White Folks Can Talk About Race
Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume went on Bill O’Reilly Monday night to seek comfort and reassurance that he is not a racist. Forgive me if I don’t shed any tears.
Hume was perturbed by a few accusations hurled at him on Twitter—like that doesn’t happen all the time—that he was racist for comments he made on Fox News Sunday. The panel was discussing Attorney General Eric Holder’s complaints about mistreatment at the hands of Republicans in DC.
What raised the ire of Hume and so many others on the all-white Fox News Sunday panel was the fact that Holder dared to complain about the mistreatment he and President Obama have received.
Because he made those comments at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference—voila!—Holder must be playing the race card. If you watch conservative Fox News, and then listen to conservative talk radio and read conservative websites and blogs, that was the general conclusion. Nowhere in Holder’s speech did he even mention race, but for Hume and the others, his comments were a dog whistle.
Poor Bill O’Reilly, never one to screw up the details of an event, concluded that Holder did say he was being mistreated because of his skin color. But he was wrong: he never said it.
Let’s deal with Hume’s overarching theory that whites can’t discuss race without being called a racist.
Look, Brit, when you are trying to make a point that has any validity, it helps to at least use some sound analysis. Relying on a handful of Tweets don’t do that, buddy.
What Brit needs to understand is that as a black man, I have engaged in numerous discussions over the years with blacks, whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians and anyone else about the issue of race. And Brit, when it involved whites, not only did I not call them racists, we actually provided a perspective for others to consider.
Heck, folks commenting on CNN.com message boards used to blast me for raising the issue of race in column after column, except that in many of them, I never even mentioned race. Assumptions can be pretty faulty, Brit.
I recall as a sophomore at Texas A&M University engaging in a discussion with a white fellow student. It was 2 a.m. and a bunch of people were hanging out in The Commons, one of the campus dormitories. I have no idea how the discussion started, but somehow this guy began to talk to my brother, and me, and he told us that he didn’t like blacks.
I asked why, and he said that it was because when he was a kid, a young black kid took his football after a dispute and ran home.
I started laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked.
“Dude, you do know that little white kids have done the same. You mean to tell me that you have gone through the last several of years of life judging every black kid based on the experience on one who stole your football?” I said.
As we began to talk, it became clear that he didn’t come into contact with blacks.
But I have another Texas A&M story.
While attending a regional conference of the National Association of Black Journalists, a black A&M journalism student approached me and said, “Roland, why do you always say you enjoyed your years at A&M. I can’t stand the racism.”
When I inquired, she told me that she hates the fact that in the cafeteria, white students rarely sit with black students.
I asked, “Have you ever decided to go sit with them?”
She said, “What do you mean?”
“Well, if you are ticked that white students won’t sit with you, has it dawned on you that many of them come from virtually all-white backgrounds, and you come from a virtually all-black background? So maybe if you be the one to break the ice, they might engage,” I said.
See, she wanted the white students to do all of the heavy lifting as opposed to realize that, she too, has lived in an isolated world.
What Brit Hume needs to understand is that his point of view isn’t the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So Brit is mad about being called a racist. Do I think he’s one? Nope. Do I think he has a misguided view on the issue? Absolutely.
And it was proven by what he and Bill discussed on Monday.
During the five-minute discussion, O’Reilly claimed that President Obama would not have been beaten Hillary Clinton if he were a young white senator from Illinois.
Hume, clearly stumbling, finally said, “Yea, I agree with you.”
Then he went on to assign Obama’s victory to the aspirations of the nation that “African Americans should rise in our society.”
Hume said Obama was non-divisive “and not a race hustler in any way” and America was proud to see him elected.
“So therefore, he has gotten, I think, perhaps more than he would a white, the benefit of the doubt from a great many people,” Hume said.
So let me get this straight. Obama would have never won if he was a white guy; white America didn’t see him as a race hustler; and since he’s a black president, he’s gotten off scot-free.
What Hume seems to not understand is that maybe folks are blasting him because he is making such silly assumptions. The issue for Hume isn’t that as a white man he can’t discuss race; it is that he sounds absolutely idiotic doing it. That’s fine, but don’t act hurt and wounded when you get chin checked.
He presents himself as Mr. High and Mighty, but has no one to push back against his assertions. An affirmation party with Bill O’Reilly isn’t a discussion on race; it’s two white guys essentially saying, “What we say is the law and that is that.”
Brit seemed to really be bothered that having an all-white panel on Sunday talking race would get criticized. Maybe what he missed is that having an all-white panel that all nodded in agreement to the same viewpoint is what the problem was. I don’t necessarily need Juan Williams there. The addition of Lisa Bloom, Tim Wise or any number of other whites, with a far more nuanced understanding of race, would have generated a much more balanced discussion.
Brit, white folks should talk about race. Not run from it. Not avoid it. Not pretend racism has all gone away, as your colleague Eric Bolling believes. But if you are going to present your opinion, it’s necessary to have a point of view that can counter and challenge your assumptions.
As a black man, I don’t see the world through the eyes of Brit Hume. And as a white man, he doesn’t experience the world through mine. In order for us to have a race discussion, it sure is a helluva lot better for both of us to be at the table than to have a bunch of “yes men” serving as nothing more than an approving audience.
Brit, feel free to call me any time to talk about race and racism. I promise I won’t call you a racist; but “clueless fool,” I can’t be so sure.