This Is the Fire | Don Lemon

Summary of: This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism
By: Don Lemon


In ‘This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism’, author Don Lemon explores the issues of racism, racial violence, and the Black Lives Matter movement in America. The book dives into topics such as the historic roots of racism in America, the deliberate creation of a racist system, the use of violence against Black people, and the lack of empathy towards African American lives. Through these themes, Lemon discusses possible solutions to combat the issue of racism in American society by promoting empathy, reevaluating cultural narratives, and taking economic action.

America’s Racial Moment

In 2020, millions protested the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer. The event marked a turning point for America, reflecting a fire predicted by James Baldwin. The author believes the Black Lives Matter movement was necessary to acknowledge systemic racism, worsened by Donald Trump’s presidency. However, for change to happen, people must make room for differences and unite against racism, misogyny and homophobia.

America’s Deliberate Racist System

The Whitney Plantation records show that Louisiana had ten enslaved people in 1712, which rose to 20,000 by the end of the century. The system was created to dehumanize black people and use them for the economic benefit of white people. Brutal violence was used to keep them submissive, and rebellion was met with savage punishment. This consciousness drove deeply held racial attitudes and tensions experienced till today. The author shares experiences of being trapped by low expectations and experiencing microaggressions, which stem from white supremacist ideas. To create a just society, a new system based on kindness and community needs to step in. The focus should not be on self-interest but on higher morals and values.

Lack of Empathy in Times of Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a concerning lack of empathy towards Black people that has existed for centuries. Black Americans have died from the virus at a rate almost two times higher than expected. This lack of empathy is not a new phenomenon, as it was prevalent during slavery and the Jim Crow era. The unfortunate reality is that leaders often get away with a lack of action when the public is paralyzed. While videos of racially motivated killings spark protests, the author questions when people will become desensitized. Black lives should always matter and not just after their deaths.

Beyond Defunding: Changing the Justice System to Solve Police Brutality

The unfair treatment of Black people at the hands of the police has sparked calls to defund the police. However, the solution to police brutality lies in changing the entire justice system rather than eliminating it entirely. Police officers aren’t well-equipped to handle all situations, and they’re exposed to a culture of violence and racial bias that stems from historical policing tactics. To tackle police brutality, specialized units and alternative forms of policing should be created, and policies that discriminate against Black people must be addressed. The author urges people to engage in the political process and push for legislative change. While the road to ending police brutality is long, it’s necessary to make significant progress toward a more equitable and just society.

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