Frederick Williams is an adjunct professor at San Antonio College and the author of Fires of Greenwood: The Tulsa Riot of 1921. He wrote this op-ed.
Bill O’Reilly of FOX News seems to be on a one-man demolition mission to destroy the image of the African-American family, the women and the culture. He seems to be stuck on this obsession with the high out-of-wedlock birth rate. He claims that all the problems the Black community faces in this country are due to immoral behavior.
This approach to analyzing the Black community by conservatives and racists has a long history stretching back to right after the end of slavery. There was a class of whites who were determined to convince themselves that the freed slaves lacked the mental ability and moral aptitude to survive in an advanced civilized society personified by the decent and good white people. Author Leon Litwack in his historical analysis (Trouble In Mind) of the Jim Crow South right after Reconstruction quotes from a 1909 group essay by white students at Southwestern Presbyterian College in Memphis, Tennessee titled, “What will become of the American Negro?” The majority of the students embraced the prevailing belief when they wrote, “The negro of today is insolent, ungrateful and even brutish in his attitude toward white people. Measured against the standard of the Anglo-Saxon, the most pure, proud, noble race that ever walked the earth, southern blacks were inferior in both character and capacity (the most vile, degraded, and filthy race living) and seldom able to rise above the plane of indecency, immorality and crime.”
With less hyperbole than the students at the college, O’Reilly seems to articulate somewhat of the same assertion. He claims that rap music, indecent videos (especially Beyonce) have led to the loss of any moral values in the Black culture. Just like in 1909, today there is a certain segment of white America that needs to hear O’Reilly’s vicious rhetorical attack of Black culture because it reinforces their long held beliefs about the inferiority of the Black race. White America is doing fine, and their culture is in great shape, so that is all the proof they require to substantiate their misplaced importance. So like a man feeding the ducks that come flocking to him, O’Reilly feeds these people with all this nonsense and his ratings stay at the top of the polls for cable shows. The fact is that he cannot afford not to feed these weak minds their sustenance they need to feel good about themselves.
Black Americans will acknowledge that there are some very serious problems within our communities that must be addressed. But problems with youth exist within all races. Because a young rich white boy kills four innocent people while driving intoxicated and does no jail time, is that an indication that the entire white culture is unjust and immoral? Because Justin Beiber defies laws and behaves like a spoiled child and Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan have acted with reckless abandon while driving and drinking, should we condemn the entire white race and its culture? The answer is obviously no, but what holds true for our restraint to condemn an entire race and culture because of the few, should also hold true for those like Bill O’Reilly who assume they have a right to pass judgment on Black America. Bottom line is that we all have problems that need to be addressed but wouldn’t it be a better country if we all did it together.