Honestly, the thing that upsets me the most about this tweet is not the white privilege displayed in it, nor is it the smug willful ignorance of history. It's that Bill O'Reilly's ancestors apparently came from the same area of Ireland as mine did, significantly later than his. ((shuddder))
My ancestral disavowal of O'Reilly aside, the disgraced sexual harrassing ex-Fox News anchor decided to wade publicly into the immigration and racism debate swirling around the White House with this tweet:
Enjoying my time in Ireland. Visited County Cavan where my ancestors were evicted from their land in 1845. That forced them to come to America legally so they wouldn’t starve.
Pardon me if I reject the “white privilege” scenario if applied to my family. pic.twitter.com/gecXRy60YJ
— Bill O'Reilly (@BillOReilly) July 19, 2018
There was no such thing as "illegal" immigration in 1845. That didn't occur until restrictions were placed via the Page Act of 1875, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act.
The Page Act of 1875 (Sect. 141, 18 Stat. 477, 3 March 1875) was the first restrictive federal immigration law in the United States, which effectively prohibited the entry of Chinese women, marking the end of open borders. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act would go on to ban immigration by Chinese men as well.
The law was named after its sponsor, Representative Horace F. Page, a Republican who introduced it to "end the danger of cheap Chinese labor and immoral Chinese women". The law technically barred immigrants considered "undesirable," defining this as a person from East Asia who was coming to the United States to be a forced laborer, any East Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. The Page Act was supposed to strengthen the ban against "coolie" laborers, by imposing a fine of up to $2,000 and maximum jail sentence of one year upon anyone who tried to bring a person from China, Japan, or any East Asian country to the United States "without their free and voluntary consent, for the purpose of holding them to a term of service".
Moreover, though O'Reilly's ancestors were driven through poverty to immigrate, they came here voluntarily. They could have immigrated anywhere else. People of Color were kidnapped, chained up and forced to come to this country. O'Reilly's ancestors could go out from the port from which they entered the US and stake out land from the Homestead Act. People of Color were enslaved for generations and exploited and brutalized.
Yeah, to suggest that this was not the ultimate case of white privilege is horrifyingly stupid.