Bill O’Reilly recently added himself to the list of commentators who made remarks about President Obama’s speech on the Trayvon Martin case and George Zimmerman acquittal. O’Reilly gave Obama credit for “addressing the race issue,” but then proceeded to lecture the president about how he is incapable of correcting the real problems in the African American community.
“The sad truth is that from the president on down, our leadership has no clue, no clue at all about how to solve problems within the Black community,” O’Reilly said. “And many are frightened to even broach the issue. That’s because race hustlers and the grievance industry have intimidated the so-called ‘conversation,’ turning any valid criticism of African-American culture into charges of racial bias.”
O’Reilly proceeded to say that Trayvon Martin was being profiled by George Zimmerman because of the clothes he was wearing, not his skin color.
“It was wrong for Zimmerman to confront Martin based on his appearance,” he said. “But the culture that we have in this country does lead to criminal profiling because young Black American men are so often involved in crime.”
O’Reilly further attacked the African American community by pointing to “The disintegration of the African-American family.” He also mentioned that “73% of all Black babies are born out of wedlock.”
Even more interesting is that O’Reilly connects the president’s inability to help the Black community to the proliferation of “gangsta culture” that glorifies violence and irresponsible behavior.
Since my disagreements with O’Reilly a few years ago, I’ve refused to appear on the Fox News network. I did two appearances on Fox Business, but only because I have modest respect for John Stossel and wanted to discuss the exploitation of college athletes. Beyond that, I’ve turned down every appearance request I’ve received since that time.
I also cringe whenever I see Black commentators being forced to cater to one of the most racist media outlets in American history, only because they have money and an audience. I personally believe that we give credibility to the beast by feeding it with our attention. The truth is that we risk looking weak and desperate when we allow bigoted Whites to put us in situations that they themselves would never accept. Allowing racists to put us on the defensive is one symptom of our continued second-class citizenship.
With that said, Bill O’Reilly exists in America for a reason, the same way certain bacteria can only survive in a moldy refrigerator. He thrives in American media because O’Reilly is a living manifestation of every angry, uneducated racist in our country. He connects to the misguided White man the way Beyonce relates to 31-year old Black women. There are a lot of angry, ignorant, arrogant Americans in this country, and those are the people who tune into Fox News.
O’Reilly is not only an enemy of progress who seeks to destroy the country he claims to love, he also fails to understand that it is White men like himself who create the things that he and other White men seem to fear.
O’Reilly cheered the death of Trayvon Martin because for him, most urban Black males are dastardly, frightening beasts, unworthy of the decency that one would give a fellow human being. While a man like O’Reilly would shudder to imagine his own children dodging bullets on the way to school or rotting in prison for minor crimes, he somehow believes that this is the life that Black men CHOOSE to live, no different from the way he knows that his dog enjoys being in the backyard, covered in mud.
Few intelligent people would disagree with the statistics that O’Reilly spews about the struggles of the Black community: Violence is out of control, too many of our families are broken down, we are filling up the penitentiaries, and our economic hurdles are monumental. But where O’Reilly gets off the bus is when the words “personal responsibility” come into the mix.
You see, White men like O’Reilly are the ones who push to supply guns onto the Black market that young Black teenagers use to kill each other. If they were giving these guns to White kids with no jobs or education, they’d be killing each other too. Men like O’Reilly are the ones who started the War on Drugs, creating a mass incarceration epidemic that has been no less destructive than the N*azi holocaust. It’s hard to hold families together when you’re giving fathers and mothers 100 year prison sentences for crimes that White college students commit every single day of the week.
White men like O’Reilly are the ones who profited from the 400-year legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, which created the vast economic disparities built from Whites systematically stealing nearly every penny of wealth from Black families over the course of several hundred years. They also run the media outlets like Clear Channel and Interscope Records, who make millions feeding poisonous music into the brains of young Black children before they even learn how to read. Most decent Black people would never allow an out-of-control gremlin like Lil Wayne to influence our impressionable children: Lil Wayne is propped up by corporate America.
When these points are brought up on his show, O’Reilly cuts to a commercial. That’s his right, since it’s his show, which is why I wish Black people would refuse to allow themselves to be swallowed by the Lion’s Den of Lies and Half-truths. Bill the Bigot knows what time it is, but similar to other men like him, he refuses to look at his watch.
I could go on and on, but I’ve got better things to do. O’Reilly represents the very worst of what America has to offer, like the man who injects his wife with a disease and then asks her why she keeps choosing to get sick. But White privilege gives him the opportunity to live in this hypocritical fantasy world, since men like O’Reilly are good at holding everyone accountable but themselves.
Actually, I don’t blame Bill O’Reilly for being the kind of bigot who lies in the tradition of Bull Conner, Adolph Hitler and every other person who’s hated black people. I blame the rest of us who somehow give uneducated men like O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh the credibility necessary to shape public discourse. The same way that a fire needs oxygen to grow, O’Reilly exists because people believe in him. But like any other lie, phobia or fairytale, he would stop existing if we simply convince our minds to let him disappear.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.”