Bill O’Reilly, a Fox News anchor who claims to be “independent” despite a viewership that’s 66 percent conservative, has, once again, gone too far.
A famous moment in Michelle Obama’s speech Monday at the DNC is when she speaks of raising her family in a house built by slaves:
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” Obama says in her keynote address. “I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
This, apparently, led to a few conservatives’ discomfort at the reminder of an American history that textbooks are continually trying to erase from memory, which propelled O’Reilly to “fact check” Obama’s speech.
O’Reilly oh-so-condescendingly confirms that Obama is “essentially correct,” saying it as if her accurate facts needed to be validated by him (typical mansplaining with an added bonus of white supremecy), and then goes on to break down the history of the construction of the White House.
Slaves building the White House worked alongside free blacks and whites, and were well-fed and had “decent” lodging. Oh, OK, so their lodging was “decent?” Who decided it was “decent?” Because I highly doubt it was the people who actually lodged there.
If it makes you uncomfortable that the most important house in the United States, one of our biggest, most famous buildings, one that inspires patriotism, hope, and the willingness to win Easter egg hunts and pardon turkeys at Thanksgiving, was built by slaves, well, it should. It’s possible for something of great importance to have a horrible history. You just have to accept that, because you can’t change it.
I’m not sure what O’Reilly’s goal here was—I doubt that anyone actually questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s statement of facts. It seems like he’s trying to justify the use of slaves in the construction of one of the most important buildings in the U.S., simply because that building means so many things to so many different people, and should only be seen as one of grace and justice. But he’s justifying the use of slaves. Even ignoring the incredibly inappropriate attempt at that kind of argument, his logic is faulty. He’s saying that food and a place to sleep is enough to compensate for involuntary, unpaid work that separates families, promotes illiteracy and enforces the idea that people can be owned by other people.
What makes someone well-fed? Who determines if someone is well-fed, besides the person being fed? No one.
This is horribly embarrassing on O’Reilly’s part, and I hope for but doubt the existence of the looming presence of a public apology.
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