This past week has been full of a myriad of reactions to Tomi Lahren’s interactions with both The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah and The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne Tha God. Too many of these opinions have been largely one-sided, leaning heavily towards either Lahren or Noah/Charlamagne. Here are mine.
As a matter of background, Tomi Lahren is a 24 year old conservative media personality. She currently hosts her own show, Tomi , on TheBlaze TV, and previously hosted On Point with Tomi Lahren on One America News Network. Described on TheBlaze’s website as a “liberal agitator… taking on the left,” she’s received quite a bit of backlash from said “left” over the past year for her thoughts on Colin Kaepernick’s protest, Beyoncé’s Black Panther themed Super Bowl performance, Jesse William’s powerful BET Award speech, and perhaps most controversially, the entire Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Trevor Noah, of course, is the host of The Daily Show, having taken over for Jon Stewart back in September of 2015, and Charlamagne Tha God is the popular co-host of Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club. To say that The Daily Show and The Breakfast Club lean towards “liberal/left” viewpoints and content, while Tomi leans “conservative/right,” is admittedly an oversimplification, and one that bothers. But for the purpose of this entry, we’ll work within those parameters.
Lahren Debates Charlamagne on Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Performance
That said, for better (unlikely) or worse (more likely), the aforementioned myriad of opinions about Tomi, Trevor, and Charlamagne have (seemingly) largely been constrained to picking a side, or more accurately, defending the side with which one identifies and represents. I say seemingly because I don’t want to rule out the possibility that this is just what I personally have come across in my own experiences. I recognize, despite supreme confidence and self-worth that I am, alas, but one man. One man’s experiences and opinions cannot fully capture the larger scope of what’s really going on these streets, err, sociopolitical environment. And at day’s end, the sentiment behind that last statement, ill-fated attempt at humor notwithstanding, is exactly what what troubles me about Tomi-Trevor-Charlamagne-gate. Whether it’s folks on the “right” asserting Tomi destroyed Noah, or folks on the “left” proclaiming the opposite (when neither was literally nor figuratively “destroyed”), there doesn’t appear to be enough willingness to listen, understand, and bridge gaps. And I get it.
I get that likening BLM to the KKK (as Tomi’s done) can for many people, many reasonable, intelligent people I might add, disqualify anything and everything else that comes out of that person’s mouth. I understand the same can occur when cries of racism and unyielding ignorance are tossed around like a beach ball at the ballpark. People get pissed. People become frustrated for and exhausted from having to defend their position all the time. Sadly, folks naturally pick a side and vehemently stick to it. What I wish more people would do is listen. I wish more people would engage in meaningful discourse and attempt to understand each other, however difficult that may be. If nothing else, I wish that people would stop criticizing those who are actively listening and trying to engage in meaningful conversations with the other side.
Not everyone is going to want to try to listen, understand, educate, and bridge gaps. I can understand that, and won’t subscribe to the notion of “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” in that regard. Some people want/need their privacy and just want to be left alone. That’s fine. However, if you openly shit on the efforts of those that are trying to actively listen, understand, educate, and bridge gaps, then you are absolutely part of the problem. As reported and shown below, both Noah and Charlamagne Tha God amicably met with Lahren in the wake of her appearance on The Daily Show. Too many were critical of these interactions.
Among those who had negative reactions, HOT 97 radio personalities Ebro and Peter Rosenberg. As much as I admire, appreciate, and respect what those guys do, they come across as petty and problematic in their criticism of both Noah and Charlamagne’s interaction with Lahren. Declaring that Charlamagne is trying too hard to appease the (white) mainstream and asserting that he’s no good for the (Hip Hop) culture doesn’t help. I don’t know Ebro and Rosenberg. I do know The Breakfast Club is their competition. I don’t know that their comments and tweets weren’t more a strategy for ratings than how they actually feel. I suppose anything is possible. But at day’s end, whatever the reasons behind it, in my humble opinion that line of thinking is counter-productive. Both Noah and Charlamagne should be applauded for their outreach and willingness to interact with Lahren, in spite of her opposing viewpoints.
They both have had debates with the woman. Those debates have certainly left no doubt that their opinions on given matters differ drastically. Yet they’re able to set those differences aside to engage in less confrontational, more low-key interactions. My hope is that in those interactions (at the risk of beating a dead horse), active listening, understanding, meaningful discourse, and an attempt to educate and bridge gaps are taking place. As Charlamagne notes speaking to his defense of meeting with Lahren (as shown below), talking about people is okay but talking directly to people is more useful. It’s a salient point. It’ll take greater minds than mine to “fix” our sociopolitical climate, but if we can’t even talk to and listen each other about our differences, we’re doomed. That’s the only way we’re ever going to find commonalities and God willing actually make some progress.
That said, while I understand that one’s background, life experiences, biases, etc… greatly contribute to one’s stance on overt and systemic racism, police brutality, politics and our president-elect, and the direction that our society should take, my fundamental issue with how (again, seemingly) too many people’s approach to all of that is the tendency to pigeonhole self into a mutually exclusive, “one or the other” mentality, with little to no regard for a middle ground. As I alluded to earlier, that’s what bothers me about the very parameters I set forth for this post. “Left” vs. “Right” – “Liberal” vs. “Conservative” etc… The notion that these confines are simply too narrow to best capture and deal with our differences, wants, and needs as a people is nothing new, but it seems to get swept under the rug entirely too often. People become inflamed because Tomi Lahren said this and Noah said that. Then people get mad because Lahren and Noah had a sit-down over drinks because, you know, God forbid they try to work out some of their differences and learn from each other.
What Tomi, Noah, and Charlamagne did this past week, putting aside their biases to engage with someone at the other end of the spectrum, is exactly what we need. If nothing else, it’s a step in the right direction. To be clear, that’s neither a defense nor an indictment of any their personal and/or political views on any of the previously mentioned hot topics.
What it is, is both a call for discourse and an appreciation for their efforts, however disingenuous, complex, and troublesome some may opine those efforts to be. The way I see it, it’s a start. As such, Noah, Charlamagne, and yes, Lahren as well, should be commended for that, and encouraged to do more of it. It’s just what the doctor ordered.
Tomi and Charlamagne
Tomi & Noah
The Breakfast Club Discusses Charlamagne’s Meeting with Lahren