Racism still exists in America. Worse, it isn’t limited behind closed doors, but often aired out in the open on forums as public as national television, making the pervasive issue especially hard to ignore in recent years. Television is a skewed reflection of our society as a whole, showing both our progress and our prejudices.
It doesn’t reflect well when cable networks favor political theater over substantive reporting or engage in racially-motivated attacks against President Barack Obama. However, it’s important to acknowledge and denounce these prejudices when they inevitably surface, whether in everyday conversation or on national television. Here are seven of the most racist moments from TV from the past five years.
1. Bill O’Reilly defends slavery
First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a rousing speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention that made it seem as though the divided party could still come together. Among the most stirring passages was one wherein the she stated, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
Fox News pundit, Bill O’Reilly addressed the speech with little purpose other than clarifying that the slaves who did indeed build the White House “were well-fed and had decent lodgings.” It’s a completely arbitrary nitpick that relates to nothing and only serves to excuse the inhumane institution of slavery.
2. Cliven Bundy also defends slavery
Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy gained media attention for taking a stand against the federal government over the hot-button issue of grazing fees. Shortly thereafter Bundy told reporters about the state of “Negros” in America, regurgitating the old stereotype of lazy black people.
Because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton … I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.
3. Megyn Kelly knows Santa is white
In the above clip, another Fox News pundit (who’s surprised?), Megyn Kelly, takes offense at the idea that Santa should be anything other than white, even as she claims to understand how a white Santa might alienate minorities. Her conviction that children watching must understand that Santa is white — he’s not, because he doesn’t exist — leads her to the similar claim that Jesus was also white. That’s not a “verifiable fact,” as Kelly claims, since given the circumstances of his birth, Jesus was almost certainly of Middle Eastern descent.
4. Brian Kilmeade thinks Americans aren’t “pure”
In discussing a recent study about the positive effects of marriage on mental health, Brian Kilmeade inexplicably brings race into the discussion, claiming the study doesn’t apply to Americans who “keep marrying other species and other ethnics.” Watch the other hosts try to distance themselves as Kilmeade insists on finishing his vile claim that, “Swedes have pure genes, because they marry other Swedes, because that’s the rule,” whereas in America “we marry everybody.” The goofy cartoon sound effect can’t smooth over a comment like that.
5. Mark Fuhrman talks about “these people”
The racism of former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman was well-established during O.J. Simpson’s infamous trial, and may have even played a part in the athlete’s acquittal. Since retiring, he’s become a regular on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. In this particular clip, he speaks about the murderous tendencies of “these people” (a term he weakly denies has anything to do with race), saying that they “will kill someone and then have some chicken at KFC.”
6. E.W. Jackson thinks Obama has a “Muslim perspective”
Bishop E.W. Jackson’s campaign for lieutenant governor of Virginia was little more than a parade of media appearances peppered with racist and homophobic comments. In interviews hosted on both major networks or little-read online sites, Jackson claimed Obama was “an evil presence” with a “Muslim perspective,” said Planned Parenthood has “killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions,” and called for the reinstatement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The above video offers just a taste of Jackson’s brand of hateful vitriol disguised as conservative Christian values.
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