O'Reilly and The 'Truth' about White Privilege

If you have not seen Bill O'Reilly's Talking Points memo on white privilege...

So let me see if I can follow this logic.

Tuesday nights ‘memo’ topic was “the truth about white privilege” which was being debated as a concept among fox anchors O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly. Kelly, just the night before read him countless statistics, not least of which had to do with the under performing schools in predominately black communities as well as the higher likelihood of police harassment. Tuesday’s topic, however, was not actually about white privilege but about the truth that “We at Talking points (white male conservative caricatures) do not believe in white privilege”

That explicit disbelief is stated clearly from the very beginning even as they acknowledge that there is “no question that African Americans have a much harder time succeeding in our society that whites.” So while it is clear that African Americans are disadvantaged to the point that even the O’Reilly Factor will acknowledge it, they insist that it is education and culture which is to blame.

To prove that it is education and culture rather than race (or rather than systematic and structural racism favoring white males) O’Reilly points to our dear Asian brothers and sisters as if to say "Just look how great this other racial minority is doing!" He rolls out a few statistics to show that Asians have less unemployment, make more money ( if median income even matters, which remember just means the middle number….no matter how high the top half gets or how poor the bottom half ), have a higher graduation rate, and a stronger family structure. He points out that Asian Americans often face disadvantages too, language barriers for instance. His point is almost dependent on the fact that Asians also face challenges in this country but that they are somehow able to rise above those challenges and succeed, even more than white people as his stats attempt to demonstrate. His point, “Every American has to overcome the obstacles they face.” He does make the “one caveat” that “the Asian American experience has not been nearly as tough as the African American experience. Slavery is unique, and it harmed black Americans to a degree that is still being felt today.”

So what I am hearing is that every American has to take personal responsibility and overcome the obstacles they face. One need look no further than what he is giving you to see the reality of white privilege. He is acknowledging that not all of us have the same obstacles. Asian Americans, as he has just pointed out, have not had things nearly as tough as African Americans. Asian Americans, as a people though, have had to face challenges in this nation. The white American experience has not been nearly as tough as the Asian American experience, which has not been nearly as tough as the African American experience.

What a privilege to belong to a group of people, set apart by our skin color, to have an experience that is so much different, and not nearly as tough as my black and brown brothers and sisters. If every American has to overcome the obstacles they face, and I don’t face as many obstacles, isn't that a privilege? An advantage? Wouldn't it seem that a Black counterpart who accomplishes that same things that I do would have had to work tremendously harder given the obstacles that they face.

Wouldn't it seem strange then, after getting a head start or an advantage in the game, to turn around an berate those who have to work harder to make it half as far? It would almost be like an abuse of my privilege. And wouldn't it be even worse to deny, to the face of everyone who clearly see’s those advantages that I have, those very privileges? To take that privilege and couple it with such judgment and prejudice must be the very definition of racism.

There have been TV and radio personalities fired for making explicitly racist comments and rightfully so. What is baffling to me is that this kind of venom and implicit racism that denies its privilege while at the same moment abusing it at the expense of others (meaning black and brown people as well as everyone who listens to and believes this bigoted and fallacious shit) is permitted to persist and be broadcast for profit.

We are woefully damaged as a nation in terms of racial equality and fox news is a cheerleader for our particular vices and societal infections. O’Reilly and others speak to their audience like that little devil on their shoulders, bolstering their prejudices, which when played out by way of their privileges only further and deepen our collective racism.

What's ironic about this whole thing is that it is precisely that privilege of Bill O’Reilly that makes it possible for him to say “we don’t believe in white privilege.” He has the freedom to be ignorant of privilege and get by in this world. It is white privilege that makes it possible to deny white privilege.

Today help me to diagnose and justly treat the ignorance in others but first Dear Lord help me to purge the ignorance in me.


  1. So help me out here, how does one account for our black and brown brothers and sisters who have beat the odds and become 'successful? ' How do we account for those of color who keep saying...stay in school, learn to speak, pull your pants up and take responsibility for yourself? This from a 'white privileged' girl who used to go to school with cardboard in her shoes...

    1. Not too sure how cardboard in your shoes is relevant. It seems that perhaps you think that being poor equates to an absence of white privilege. You are correct that there is much privilege associated with being rich or well off but you are mistaken if you somehow equate that with the privilege afforded you by the color of your skin. You see, when you where a student, and poor, people didn't look at your worn out shoes and ascribe it to your race. When you fell behind in school they didn't consider you just another statistic. When you misbehaved, authorities tended to be understanding and give you another chance. Also, we can all be pretty sure that most of your teachers looked like you. If you did get stopped in the hall in school or pulled over as you have been driving since, you can be pretty sure it wasn't because of your race. (the exception to that is when white people get pulled over in black neighborhoods because they are either there to buy drugs or they "need help" so the officers have demonstrated to me) Also you are never asked to speak for all of your race. When you get upset somewhere and ask to speak to whoever is in charge, you naturally assume you will be talking to a white person. Your privilege has nothing to do with money or the cardboard in your shoes and has everything to do with the climate and culture in which you exist. It was made for you in as much as you are white and it was not made for you as a female. Maybe it would help for you to reflect of the ways you have been dis-empowered in this world because of your gender. e.g. men speaking over you, dismissing your opinions, disrespecting your emotions, responding to another man differently that they did to you when you said the exact same thing... maybe it will help in understanding privilege. For the ways that has been true for you I am sorry and would like to learn to stand with you to demand better just as I am committed to standing with black and brown communities who have been similarly dismissed, dis-empowered and disenfranchised.

      So, as to the other part of your question, when black people get all conservative and/or prophetic about the behavior of their people, there are a few things that may be happening. They are, perhaps, a voice of reason and righteousness calling the best out of their community in love OR perhaps they are a voice or assimilation and status quo. Only life, context and history could make this clear. I can say this with some degree of certainty though, if they sound like Bill O'Reilly they have internalized our societies racism as a self hatred and embrace fully our bigoted and prejudicial judgement of disenfranchised people. They have been so overcome by this systematic racism that they have internalized the logic and the lie of it so that it is functioning in them like a possession. That being said many leaders and lovers of the black community who recognize the challenges and history of their people will still call them to stand up strong, have courage, educate themselves (often apart from our schools which neglect the truth of their history and legacy), learn to speak (truth to power), 'pull up their pants' or lace up their boots and take responsibility for their own community. You know the black panther party for self defense is an amazing example of such courage, strength and personal responsibility. People like Bill O'Reilly do not like or want strong black leaders who challenge and/or empower their communities. They want black defenders of the status quo who will say, right along with him, that there is nothing wrong with the current arrangement. To defend the status quo in terms of racial (or economic) equality in this nation, is to abuse the poor and oppressed. It is to misuse whatever voice, privilege or power you may have. If that defender of the status quo is black, then for them it is to betray their own people in an attempt to win some petty favor from the powerful. It would be a disgrace.

  2. Russell Brand's Trews show discussed this same episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJbghRBfVs4&list=UUswH8ovgUp5Bdg-0_JTYFNw


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