Tags: African American, American History, bigotry, Bill O'Reilly, black, Civil Rights, current-events, discrimination, Donald Trump, ethnicity, European Americans, Fox News, justice, politics, Prejudice, race, Race in America, Rep .Maxine Waters, skin color, skin complexion, Taryn Finley, Th Huffington Post, white
The social conditioning of European Americans generally makes them oblivious to the fact that they are bigots. For many, just the false concept of being white is enough to convince them of their superiority over people of color. They are usually not aware of their ethnic biases because society has constructed all the social institutions to accommodate the European American’s sense of being normal. In addition, “…many European Americans still believe that race is a valid term that protects them from scrutiny, they continue to act as though being European American is sufficient for the display of arrogance. Their ignorance of race allows them to act as though their skin color is a birthright, the power, and privilege they think they deserve.” (The system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) Inferiority, p.88) This characteristic of European American arrogance was on display recently by Fox television personality, Bill O’Reilly.
We learn about the incident from Taryn Finley, from Huffington Post: “During a segment of “Fox and Friends,” the show played a clip of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) speaking out against the discriminatory and bigoted practices of President Donald Trump’s supporters. When asked to give his response, O’Reilly killed two birds with one stone and made a comment that was both racist and sexist.” The statement O’Reilly made was “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig,” ‘he said.’ “Do we have a picture of James Brown? It’s the same wig.”O’Reilly’s first display of arrogance and ignorance was in the fact that James Brown never wore a wig. So, his statement of “It’s the same one,” shows his lack of knowledge relative to James Brown. His arrogance and ignorance continued.
O’Reilly was on the show to provide some informational input relative to a clip shown of Rep. Waters making a statement. However, he did not pay enough attention to what Waters was said so he was not in a position to make a response concerning it. Because of his ignorance and arrogance, both conditioned in him by American society, O’Reilly gave little thought to not responding to the question but instead chose to make a comment about Rep. Water’s hair. The fact that he did not pay attention to the clip showed his lack of concern and value for what Waters had to say. His actions for not paying attention to what was said showed his lack of respect for a United States Representative. Why? The answer is because O’Reilly grew up in a society that conditioned him to not value people of color, specifically, African Americans.
The lack of value for Rep. Waters by O’Reilly was displayed in his choice of references to James Brown. Brown was an entertainer who had a major impact on the world of music starting in the 1950s. He was known also for his clothes and capes as well as his hair, which was coffered in a costume style. For O’Reilly to compare Waters hair to that of James Brown showed he lacked concrete information about both Brown and Waters, but did not hesitate to speak it as if his assessment was accurate and valid. Neither was the case. But, because of O’Reilly’s social conditioning, he felt at ease speaking his mind with fear of retribution. One can infer that O’Reilly saw nothing wrong in viewing Waters as something of a clown in a wig. He, apparently, would not have stopped with his analogy and comparison of Waters to Brown had not his co-host Brian Kilmeade “laughed and made a tasteless joke about the musician, who died in 2006. “He’s not using it anymore,’ he said—they finally buried him.’” The problem with this incident is the fact that O’Reilly never realized his bigotry in his words and actions. To add insult to injury, O’Reilly did not respond to Waters comments about Donald Trump and his discrimination and bigotry. O’Reilly acknowledged his lack of concern and respect for Waters in his statement:”I didn’t hear a word she said.”
Some people might say that what O’Reilly said about Waters was not that bad; he meant her no harm or disrespect. Wrong. The fact that he did not pay attention to what she was saying was disrespectful, and the excuse for his not paying attention was, even more, condemning of his bigotry and arrogance. But these things never registered to him as being “over the line” of decency and respect because of his social conditioning.
Once O’Reilly was confronted with the fact that what he said about Waters was considered in poor taste, he offered something of an apology in order to maintain his sense of superiority. The fact that he apologized is irrelevant because we do not know what he apologized for since all he said was:”Unfortunately, I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.” What we need to understand about O’Reilly and many European Americans is that they are ignorant as to their perceptions of people of color bring biased. They cannot see a problem is denigrating someone of color because they do not see that denigration as something wrong and unacceptable in our democratic society. They have been conditioned to see themselves as normal human beings, and their perception of everything is normal as long as they are at the center and in control.
While America has made progress on many levels, one of the levels that need to be addressed is the fact of race as a myth. For too many years Americans have been conditioned to see each other by focusing on our differences, especially in skin complexions. We have been led to believe that the fairness of the skin reflects a higher order of human biological development. We know today that all human being are alike and belong to only one race, the human race. However, because of the continuous social conditioning that underscores the myth of European American supremacy, people like Bill O’Reilly cannot see himself as a bigot. The challenge for America is to change the bigoted norm to one that reflects the value and worth of all human beings. That way we can begin to remove the ignorance, innocence, and arrogance that underscore the mindset of too many Americans.
- Paul R. Lehman, Bill O’Reilly’s comments about Maxine Waters hair underscores social conditioning
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Dr. Paul Lehman