O’Reilly started out by wanting to know why blacks are so enamored of President Obama considering this statistic, and Johnson answered his question but then made another point—the disparity in employment rates between blacks and whites goes back fifty years.
O’Reilly sort of listened, but really he wanted to make his point—that in his opinion the “primary problem in the African American community is out-of-wedlock birth,” which drives poverty.
No doubt there’s some truth to O’Reilly’s view, but as Johnson countered, out-of-wedlock births don’t tell the whole story. Instead, Johnson said, “To me, the principle drivers are the failure of corporate America to hire enough African Americans who are qualified, failure of African Americans to get access to capital to start small businesses, which are great engines for creating employment, and also a legacy of long-term institutionalized racism …” He then cited a statistic that median income for blacks is one-tenth that of whites.
O’Reilly responded, “Do you really believe it’s a skin color issue rather than a performance issue?”
And when I heard that, I got so damn mad, I wished O’Reilly were sitting in my living room so I could ask him, “O’Reilly, do you really believe your stuff is that hot?”
“O’Reilly, do you really believe that whites are so superior to blacks that our median income compared to yours is a mere reflection of our efforts? Do you really, really believe that O’Reilly? Because if you really, really believe that O’Reilly, you are out of your ever-loving mind.”
It’s story time, people. And once my husband reads this he’s going to be good and upset with me, but it won’t be the first time.
Many years ago, I held a birthday party for one of my sons, and of course, his grandparent, my husband’s parents, were invited.
Things were going swell. And then, from all the way across the table, I heard my white father-in law express his anger that his daughters could not find good jobs but that people “like me” were doing fine.
I don’t remember what I was talking about, but I know I stopped talking about it right then and there. I said to my father-in-law, who remember now, was across the room at the other end of the table—
“How dare you? You don’t know anything about the kind of employee I am. You don’t know anything about how competent I am, how much I know, how well I do what I do, or how hard I’ve worked. How dare you suggest that somehow I’ve taken something from your daughters that I don’t deserve?”
And he said, “Maybe I should go home.”
And I said, “Maybe you should.”
And he did. And the next time we got together, a few days later, we pretended that nothing had happened, because that’s how my husband’s family rolls, and that’s okay. Perhaps it’s better than the alternative, even.
But my point is, I’ll admit it. I am very tired of some white folks trying to feed me some horse manure about how black folks only have anything because of affirmative action or quotas or what the hell and those of us who don’t have anything don’t want anything and won’t work for anything. That’s some self-serving bull that keeps certain white people content and feeling good about the status quo. They won’t come right out and say it, but the underlying message is there—they have more because they’ve earned it. They’re better.
No. They. Aren’t.
Am I saying that O’Reilly hasn’t worked for his success? No, I am not. But I am saying that plenty of black people have worked very hard, and they still don’t have much. Worse, some would be willing to work real hard, but they can’t get hired. Or they can’t get promoted. They can’t get a damn break, period.
O’Reilly, you can’t tell me that the unemployment rate for blacks is half that of whites and that’s just the natural order of things, the way it ought to be because whites just got it like that. Please. Tell that crappola to someone who hasn’t worked twenty-five years in corporate America as the only black editor, the only black manager, and the only person of color in the room, often surrounded by many people who didn’t know their rear end from a hole in the ground.
Or, you could just tell it to my father-in-law. He might actually listen.