During a Monday edition of “CNN Tonight,“ the panel discussed Harris’ reaction to critics who’ve questioned her blackness since she entered the race for president last month. The California Democrat, who was born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, has likened the attacks to those against Barack Obama during his run for president, and accused critics of trying to sow “hate and division.”
Ryan, a veteran White House reporter agreed, saying she didn’t want to get into such stereotypes.
“Number one, what does ‘Black enough’ mean?” she began. “[Harris] is a Black woman. She is a mixed-race woman. When you see her, you see her Blackness. But she is also South Asian … and her dad is Jamaican. She is a Black woman.”
Cutting in, Lemon contended the issue was never about Harris being “Black enough,” but was more so about whether she shares the experience of American descendants of slaves, also known as “ADOS.”
“No, no, no, no. I don’t think you hear what people are saying,” he told Ryan. “To want the distinction to say is she African-American, or is she Black or is she … whatever — there is nothing wrong with that. There is a difference between being African-American and being Black.”
Lemon argued that all Harris had to say is that she is Black, not African-American.
Ryan countered the assertion by pointing to Harris’ lineage, arguing that many enslaved Africans landed in Jamaica “and all these other Caribbean islands.”
“So she could indeed be African-American mixed with others, but she is a Black woman,” she said.
“Jamaica is not America,” Lemon said, interrupting her again. “Jamaica did not come out of Jim Crow. I’m just saying.”
“She was born here in America!” Ryan shot back. “So, let’s talk about [Sen.] Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz was born in Canada and his father —”
“This isn’t about Ted Cruz,” Lemon butted in once more, accusing his guest of changing the subject.
“It’s hypocrisy! I’m not changing the subject!” a flustered Ryan shouted. “I don’t know what you want from me.”
The two continued yelling over one another before another panelist chimed in.
Lemon eventually drove home his point, making sure to emphasize the difference between the historical experiences African-Americans and Black people who have immigrated to the United States.
“You’re missing the point,” he told Ryan. “People are asking [Harris] if you are African-American, if you are someone who came out of Jim Crow, out of American slavery. Are you [a] descendant out of that? That’s all I’m saying.”
Watch more in the video below.