Don Lemon on his New Book—This Is the Fire, What I Say to My Friends About Racism

As we wrap up Black History Month, Elliman Insider sat down with CNN Prime Time News Anchor Don Lemon, engaged to Douglas Elliman agent Tim Malone, to ask him about his new book This Is the Fire, What I Say to My Friends About Racism. We learned everything from how the experience of writing and researching has changed him to what he hopes readers will take away from his book.

Elliman Insider: What made you decide to write this book and how long did it take you?

Don Lemon: I had been wanting to write a book on the subject for quite some time, but it just wasn’t the right moment. George Floyd’s death on camera at the hands of a police officer, however, was the moment. The ensuing unrest was the right moment. Many of my White friends, colleagues and strangers began reaching out to me asking what to do, how should they react, should they reach out to their Black friends and so on. They said they didn’t have the vocabulary to broach the conversation with anyone, especially their kids. This book gives you the tools to do that. That’s why the subtitle is “What I Say To My Friends About Racism.”

EI: You have a powerful platform as a prime-time news anchor, guiding so many viewers through current events. Do you view your career as a calling?

DL: I do view it as a calling. My mom tells stories about what an inquisitive child I was, far behind the normal “why” that most kids ask. She says I would just go over and talk to people at restaurants. While she would implore I return to our table, my dad would say, “Don’t teach him to be afraid of people.” I’ve always been curious.

EI: What is it like to speak out against racism through the form of writing? What kinds of emotions came up as you were completing this book?

DL: I’ve lived long enough to speak with authority and autonomy. I do it every night on CNN. While I am grateful to I have that platform, a book offers an opportunity to reach different audiences who may not watch cable news. I cried a lot while writing this book because I had to relive some very painful experiences in my life. You can hear a lot of that emotion in the audiobook. Saying it out loud into a microphone was tough. I hope by sharing some of my pain will help others realize that they too can overcome anything, including their own unconscious biases and racism if they just face it head on.

EI: Who do you think would gain most from reading this book and why?

DL: White people. Hey, I’m honest if I’m anything. However, I do speak to different audiences. Ultimately, it’s not incumbent upon Black people to solve racism much as it’s not incumbent upon women to solve sexism.

DL: Through researching the book I learned a great deal about how American history has been whitewashed. I’ve always felt like an American. Now, however, I am a prouder American.

EI: You’re engaged to Douglas Elliman agent Timothy Malone. How has Timothy been supportive throughout the process of you writing this book?

DL: Tim has afforded me the space, the freedom and the support I needed to complete this project. He knows how passionate I am about this book. He has been unwavering in his commitment to our relationship and his commitment to remain open and receptive on issues of racism and bias. He knows that one day he will have a Biracial child who the world will see as Black.

EI: If someone were to take one thing away from your book what would it be?

DL: I want people to stop approaching conversations around race and racism because they perceive them as “difficult” or “tough.” All anyone needs are the tools and the language to facilitate the conversation. This book will help with that tremendously. 

Pre-order Don’s book today.

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