want to harness the white people’s feelings that things have gone too far and those people are taking over.

    Regarding the Jamilah Lemieux controversy, I don’t think the question really is “Can we have a conversation.” She expilicitly said she doesn’t want one and Raffi Williams didn’t say it but he doesn’t want one either. People have chosen sides already, now it’s all about the power struggle.

  28. 28
    Citizen_X says:

    Speaking of things white people don’t have to deal with, here is an article from the alumni magazine of UT Austin (my alma mater) that somebody linked to the other day. It’s about Neil dGT at UT, an experience that didn’t turn out so well. He dropped/flunked out of his Ph.D program there, as much due to his own lack of fit at the time as to the lack of institutional support.

    He doesn’t blame it on what he calls “same shit, different day” campus racism, but that did take its toll. This, especially, stood out for me:

    I was stopped and questioned seven times by University police on my way into the physics building,” he says. “Seven times. Zero times was I stopped going into the gym—and I went to the gym a lot. That says all you need to know about how welcome I felt at Texas.

    Although not the happiest read, I recommend it. If nothing else, there’s a picture of him in Austin looking badass in shades.

  29. 29


    That is brilliant news. It is truly heartwarming to see that the internet can be used for good. That right minded people come together and help out a person who truly needs it. I have got the warm fuzzies right now. I like it.

  30. 30
    Mnemosyne says:


    That was me who posted it — I stumbled across it while Googling other stuff during “Cosmos” last night. In addition to the racial issues, it sounds like there was some professional jealousy as well — when he was a TA, his students loved him, and I suspect the other grad students and professors did not like that. At all. There are people who commented on that article who still remember him as their TA 30 years later.

    (There are also whiny jackholes who posted comments to the article, so Reader Beware.)

    ETA: And I’m guessing that the racial issues and professional jealousy got all mixed up in a big ball of resentment: That guy Tyson doesn’t know his place!

  31. 31
    Citizen_X says:


    You know, what I’m seeing from [some] black people on Twitter is that white liberals are just as bad as Republicans, they [we] just don’t know it.

    For all too many white liberals, absolutely fucking-A right.

  32. 32
    Citizen_X says:

    @Mnemosyne: I don’t know, he as much as says that his focus wasn’t there. (I mean, spending a week on a Rubik’s cube?) Grad school’s a war; you cannot succeed like that.

    Thanks for linking to that, though.

  33. 33
    exurbanmom says:

    As a white person, I wish my fellow white folk would spend a lot more time just shutting up, listening, and trying to learn something. Just shut up stupid white folk.

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @exurbanmom: Well, the smart ones shut up and listen, which is why I don’t often comment on Elon’s threads.

    On the other hand, the stupid ones just can’t shut the fuck up.

    Here I am showing my stupid side. Oh well.

  35. 35
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @Citizen_X: Thanks for the Tyson piece. It’s something I’d been meaning to do more digging into, around how he perceives race as a factor in his efforts as a scientist.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:


    It’s a bit chicken-and-egg, though — was his focus not there because he was unhappy at UT, or was he unhappy at UT because his focus wasn’t there?

    It sounded like he had a huge culture shock going from New York City to Texas (even Austin) that he admits he didn’t necessarily handle well. Sometimes a school just isn’t the right fit, for multiple reasons. And, unfortunately, it sounds like racism was one of those reasons.

    (Also, reading that article made me wonder if Tyson is high-functioning ADHD — spending a week on the Rubik’s cube sounds like hyperfocus to me. But I’m ADHD myself, so I tend to see it everywhere.)

  37. 37
    noabsolutes says:

    I think we can have conversations about race without devolving into name calling and death threats, but we can’t have conversations about “racism” without doing so. That’s because, as I think Ta-Nehisi Coates’s writing shows, often we’re trying to talk about race when we should be talking about racism. And you can’t really argue about racism– it’s like arguing about gravity, or evolution, in that there are facts, on the one hand, and things people would like to believe, on the other, and those things don’t always overlap.
    So, given that racism going on consists of ongoing name calling and death threats and much worse, you’re never going to have a decent conversation about race or racism with anyone who is trying to confuse the issue by making “race” this mysterious minefield of hypotheticals and hurt feelings instead of meeting you in the place where we actually address actual racism.

  38. 38
    taylormattd says:

    @kc: what’s your point?

  39. 39
    HRA says:

    I wish it was that simple to eliminate racism by talking about it. As I have experienced in the past, sometimes it works to stand up to it and sometimes you are not allowed to do it.
    To be more exact, I did inquire about it as a child and was given an experience by my parents as an answer. When I happened to move into a hateful environment against people for the reason of their skin color, I stood up to it . When I was targeted by a person of color who believed I was being promoted for being white, I was at a loss of how to respond to it.

  40. 40
    Paul in KY says:

    She should have known that someone with 1st name ‘Raffi’ was not white.

  41. 41
    Paul in KY says:

    @Amir Khalid: The ‘outreach’ is all about getting white people who are uncomfortable voting for GOP (Getting Ours Party) to feel more comfortable, as the GOP is ‘trying’.

    Any actual black person who does vote for them is just gravy (IMO).

  42. 42
    Paul in KY says:

    @kc: Ha, ha, ha!

  43. 43
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mnemosyne: I can imagine that the UT campus back in early 80s was not a welcoming place for a black person bent on getting a PHD there.

    UT’s loss!

  44. 44
    daveNYC says:

    The best part is that now we get to hear about how ‘she played the race card’ for the next decade. Awesome.

    Still, if you’re going to bust out the a message telling someone to shut up because they’re not a member of demographic group X, then you should really be sure what demographic group they belong to.

    If an alien race ever gains access to Twitter they’ll nuke the Earth from orbit, just to be sure.

  45. 45
    Tone in DC says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    exurbanmom: Well, the smart ones shut up and listen, which is why I don’t often comment on Elon’s threads.

    On the other hand, the stupid ones just can’t shut the fuck up.

    Wait… smart people know how to listen? It’s almost as if it were a skill, or something. ;-)

    On the original point, I’d love to see Bob Costas do another roundtable on race, with his usual panel of folks. I know that not everyone has HBO, but those shows were some of the best roundtables I have seen in years.

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