Higher Learning with Van Lathan, Rachel Lindsay, and guest Emmannuel Acho

FS1’s Emmanuel Acho has been no stranger to heated public arguments in recent years. He found himself in the midst of another one on Friday following an appearance on the Ringer’s Higher Learning podcast last week.

Acho appeared on the January 20 episode of the program, which is hosted by Van Lathan Jr. and Rachel Lindsay, the latter of which worked with Acho at ESPN and had advocated for him to be a host of The Bachelor, which she had been a contestant on. The Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man host ended up having a very uncomfortable conversation with Lathan and Lindsay, specifically over the state of race in America and the way that Acho discussed issues on his own program, focusing his efforts on white audiences over Black ones. Acho defended his style by saying that he had specific insight into conversations around race because of his background.

“When white people say, ‘Well, racism doesn’t exist,’ I know why they say that,” said Acho on the show. “Because I’ve been in them rooms when they’re saying that,” Acho said in the clip. “When I kick it with black people and they’re like, ‘All white people are racist,’ I know why you’re saying that. All the while, I have the privilege and luxury of not having generational trauma [of slavery in America], because my parents were born in Nigeria. So my method is removing some of the sting, because I don’t have that sting, and trying to deliver it in a manner that people can receive it.”

Lathan said that offended him and offered a response.

“Let me tell you why what you just said offends me,” said Lathan. “You’re saying that you didn’t have generational trauma, and you didn’t mean it this way, but you saying [that] in some way meaning that your delivery method to white people is going to be either more effective or more sanitized is, to me, dangerous, and let me tell you why.

“Everybody that you just named, and what you’re talking about, does what they do in different ways. I don’t think that any of the things that they do are necessarily harmful, but what I could say, is a black man, a prominent one, acting as an emotional butler for white people, and serving them the most milquetoast, un-spicy, unseasoned brand of racial discourse and accountability possible, could definitely be harmful. Like, we’re fighting for our lives, and to me, having a conversation like that, at that particular time, it’s not that it’s a different method. Everybody has a different method. It’s that it’s the wrong method.”

The two continued to spar for the rest of Acho’s appearance and it seemed that both sides were pretty dug in on their thoughts.

The conversation continued on social media into the following week, with Twitter user MindThePit saying on Thursday “Emmanuel’s approach was to suggest he’s better equipped than African Americans to speak because he doesn’t have generational trauma as a Nigerian. Nigeria’s history with slavery began in the 15th century and it was colonised by the Britishers in 1884. Make it make sense.”

That caught the attention of Acho, who responded to that tweet, putting the onus on Lathan for how the conversation played out.

“I made no such suggestion, that was the reach the host of the show made and led the listener to (at the 39:45 mark),” said Acho. “I stated my lineage to allow understanding for my predisposition to be *less* hostile. It was giving the listener insight as to why. Not implying I’m better.”

That led to Lathan responding and quote-tweeting a response that included footage from the podcast and asking for further clarification.

“[Emmanuel Acho] I’m not sure what you intended to convey by stating your Nigerian background frees you of “generational trauma” and takes the “sting” out of your convos with white people. But it feels like [you] purposefully othered yourself from the descendants of slaves. Why?”

Acho then responded by accusing Lathan and the show of a “public setup” and that he felt misled by the topics that would be discussed. He also shared a screenshot purportedly of the email he received before he appeared.

“Van, the entire conversation was a public setup,” said Acho. “Your producers lured me into committing by misleading me about the topics of ‘conversation.’ You manipulated my relationship w/ Rachel in order to publicly air your grievances as opposed to preparing me for a productive dialogue.”

Lathan didn’t have much sympathy for Acho, saying that he should have been prepared to discuss and defend his opinions regardless of what he was expecting.

“I don’t give a fuck about any of that,” said Lathan. “Sincerely. If ur not prepared to discuss things you’ve said publicly then you shouldn’t do interviews. I haven’t posted any clips until now, and that’s BECAUSE you’re Rachel’s friend. You said I reached, I posted proof I didn’t.”

Acho then pushed back on Lathan’s “anger” and how that was “doing more harm than good” in conversations such as these.

And Lathan confirmed that he was indeed angry with the state of things and that his anger was justified.

“Emmanuel. I am angry,” said Lathan. “I am angry that the police continue to kill. Im angry that wealth is hoarded, I’m also angry that suit-wearing charlatans like yourself have found a way to make millions off the back of other people’s trauma. I’ll stop being angry when u stop being weak.”

It appears that the war of words ends there, at least for now. But if the ongoing Twitter conversations around the episode are any indication, there’s more discussion and reactions to be had.

[Higher Learning, Van Lathan, Emmanuel Acho]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.