O'Reilly Said Media Reaction 'Fabricated Racial Controversy'

Allen said she is always surprised when she invites students to her home and learns that it's the first time they have ever dined with a black person. "We are not all screaming and singing rap music," she said. "It really is sort of pathetic."

"During the '30s and '40s, whites would leave Manhattan and go to Harlem for one wild evening of jazz," said Allen. "It's still a major deal to go uptown and to be above 120th Street. People feel very proud of themselves. There is not enough contact between the races."

David Canton, assistant professor of history at Connecticut College who specializes in black culture, said O'Reilly's comments represented "colorblind racism."

Canton draws a distinction between "overt racism" — like the use of the n-word or Imus' comment — and "colorblind racism," which is "more complicated."

"O'Reilly is surprised that he can go to a black restaurant supported by blacks that runs as efficiently as it does," said Canton. "African-Americans do not operate businesses and the few who do have screaming and crazy behavior. Positive behavior is whitelike."

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden, D-Del., ran into trouble earlier this year when he commented that his black opponent, Illinois Sen. Barak Obama, was "articulate."

That remark carried a subtext, according to Canton: "Blacks do not speak well."

"But we know that is a function of class," said Canton. "Poor whites in Appalachia do not speak as well as urban, young Americans either."

Reinforcing Stereotypes

Films, newspapers and even mainstream hip-hop music reinforce stereotypes that blacks have foul mouths and behave badly, he said.

"But there is a lot of progressive hip-hop that does not sell to consumers and doesn't get the air time. When we think of black youth, we think of 50 Cent and that gangsta-rap image."

Canton, a black man who belongs to a ski club and whose son plays violin, challenges these stereotypes.

"Why, when we look at crime stories, are they disproportionately African-Americans?" he asked. "Look at the pop minstrels of the 1930s and [TV's] 'Amos and Andy' of the 1950s. There is never a fair and balanced portrayal."

"It's the same for Italians," he said. "All the shows are like the 'Godfather' or the 'Sopranos' — they all rob, kill people and eat spaghetti."

In the classroom, Canton challenges the "vision of race in America." He is one of four black teachers in a 165-member faculty at Connecticut College.

"I tell many of these suburban kids that you have been socialized as racists and sexists, and we are here to talk about it," he said. "It doesn't mean you are a bad person or have a bad parent or minister."

Cherisse Cruz, a 20-year-old from New York City and one of his students, said that Canton encouraged his class to educate others.

"I'm not a big fan of Bill O'Reilly," she said. "It was just as disturbing for me as a Hispanic. And I am from Harlem and have been to Sylvia's. The whole assumption that African-Americans are uncivilized people was shocking and disturbing to me."

"I don't think Americans should have to listen to this," she said. "He should be taken off the air."

A Teachable Moment

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, agrees that O'Reilly's comments should be a "teachable moment."

"Where does this come from?" she said. "When we live separate lives next to each other, the court was right in Brown [vs. Board of Education.] It breeds inequality."

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