Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is racking up serious honesty points for telling Tavis Smiley that the “white Republican power structure” (or as everyone else calls it, the Republican Party) is “afraid of black people,” but as refreshingly obvious as that sentiment is, the context of O’Reilly’s admission is more of the same garbage he’s always peddling. In the clip that’s getting all the attention, O’Reilly begins by disagreeing with Smiley that Republicans are apathetic about black voters, then drops his “admission”:
“I think they are afraid. I think they are afraid of black people.”
“The white Republican power structure is afraid of black Americans. They don’t know how to treat them, they don’t know how to speak them, they don’t know anything about the culture, and they don’t want to be called a racist bigot, so they stay away.”
“They figure it’s not worth the trouble, the few votes they might siphon off, to get involved with it. That’s how they feel. I know that for a fact.”
Let’s set aside the fact that “they figure it’s not worth the trouble” is the very definition of “apathetic,” and even the comical obviousness of his setup, because Republicans aren’t the only ones who are afraid of black people. Thanks to our cultural and political history, it’s probably simpler to try and list the people who aren’t afraid of black people.
The Republicans’ problem isn’t just that they’re afraid of black people, lots of folks are, even lots of black folks. It isn’t just that they don’t care about black people, because Smiley is right, there are lots of Democrats who don’t do right by black people. Their problem is that they are hostile to black people.
O’Reilly himself subscribes to the simplistic (read Republican) notion that “The disintegration of the African-American family and the not having supervision on the children” is holding black Americans back. But as Jon Stewart tried to explain to him, it has been more the case that government policies which are directly hostile to black Americans are holding them back.
Those policies, which O’Reilly named at the top of this segment, include voter suppression laws, support for Stand Your Ground laws that disproportionately justify the killing of black people, and the prevalence of racist policing policies that have led to so many police killings and shootings. According to O’Reilly, though, the “vicious” thing about “racial politics” isn’t the policies themselves, it’s talking about them that constitutes “vicious racial politics.”
If you want some refreshing honesty, check out this joke Senator Lindsey Graham told at a fundraiser recently:
“If I get to be the president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”
Many a truth in jest.