by Daniel Hill
Socially conscious rapper and activist Talib Kweli came to Ferguson this week to participate in the protests surrounding the shooting of eighteen-year-old Mike Brown by a police officer on August 9. Kweli says that part of the reason for his visit is to help "control the narrative" of the situation, because, in his view, "the media has been doing a horrible job of making sure that the stories get out in the right way." He shared these feelings early on in an on-scene interview with CNN's Don Lemon, who has been on the scene in Ferguson throughout the turmoil. Lemon took this as a chance to defend his company's coverage.
The situation quickly devolved from there.
"I disagree with that," Lemon says in the interview, "especially with our coverage. I think we have done really great coverage here."
Kweli agreed that the intentions of the media organization were good, but "we live in a world that is run by white supremacy, and that is the narrative and language of the oppressors taking over." He took particular umbrage with a headline that read "Ferguson Streets Were Calm Until Bottles Fly," which he claims is inaccurate.
"I was there that night. That's not what happened," he says. "And the first thing in the story it says is that, 'Police chased down men...'"
At this point Lemon steps in to argue with him, and the interview quickly turns into the two men trying to talk over one another and Kweli eventually saying, "If I can't talk then we don't need to have an interview," and turning to walk away. Lemon says that "in order to have a conversation, you have to listen to me as well." From there the argument turns to whether proper greetings were made at the interview's outset.
KWELI: Let me explain something. I would listen to you if you had the decency -- let me finish -- if you had the decency to greet me.
LEMON: I do have the decency. I invited you to come on CNN.
KWELI: Let me tell you what happened. You didn't invite me. Nicole invited me, first of all. You came up -- you didn't even say nothing to me. You were on your phone the whole time. You asked how to pronounce my name. You have no respect for who I am.
Kweli then tells Lemon to "let me finish what I have to say, or I'm gonna leave," and continues his criticism of CNN's article, while Lemon stays quiet.
When Kweli wrapped up his point, which was that, from his view, police had already agitated the crowd prior to any bottles being thrown, Lemon hops back on the defensive, addressing CNN's coverage as well as his being on the phone when Kweli arrived.
LEMON: As far as you saying, me coming up -- I have a job to do. What I'm doing on television is in this phone. I'm reading -- hang on -- I'm reading --
KWELI: I would have the respect to greet you if I had never met you before, brother. To say, "How are you doing? It's nice to meet you."
LEMON: I said, "How are you doing."
KWELI: No, you did not.
LEMON: I did.
By the end of the strange exchange the two returned to civility, finding common ground in their purposes on the scene and eventually shaking hands. But the confrontational turns the interview reveal how high tensions and emotions are surrounding Ferguson and Mike Brown, and mirror the arguments taking place in and around the city, as well as the world, every day since the unrest started. Social media has become a minefield of differing opinions, with long-time friends engaging in arguments and angrily bickering over both the big picture and minute details of the case.
Let's only hope that the rest of us can find it possible to shake hands when all is said and done as well. Conversation is important, civility is crucial and we need to be open to each other's opinions. There is no need to get into petty arguments; there are real things to be discussed right now. Right?
Watch the full interview below: