Elon Musk Says We Must Move on From the ‘Constant Subject’ of Racism in Polarizing Don Lemon Interview

By: Lauren | Published: Mar 29, 2024

Elon Musk is famous for his several wildly successful companies, such as Tesla, SpaceX, and X. But he’s infamous for his mildly inappropriate, politically incorrect, or completely offensive comments. 

In a recent interview with Don Lemon, Musk made several statements that many people around the world would consider at least insensitive, if not outright unacceptable. Including one comment in which Musk said, “We should not make [racism] a constant subject.”

The Don Lemon Show

Since 1996, Don Lemon has been a successful television journalist for networks such as FOX, NGC, and CNN. Now, Lemon has his own program, “The Don Lemon Show,” in which he discusses current events and politics and interviews some of the world’s most influential people.

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Don Lemon speaks to the camera on “The Don Lemon Show”

Source: @DonLemon/YouTube

Just last week, Lemon interviewed Elon Musk for a full hour, and while he certainly wasn’t shy about asking the tough questions, he was evasive, awkward, and, at times, quite offensive. 

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The Elon Musk Interview Everyone’s Talking About

The full interview is available on Lemon’s YouTube page, and within 72 hours, it already had 100,000 views. People were both curious and then quite shocked by Musk’s answers to Lemon’s questions.

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Screenshot of Elon Musk pausing before answering a question on “The Don Lemon Show”

Source: @DonLemon/YouTube

One of the topics Lemon focused on during the interview was the billionaire’s many comments on his X profile regarding DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies in American corporations.

Musk Talks About DEI Programs With Don Lemon

On January 10, 2024, Musk wrote on X, “Do you want to fly in an airplane where they prioritized DEI hiring over your safety? That’s actually happening.” To further his point, Musk added a screenshot of the company’s annual incentive plan, which explains that it plans to focus on DEI in 2022.

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A Boeing airplane prepares for takeoff

Source: iStock

In the interview, Lemon addresses the controversial post, first explaining to Musk that Boeing admitted to the public that the door malfunctioned due to a mechanical issue, not because of pilot error. Boeing also noted that the pilot did, in fact, land the plane safely.

Musk Skirted Around Lemon’s Questions

After a brief explanation of the situation, Lemon asked Musk directly how he felt about DEI programs. Musk replied vaguely he believes all people should be hired “according to their skills and integrity, and that’s it.”

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Elon Musk rests his head on his hands during a press event

Source: Flickr

Because of Musk’s lackluster answer to the important topic, Lemon moved on to ask the multi-billionaire about a racial discrimination lawsuit at his electric vehicle company, Tesla, last month.

Racial Discrimination at Tesla

A former Black Tesla employee who worked as an elevator operator filed a lawsuit against the mega-company for racial discrimination last year. He told the court his coworkers made him feel physically unsafe, told him to “go back to Africa,” and that the company refused to prevent the racist harassment. 

Exterior of a Tesla showroom

Source: iStock

Tesla finally settled out of court with the former employee for an undisclosed amount. But when Lemon asked Musk about the lawsuit, he simply said, “If there [are] over 20,000 people in one building, is anyone gonna behave perfectly? No. Did I see any situations that I thought were improper? I did not.”

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Musk’s Problem With DEI Programs

The conversation segued back to DEI, and Musk told Lemon that his biggest problem with focusing on diversity in the workplace is that, “Society blames a lot of things on [racism].”

A group of diverse work colleagues listen to a presentation

Source: Freepik

The businessman then said, “Trying to make everything a race issue is divisive and corrosive to society,” and that it’s simply “unfair.” While Musk didn’t say who it was unfair towards, it seems unlikely he meant women or people of color. 

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“We Need to Move on” From Racism

Still talking about racism in America, Musk said, “We should not make this a constant subject. We need to move on.”

Elon Musk smiles at the camera during an event

Source: Shutterstock

Then clarified by saying, “We as a country should move beyond questions of race and gender. We should treat people as individuals and base our opinion of them on their characters and skills.”

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Everyone Has Been a Slave

Musk then told Don Lemon, “If you study history broadly, everyone was a slave.” A comment which Lemon clearly didn’t appreciate. 

A hand holds a digital illustration of planet Earth against a blue sky

Source: Freepik

And while, in some vague way, part of this statement could be construed as true, it has nothing to do with the reality of Black slavery in America and the repercussions from it that Black Americans are still facing today.

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The Problems With Musk’s Comments

When listening to Musk’s interview or even reading his words, it may seem as though the multibillionaire is saying something positive. Yes, of course, we should treat people as individuals, and companies should hire based on a person’s skill and personal characteristics. 

Protestor holds a cardboard sign that reads “Racism is a Pandemic”

Source: Shutterstock

But as Don Lemon explained, “I don’t think anyone would disagree with that,” but “that’s not happening.” The USA is still rampant with racism, especially in the workplace, and saying that the country needs to “move on” is directly minimizing the experience of millions of Americans of color. 

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Ignoring Racism Won’t Make It Go Away

The majority of Americans understand that there is racism throughout the country and that ignoring it will not make it go away

BLM protestors hold signs that read “Black Lives Matter”

Source: Britannica

Musk’s comments felt extremely insensitive (to say the least) to the plight of Black Americans and all people of color living in the United States. And at this point in time, this kind of ignorance isn’t just offensive, it is truly dangerous.

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America (and Elon Musk) Needs to Wake Up

In today’s tumultuous world, it’s more important than ever that Americans (including Elon Musk) wake up to the reality around them.

Silhouette of Elon Musk in front of the logo for his company X

Source: Shutterstock

Racism is very much a real and current issue throughout the country. Denying it won’t make it go away. In fact, the only way to combat this problem is through conversation, change in legislation, and policies like DEI programs.  

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