We can all be a Little Bill O’Reilly-ish Sometimes – Here’s how Not to Be

Michelle-Obama-700x525

Image of First Lady Michelle Obama, a Black woman with long dark brown hair, wearing a short sleeve blue dress and speaking into a microphone.

[CN: Discussion of slavery by a white person (me), please feel free to call me out if anything I am saying is racist or otherwise problematic.]

Bill O’Reilly recently said something racist, and in other breaking news, the sun is hot (click here to watch the video; TW for racism, discussion of slavery, and all around dumbfuckery). However, I would still like to take a moment to address his comments. Sure, O’Reilly might be an uninformed, self -important blowhard who will probably never bother to act like a decent person, but he still should not be allowed to espouse racist shit without consequence. We [white people] need to start holding fellow whites accountable for our racism rather than placing the burden solely on Black folx and other PoC to call out racism.

Additionally, while O’Reilly’s comments may have been overtly racist, the basic themes and misconceptions behind them are commonly held views of [us] white folx in general. All white people have the capacity to be racist, and we all say racist things. Just because the average white person is only subtly racist does not mean our racism is excusable.

There were many problems with what O’Reilly said, but I’ve identified a few racist behaviors that all of us white folx participate in sometimes. I think we [white people] need to learn to recognize these behaviors in ourselves and others so we can minimize our racist contributions to the world.

[In case you didn’t watch the video, Bill O’Reilly basically said the Black slaves who built the Whitehouse didn’t have have it so bad. This was said in Response to comments made by First Lady, Michelle Obama, about how she spent eight years living in a house built by slaves.]

1. Bill displayed a spectacular mix of white- and man- splaining when he affirmed Michelle Obama was “technically correct” about slaves building the Whitehouse. Of course, by “technically correct” he meant “wrong.” Thankfully, white-man Bill O’Reilly corrected Michelle Obama by saying that it wasn’t only slaves who built the Whitehouse. According to O’Reilly “free Blacks, whites, and immigrants” also helped build the Whitehouse.

I’m sure the “free Blacks” were treated just as well as the “whites.” And needing to distinguish between free and enslaved Black folx hardly indicates there might be a problem. Besides, where would we be if white men didn’t go around correcting Black woman about their own history?

PSA: [We] White people don’t get to comment on, or whitesplaine, the lived experiences of Black folx or their history!

2. Bill tried to preemptively defend his comments by explaining that he’s a history buff and can’t help talking about American history when the topic comes up. He even created a fun little quiz his viewers can take to text their knowledge. If I get 100% will I receive a free subscription to Bill O’Reilly’s latest magazine/newspaper/blog/whatever, Why White People Really Do Know More Than Everyone Else?

You know what else is a fun fact? Black slaves were raped, whipped, beaten, and tortured in ways I don’t feel particularly comfortable or qualified discussing as a white person. Slavery isn’t a fun little history factoid [we] white people get to sit around in our privilege chairs and talk about. Slavery was real and it was horrific. It’s effects are still felt by Black Americans, and we’ve done very little as a nation to make reparations.

3. When Bill so helpfully pointed out that it wasn’t only slaves who built the Whitehouse, he gave a shout out to the immigrants who also helped build the Whitehouse. He said there were “no illegal immigrants” back then because “if you could make it here you could stay.”

Putting aside the fact that the U.S. isn’t exactly known for our history of treating immigrants well who were employed for manual labor (see the history of Chinese immigrants), we were the illegal immigrants, moron! Euro-Americans were the immigrants (really, we still are) and we certainly didn’t ask the folx already living here for permission to live here, occupy the land, consume resources, and completely control the entire economy and political structure.

White Americans need to stop acting like we have a inalienable right to whatever lands, resources, etc. we stumble across. We need to acknowledge that our ancestors were invaders, not pioneers, and that we continue to maintain and benefit from imperialism. 

4. Finally, STOP trying to make slavery okay! Seriously! Knock it off! Like, wtf is wrong with you?! Of all the things people disagree on, the immorality of slavery shouldn’t be one of them.

 

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