It is hard to explain to white people like Glenn Beck why their "innocent" questions about race actually just reveal their ignorance and their false assumptions about people of other races and the nature of race relations.
But Beck is so blitheringly un-self-aware that he decided to give it a go anyway yesterday on his Fox News show. As you might expect, it was a serial embarrassment.
Beck, you see, was careful to hand-select his audience, people "the media claim don't think exist" -- black conservatives! Not that he ever actually explains this to the viewing audience -- you have to figure that out for yourselves as the show goes along, like the moment when he asks the audience if they think we're headed toward socialism (they all raise their hands) or are accused of being not "black enough" if they are conservative (again, a unanimous show of hands).
And it let Beck lead exchanges like this, with Beck regular Charles Payne and talk-show host Lisa Fritsch:
Beck: How many people here identify themselves as African Americans? (About a third raise their hands) OK -- Why?
Payne: It's interchangeable.
Beck: But wait, wait. Why not identify yourself as Americans?
Fritsch: Well, people can look at you and tell you're black. You can't escape that.
Beck: Yeah, but I don't identify myself as white, or a white American.
Will Brown of the New York Republican Community Coalition points out, adroitly, that "African American" is an "evolution" from the "N word" -- and certainly is preferable. Moreover, it wasn't black people who invented the "N word" or the segregation from enjoying the full fruits of American citizenship it represented -- it was white people. "African American" represents the recognition of their dignity and their rights as Americans.
But this point sails right over Beck's head, because he's too ignorant to appreciate the implications. Had Beck even a smidgen of American history, particularly pertaining to civil rights, he'd know that white Americans for most of the decades of the past century used the word "American" and "real American" almost exclusively to refer to white people -- and that this motif lingers even today (see, e.g., Sarah Palin's references to "real Americans" during the campaign -- speaking before small-town, all-white audiences).
This historical and cultural ignorance just kept manifesting itself:
Beck: Because one of the problems that I have -- and I have to tell you, as a white guy, as a white guy, I'm just being real honest with you, as a white guy, I think white people are uncomfortable sometimes saying, 'You know what, Martin Luther King' -- and then quoting Martin Luther King, because, it's almost as if society says -- 'No no no! That's our guy! Not your guy!' And it shouldn't be that way. And so Martin Luther King, wasn't the dream that we're all judged by the content of our character?
Beck doesn't understand why it's idiotic of white people to quote King -- namely, King was speaking in defense of black people whose civil rights had been systematically and violently denied for over a century, and his words were spoken in that context. They weren't intended to be spoken in defense of advantaged white people who want an excuse to keep stereotyping black people.
The black conservative talkers he had on weren't a whole lot better. Perhaps the most outrageously ahistorical remark came from Fritsch:
Fritsch: The only way black people were ever able to triumph is because of conservative values, which is directly linked to Christianity. Had we been liberals, during the Civil Rights movement, nobody would have done anything!
Um, Ms. Fritsch, you need to avail yourself some history books too. It was conservatives who argued for maintaining slavery before the Civil War. It was conservatives who insisted after the war that blacks be denied the full rights of citizenship, and who erected the system of Jim Crow, who led rope-bearing lynch mobs that crucified thousands of black people. It was conservatives who erected "No Black After Sundown" signs at the city borders of thousands of American towns.
And most of all, it was conservatives who fought the Civil Rights movement tooth and nail. And it was only from the ceaseless efforts of liberals -- many of them indeed Christian liberals -- in opposition to conservatives, many of them Christian conservatives -- that anything was in fact achieved during that era. Somehow, you've managed to get your history completely upside down.
This idiocy reached its apotheosis, though, when Beck played for his audience that audio tape of black Detroiters turning out for welfare assistance funds, originally promoted by Rush Limbaugh, which was nothing more than a nakedly racist bit of ugly stereotyping on the part of the radio talker, Ken Rogulski, who produced it. As King Crimson observed:
The conservo-talk reporter cherry picked through the audio booty until he found the absolute best soundbite that would most perfectly frame the city as one filled with Obama-fawning morons, black Sambos, and greedy welfare grabbers - precisely, as Limbaugh would later argue, the kind of rank idiots who would vote for someone like America's first black president.
And if you listen to the woman making the "Obama money" remarks, you can hear that she's cracking humorously on the humorless, stereotype-dependent white guy asking. He -- and Beck and Limbaugh, by extension -- are the butt of the joke and they don't even know it.
Well, we actually know where Beck thinks this talk comes from:
Beck: All right. These are the people who have been abused by the system. They've been taught they needed the government. They've been taught to be slaves, and their master is Washington! Both parties!
For some reason, those weren't the words he used yesterday. Hmmm. Wonder why not, don't you?
This is just vintage Beck, gorging himself on dumbass white stereotypes of black people and then fobbing himself off as just a colorblind white guy. As we noted before, this is his way of race-baiting:
It comes prepackaged with built-in plausible deniability, of course. It's just a coincidence, we're sure, that so many of the targets of Beck's smear jobs -- Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett, Mark Lloyd -- happen to be African American. It's just a coincidence that those videos of ACORN, one of Beck's biggest targets, primarily are of African Americans. It's just happenstance that Beck finds scary black people under every rock -- even when they're just dance troupes.