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On Wednesday, Brooke Baldwin hosted a conversation on CNN about the most recent shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, that quickly devolved into a screaming match. Her two guests, University of Pennsylvania professor and CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill and conservative radio host Larry Elder disagreed on the root cause of the unrest, but the conversation became heated when Baldwin asked why no one is discussing the mental health of young men of color.
Hill remarked that he thinks it is a combination of the stigma that mental illness still has with our willingness to assume that a black man is just naturally prone to certain behaviors: “They’re seen as being prone to violence, prone to irrationality,” Hill said. “Because they’re seen as unintelligent and often immoral, when they display behaviors that are clearly crying for help we dismiss it as part of their normal everyday pathology.”
Then Elder responded, delivering a hurried speech on why racism isn’t a problem at all: “I think the media perceives racism to be a far bigger problem in America. That’s why we spend so much time on people like Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy, and before that it was Paul Ryan –”
“I think the question was on mental health,” Hill interrupted.
“I think we’ve been training black people to think that racism is a bigger deal,” Elder continued, “and I think the reason that the left wants that is because of votes and power. As long as black people believe that race and racism are the major problems in America, you’ll continue to have that 95 percent monolithic black vote, without which the Democratic Party cannot survive. So you have the Jesses and the Als and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Harry Reid constantly bringing up race cards talking about Republicans raging a war against black people. So black people have been trained, surprise surprise, people in Ferguson believe that the racist criminal justice system is oppressing them!”
“Are you saying that racism isn’t a major problem in this country?” Baldwin asked.
“No! No, it is not!” shouted Elder, who recounted his father’s experiences building a small business.
When Hill reminded him the question was about mental health, Elder snapped back, “Why do you have to insult me all the time? Why is it necessary? Can’t we have a discussion as two black men? Is that possible? Can we try to do that please?”
The rest of the interview is worth watching because some good points are made when Elder doesn’t seem to be so frantically defensive.
Joanna Rothkopf is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on science, health and society. Follow @JoannaRothkopf or email firstname.lastname@example.org.More Joanna Rothkopf.