Perusing The Root during my lunch break today, I came across this headline, "TV's Golden Age of Rage: O'Reilly, Hannity, Olbermann and the rise of white rage on cable television." I immediately clicked on the link, ready to read what I thought would be a brilliant dissection of white paranoia and white frustration with non-white male progress (and its perceived byproduct, white male stagnation) as propagated by the "news media."
But then I got to this part:
But now, try to think of a single African-American newsman who's exhibited—and gotten away with—the type of antics their white counterparts do each and every day on America’s top news channels. Don’t feel ignorant if you can’t. There aren’t any. But why?
This article, which isn't entirely wrong about the racial double standard, does succeed in diluting the force of an argument against such a standard by arguing that what Black folk want is the ability to do stupid ass shit too.
Look, I'm all for reminding people of racial double standards. But in this case, I don't know that we should be arguing for Black people to act a damn fool on the news.
Or, to put it another way, the article misses the point. The issue with cable news right now isn't that its unfair that Black folks can't behave the way Hannity, Beck, and O'Reilly behave.
The real issue is that Hannity, Beck, and O'Reilly represent something that many Black people (and our White liberal cohort) are terrified to discuss — genuine, almost blind, rage at the progress of anyone not a White male. Or, more pointedly, "Old School" Racism.
It is incredibly scary to truly interrogate just how much power these guys have because it brings us as Black folks (and White liberals) close to something we desperately want to believe that we have moved past, something that many of us post-civil rights folk never really thought we'd have to truly deal with.
Because the key here isn't to lambast these men for what they do, but to understand what it means that what they are doing resonates with a substantial number of people. We should be wrestling with what these men are actually saying and trying to understand the implications of the fact that there is a market for it. What does it mean that people are responsive to them? What do we do about it? How do we counter it? Doesn't the rise of "liberal" CNN and MSNBC Lefty counterparts actually just entrench each side's most strident supporters in their worldview without hopes of bridging the gulf?
We love to talk about the "dwindling number of 'old school' racists," but history repeats itself. And after Emancipation and Reconstruction, came Jim Crow. Meaning that backlash against Black, and others, progress isn't new, isn't just some guys wildin out on TV. It's actually very specific, focused, and strategic.
It's why we are building a fence on our Southern border.
It's why we haven't gotten criminal justice reform done.
It's why we are constantly defending laws designed to protect non-white people's constituational rights.
It's why any minority professional must do the job AND prove that they got it on the "merits."
It's why the highest court is telling us that discrimination against White folks is the real problem.
White liberals arrogantly dismiss white frustration and pretend that white backlash is small, minor, something their southern brethren feel. Black folks, perhaps for our own sanity, just ignore it entirely.
Not sure that's the way to go.