On Dec. 31, somewhere around 8 p.m. on the East Coast, the talking heads on CNN stop getting outraged and start getting drunk.
Yes, in a tradition even difficulties of 2020 couldn’t stop from happening, CNN’s New Year’s Eve sloppy merriment went on as usual. Shots of vodka! Double entendres! Anything goes!
Hopefully nothing serious ever happens late on New Year’s Eve, because Brooke Baldwin trying to pronounce “Azerbaijan” after a civilian airliner gets shot down over its airspace will be a tragicomic meme the network will never be able to live down.
Things were a bit different this year and hosts weren’t at massive parties throughout the United States, as per usual. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen still anchored the night from a mostly empty Times Square, but Don Lemon was in at home with Brooke Baldwin, the CNN host he’s usually paired with for the New Year.
The thing with watching Lemon’s segments on New Year’s Eve is to spot the exact moment his BAC hits 0.15. Usually, it’s when he makes mistakes like thinking a reporter from local TV station was a former girlfriend. (That relationship took place, one assumed, before Lemon was openly gay.)
I’M NOT MICHELLE @donlemon!! I was just saying hi!!!! HAHA!!!! This is too hilarious!! Happy New Year @BrookeBCNN and Don!!!! @WWLTV #NEWYEARSFUN #MYNAMEISCARESSE #NOTMICHELLE #HappyNewYear pic.twitter.com/DtlayGJ5uF
— Caresse Jackman (@CaresseJ) January 2, 2019
That was in New Orleans in 2018. This year, the shoot was done from Lemon’s kitchen presumably so there could be frequent ministrations from the cooking sherry.
Because it was in Lemon’s kitchen, however, his blood alcohol content wasn’t exactly what people spotted. Instead, it was this:
Wait a minute Don Lemon what is this?? pic.twitter.com/d4nwgA0SLw
— Domˣ⁴ (@BeykandaForever) January 1, 2021
That’s what’s known as a “mammy jar” — a form of ceramic jar with a female blackface character, popular in the Old South for reasons you might be able to deduce.
“The mammy stereotype portrays black women as obedient maids to white families,” The New York Times’ Elisha Brown wrote in a 2019 piece.
“Like blackface, racist objects such as mammy jars perpetuate deep-rooted stereotypes about African-Americans by portraying them as docile, dumb and animated. But some white families view these objects as keepsakes, passed down through generations as relics of the past.”
“They were everyday objects which portrayed black people as ugly, different and fun to laugh at,” David Pilgrim, founder of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Michigan’s Ferris State University, told The Times.
“They were, in a word, propaganda.”
This was partially in the context of Grace Coddington, a now-former creative director for Vogue magazine, being photographed for an article in a French magazine with the ceramics in her home:
On her kitchen shelf she has a collection of racist Mammy figurines
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) February 8, 2019
The photographer for that piece, according to The Times, said he was “ashamed and embarrassed” and “sorry for my mistake and the hurt it caused.”
(It was unclear exactly why a photographer would feel it necessary to apologize for taking pictures of things that were actually in a room he was photographing.)
It wasn’t just one Twitterer noticing Lemon’s “mammy jar”:
Oh, you mean that veggie in front of the black face cookie jar? That’s a green bell pepper. https://t.co/oQWwBzavUU
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) January 1, 2021
Racy Kitsch art no? https://t.co/bHDlxaw59O
— ??Cheyenne?? (@DesertPoppy19) January 3, 2021
I thought I was the only one that saw it??♀️ https://t.co/c0Wz3w2z8a
— Conversational Lush (@AlterMiGo) January 2, 2021
Sooo a Mammy cookie Jar is NOT offensive, but a bottle of syrup is????♀️ https://t.co/kE6l5rmFsW
— Mad MAGA Momma?? (@MadMAGAMomma) January 2, 2021
The same people doing mental gymnastics to say this is normal are the same people who got Aunt Jemima erased https://t.co/U5m2f0ww7g
— Olivia Rondeau (@rondeaulivia) January 1, 2021
And how embarrassing, too, when his ideological fulminator BFF — Chris Cuomo — delivered an impassioned speech in the wake of the Megyn Kelly blackface “scandal” two years ago, in which Kelly didn’t defend blackface or don it herself but merely said it was considered acceptable when she was a child. Bam:
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) October 24, 2018
Ah, but there’s always that standby crutch: reclamation.
Get a grip. It’s reclaiming ownership and serving as a reminder of how far we have come… https://t.co/ll138npsL8
— brandon w ? (@monsieurmoscato) January 1, 2021
A reminder to whom? An insanely well-remunerated CNN host? Who’s to say others aren’t offended, particularly when someone of privilege displays this artifact which The New York Times points out “perpetuate[s] deep-rooted stereotypes about African-Americans by portraying them as docile, dumb and animated?”
Can viewers be trusted to understand context?
Expecting the hyper-woke to ask these questions of Lemon when they’d raise them in other situations is like expecting to get a unicorn as your next Uber ride, however.
Remember that when Megyn Kelly merely mentioned the specter of blackface on her show, it was canceled three days later.
Meanwhile, Democrat Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel have all actually donned blackface, but that’s been long forgotten — because they exhibit Correct Belief™.
Don’t expect anyone to pay attention to Lemon’s mammy jar or reprimand him for having a piece of racist memorabilia on his kitchen counter.
They’ll still be more concerned with how much he drank. Or, for that matter, the green bell pepper.
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