September 08, 2014

Fox News's white privilege problem

Privileged White Guys On Fox News Agree: There's No Such Thing As White Privilege

By Nick WingBill O'Reilly

In his segment, O'Reilly "white-splained" how it was that "African-Americans have a much harder time succeeding in our society than whites do," even when, according to him, engrained racial privilege doesn't exist. It's the fault of black America and its leaders, O'Reilly said.

“Instead of preaching a cultural revolution, the leadership provides excuses for failure. The race hustlers blame white privilege, an unfair society, a terrible country," he said. "So the message is, it’s not your fault if you abandon your children, if you become a substance abuser, if you are a criminal. No, it’s not your fault; it’s society’s fault. That is the big lie that is keeping some African-Americans from reaching their full potential. Until personal responsibility and a cultural change takes place, millions of African-Americans will struggle.”

New York Times columnist Charles Blow responded to this and O'Reilly's other claims in an article on Thursday, charging that the Fox News host's "underlying logic is that blacks are possessed of some form of racial pathology or self-destructive racial impulses, that personal responsibility and systemic inequity are separate issues and not intersecting ones."

Tucker Carlson

In May, Carlson brought on a guest to back up his contention that it's "racist" to claim that white people experience a distinct privilege. His guest was Kurt Schlichter, who at the time had recently written a column boiling down the concept of white privilege to “me being better than you.”

“All of us have worked, all of us have achieved something,” Schlichter claimed, arguing that he had become a partner at a law firm due to his hard work, not his skin color. “That is how we measure character, that’s how we measure what the value of a person is, not some arbitrary category imposed by some ponytailed grad students who have taken too many gender study seminars.”

In their interview, Carlson and Schlichter both appear to misunderstand the concept of white privilege. White people are not expected to feel guilty about their privilege or apologize for it, nor are they expected to credit it as the sole or even most important factor in one's personal successes. But it's outrageous to pretend that race (or class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., for that matter) doesn't play a factor in every person's experience, and that society doesn't offer particular privilege to those who more closely resemble the nation's mostly white power-brokers. Apparently, these Fox News anchors have no problem playing make believe.
Bill O’Reilly and White Privilege

By Charles M. BlowNo, Mr. O’Reilly, it is statements like this one that make you the race hustler. The underlying logic is that blacks are possessed of some form of racial pathology or self-destructive racial impulses, that personal responsibility and systemic inequity are separate issues and not intersecting ones.

This is the false dichotomy that chokes to death any real accountability and honesty. Systemic anti-black bias doesn’t dictate personal behavior, but it can certainly influence and inform it. And personal behavior can reinforce people’s belief that their biases are justified. So goes the cycle.

But at the root of it, we can’t expect equality of outcome while acknowledging inequality of environments.

Only a man bathing in privilege would be blind to that.
Conservatives demonize minorities

The demonization of Michael Brown is the latest in a long line of attacks against black victims of violence. The most famous case in recent times is, of course, that of Trayvon Martin.

In other words, the responses of O'Reilly et al. to Ferguson are the tip of the iceberg. They're part of the ideological drive to maintain white power and privilege.

Here's a deeper look at what conservatives are "thinking":

Fox News is tearing us apart: Race baiting and divisiveness hits disgusting new low

Night after night, Fox News doubles down on hate. Whether George Zimmerman, Bundy or Ferguson, it just gets worse

By Paul Rosenberg
Their only recourse is to insist that it’s not really racism, because folks like Al Sharpton and Barack Obama are the “real racists”—you know, folks who notice race and say something about it.

This was a point made by Kevin Drum the next day (“The Conservative Agenda in the Trayvon Martin Case”). Drum first noted that “A week ago, the worst I could say about right-wing reaction to the Martin case was that conservatives were studiously ignoring it,” but that things had suddenly changed. It wasn’t surprising that conservatives had been silent, he noted, as there was no obvious conservative principle at stake in the shooting of Trayvon Martin:

There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says neighborhood watch captains should be able to shoot anyone who looks suspicious. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says local police forces should barely even pretend to investigate the circumstances of a shooting. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says young black men shouldn’t wear hoodies.

And yet, he noted “as Dave Weigel points out today, the conservative media is now defending the shooter, George Zimmerman, with an almost messianic zeal,” most notably working itself up into a frenzy over a faked—even debunked—photograph of Trayvon as gangsta. So, clearly there must be some principle at stake, but what is it? Drum then quotes from an L.A. Times Op-Ed by Jonah Goldberg, explaining that we shouldn’t care about Martin’s death because it was “a statistical outlier”—more blacks are killed by blacks than by any other race. And this brings Drum an epiphany:

Quite so. And that, it turns out, is the conservative principle that’s actually at stake here: convincing us all that traditional racism no longer really exists (just in “pockets,” says Goldberg) and that it’s whites who are the real racial victims in today’s America.

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