Wednesday November 07, 2012

James Baldwin's Message to Bill O'Reilly

Fifty years ago, at the end of his book-length essay “The Fire Next Time,” which became a best-seller the year I was born, James Baldwin wrote the following:

“The time has come to realize that the interracial drama acted out on the American continent has not only created a new black man, it has created a new white man, too. . . . It is precisely this black-white experience which may prove of indispensable value to us in the world we face today. This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.”

Bill O'Reilly and FOX-News still haven't gotten the message:

Have there been more veiled, racist comments in a 60-second span? Let's count them off:

  • “It's a changing country and it's not a traditional America anymore.”
  • “There is 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. Who want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it. ”
  • “The white establishment is now the minority.”
  • “You're going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama's way. People feel they are entitled to things, and which candidate between the two is going to give them things.

As always with FOX-News, this stuff is full of half-truths.

It is a changing country but it always is. It's not a traditional America but what does that mean? Are we losing core values or surface values? O'Reilly is implying the former but I know the latter. Because in a certain sense, no president is more traditionally American in his rhetoric and in his beliefs than Pres. Obama. He just doesn't look like the other 43.

Fifty percent of the people want things. (Like health insurance. We're greedy that way.) Then O'Reilly ties this 50 percent to Hispanics, blacks and women. It's the welfare argument all over again. It's Reagan's politics of resentment all over again. There are welfare queens (read: minorities) who want stuff (read: your tax dollars). Meanwhile, hard-working white people do things the honorable way: by selling insurance on bundled sercurities that were created from subprime mortgage loans, which poor and working-class owners were guaranteed to default on.

It's interesting that O'Reilly calls it ”the white establishment,“ that he owns up to it. ”White“ certainly isn't a minority, so he must be talking ”white“ and ”conservative“ and maybe ”rich.“ In which case: yes, yes, and yes. And thank God.

There are so many lessons you can draw from yesterday's election. For example: ”Continually mentioning rape in a positive way tends to be a losing strategy.“ You can go to literature, too, with this paraphrase of e.e. cummings' Olaf, glad and big, whose warmest heart recoiled at war: ”There is some shit we will not eat.“

Then there's Baldwin, above, paraphrased:

America is white no longer, and it will never be again.

To O'Reilly, this spells America's doom. To the rest of us, the opposite. It's the very reason our country is exceptional.

James Baldwin

”It is precisely this black-white experience which may prove of indispensable value to us in the world we face today." --James Baldwin, 1963

Posted at 02:22 PM on Wednesday November 07, 2012 in category Politics  
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