Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

Bill O’Reilly’s Blissfull Ignorance

In class warfare, Culture jamming, Media Criticism, Misc., New York City, Race, US Politics on September 26, 2007 at 12:33 pm

In one of the funnier stories of the last few months, the fair and balanced people at the Village Voice recently reported that after visiting the famous Harlem soul food eatery, Syliva’s, the pugnacious pundit, Bill O’Reilly, remarked at the amazing similarities between blacks and other people:

“I ‘couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same,’ O’Reilly said on September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program...

everybody was—it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”

I mean, come ON. He’s almost making it too easy for us. I wonder, with the first mention of the word “Harlem”, what exactly popped into that tiny, narrow mind of his? Was he expecting watermelon hanging from every iced-out grill, people shooting their “gats” up in the air like they just don’t care, booming voices alternating chants of “black power” and profanity-laced rants against “crackah-ass whitey”?

Obviously, Bill has a long way to go to make it into this century, and he has a looooooong list of making an ass out of himself in regards to race in general, but if I may, I’d like to propose something that will probably get me crucified by all seven people who read this blog. Though this statement is obviously as offensive as it is hilarious, I can’t help but think it’s just a little inspiring. Listening to the full excerpt helped give some perspective.

Firstly, he went up to Sylvia’s to take Al Sharpton out to dinner – could you imagine seeing those two walk in, sit down, and share some corn bread? And in the man’s defense, it was probably the first time he’d ever come to Harlem and actually gotten out the car. I doubt he’s ever experienced regular black folk up close and personal, just sittin around having dinner instead of in some music video, BET, or battling with him on his show or some other forum. I bet all he knows about these Americans is what he heard/read/saw in the conservative media he helps create. It doesn’t make it right that he says shit like this, obviously, but in the absence of experience and knowledge, is it surprising that ignorant, cliched and racist assumptions have been allowed to fester? No.

Behind the “culture wars” and the media machine that perpetuates it exist communities of regular people and I’m glad Billy got to get himself some meatloaf, chill the fuck out for an hour and hear Al tell some James Brown stories. For him to come away feeling good about Harlem, to be able to relate Sylvia’s to his own experiences in his most-likely gated community, that is a powerful thing.  Granted, this won’t bring him to Abyssinian Baptist chruch or the NAACP anytime soon, but it’s a step in the right directin.  If you’re never exposed to other people, you’ll inevitably harbor misconceptions about them. They obviously won’t be as wacked-out and crazy as O’Reilly’s, but one look at how most America has been treating racial issues of late – profiling of Muslims/anyone who looks like Muslims, immigration, etc. – it’s pretty obvious that eating dinner together every once in a while can’t hurt. O’Reilly has definitely been an enormous jackass as long as I can remember, but I’ll cut him some slack on this one, eventhough I doubt he’d do the same for us.