Um, BillO? That Word 'Racist'? I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Bill O'Reilly wanted to badger someone from the NAACP over their plan to monitor the Tea Party movement's racism with a website devoted to tracking Tea Party events. (He had already denounced the website last week.)

So he brought on the NAACP's Hilary Shelton, who did a reasonable job of holding up -- aside from a horrendous stumble when it appeared the only example of Tea Party racism he can name is a single T-shirt (Lord knows there's a wealth of examples to choose from, ranging from "witch doctor" signs to spitting episodes to Mark Williams columns). Eventually, Shelton got it right, explaining he was providing only one example out of a large body of them, but by then it was too late.

So then O'Reilly decided to play "gotcha!" by bringing in Fox's favorite whipping boy, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and pointing out that Wright had spoken at NAACP functions. O'Reilly then pounced and claimed that Wright was a racist -- based on his belief that the federal government had created the HIV virus as a way to harm black men. This, BillO claimed, was "hate speech."

Eh? Yes, it's a cockamamie conspiracy theory that makes pretty clear that Wright's judgment is questionable at best. But racist?

We already know that O'Reilly doesn't know the difference between hate speech and hateful speech. And we know he's not exactly the most sensitive guy in the world on racial matters.

As Shelton tells O'Reilly:

Bill, I think you should look up the definition of the word "racist." It might help you understand what is racism and what is not.

Now, we know that there are many ways of defining racism. Most right-wingers who like to claim that they're not racist generally define racism as "the outright hatred of people of other races" -- which excuses a lot of the stereotyping and institutional racism to which they are prone. On the other end of the spectrum, sociologists use complex criteria to define it.

A fairly simple definition, like the one you can find at the Wikipedia entry, will however suffice:

Racism is the belief that the genetic factors which constitute race are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

This is indeed the essence of racism. And of course, the "inherent superiority" of one race also requires the inherent inferiority of others -- and emphasizing that inferiority is more the defining feature of racism.

O'Reilly, it seems, wants to define racism as "inflammatory remarks based on cockamamie conspiracy theories."

Using that criteria, though, would necessarily define a lot of Fox talking heads -- including BillO himself, as well as his pal Glenn Beck -- as "racists" who engage in "hate speech" too.

But then, that definition also properly fits under the traditional definition, doesn't it?


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.