Thursday, May 27, 2010

associate black men with drug dealers

About 35 seconds into this clip, Bill O'Reilly -- Fox News' racisme provocateur -- tells a black man, Marc Lamont Hill -- who happens to be a Columbia University professor -- that he "looks like a cocaine dealer." They're discussing President Obama's decision to send troops to the Mexico-U.S. border. (Watch also for Dr. Hill's comeback.)

   Bill O’Reilly: “Let's say you’re a cocaine dealer -- and you kind of look like one a little bit.”

   Marc Lamont Hill: “As do you . . . you know, you actually look like a cocaine user

This example of ignorant white aggression reminds me of another, bitterly iconic scenario, Professor Cornel West's struggle to catch a taxi (as described in his book Race Matters):

I dropped my wife off for an appointment on 60th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues. I left my car -- a rather elegant one -- and stood on the corner of 60th Street and Park Avenue to catch a taxi. I felt quite relaxed since I had an hour until my next engagement. At 5:00 P.M. I had to meet a photographer who would take the picture for the cover of this book on the roof of an apartment building in Harlem on 115th Street and 1st Avenue. I waited and waited and waited. After the ninth taxi refused me, my blood began to boil. The tenth taxi refused me and stopped for a kind, well-dressed smiling female citizen of European descent. As she stepped into the cab, she said, "This is really ridiculous, is it not?"

Ugly racial memories of the past flashed through my mind. Years ago, while driving from New York to teach at Williams College, I was stopped on fake charges of trafficking cocaine. When I told the police officer I was a professor of religion, he replied "Yeh, and I'm the Flying Nun. Let's go, nigger!" I was stopped three times in my first ten days in Princeton for driving too slowly on a residential street with a speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour. (And my son, Clifton, already has similar memories at the tender age of fifteen.) Needless to say, these memories are dwarfed by those like Rodney King's beating or the abuse of black targets of the FBI's COINTEL-PRO efforts in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet the memories cut like a merciless knife at my soul as I waited on that godforsaken corner.

Since the day West is describing here is the day that he was photographed for the cover of his book, you can see what he was wearing -- a formal, thoroughly professional looking suit, complete with tie, and vest. I can't tell if Marc Lamont Hill was also wearing a vest, but the rest of the "professional" uniform is there. And yet, looking as educated, professional, well-heeled, well-monied and so on often doesn't matter, does it? For Bill O'Reilly, as for many white people, the image of a drug dealer as a black man persists in the "darker" recesses of our minds.

So that's a fairly obvious common white tendency exemplified by that clip, and I hope that electronic cards and letters of complaint are pouring into Fox Studios as I write this post.* However, another, less obvious white tendency (less obvious to white people like me, that is) also seems to emerge here. As Zuky notes,

Bill O’Loofah started worrying that this sharp dude (Marc Lamont Hill) might be on the verge of taking him down intellectually, so he threw in some gratuitous gut-rot racism as a degrading distraction. White folks do this all the time.

Yes, gratuitous derailing gut-rot racism. It works every time. Or, almost every time.

And half the time, or more, we don't even know we're doing it.

* You can complain by writing to askfox AT fox DOT com


  1. That's the kind of thing that's striking to me; why, in the middle of a discussion about Obama, does O'Reilley feel the need to interject that "drug dealer" comment? You can argue it's for the sake of whatever analogy he was going for, bit it's racist and extremely unnecessary...and Hill handled it much better than I would have. Hell, I'd have started open-mouthed at his racist ass, like, "Really, guy?"

  2. (In which I completely ignore the post title)

    >> "However, another, less obvious white tendency also seems to emerge here."

    Less obvious?

    WP's fear that a POC--any POC--might be smarter than us is one of the most prevalent swpds, as is all the flak we throw to try to disguise it.

    RVCBard hit on this on another thread recently--WP's tendency to assume that we understand everything POC say because it's 'simple' and 'straightforward', whereas what characterizes Explaining is that the person doing the Explaining (in this case, white) feels a topic to be complex. My roommate, reading over my shoulder, suggests the stereotype of the 'straight-talking Black woman' or the Black/Latina woman who "tells it like it is" comes from this particular tendency as well.

    And I wonder if the Magical Negro/Magical Native American tropes also come into play here? Like, setting up a distinction between 'intelligence' and 'wisdom', in which Wisdom is something Deep and Earthy, but magical and not really due to the person zirself being awesome--yet can be neatly packaged for white consumption. Intelligence, on the other hand, is typically considered solely due to the awesomeness of the person considered 'smart.' Thus a white quality.

    Dr. Hill's comeback is awesome. [Macon, on his website bio he refers to himself as Dr. Hill, not Professor; you might want to change that.]

  3. "Bill O’Loofah started worrying that this sharp dude (Marc Lamont Hill) might be on the verge of taking him down intellectually, so he threw in some gratuitous gut-rot racism as a degrading distraction. White folks do this all the time."

    This reminds me of a time that I was debating a white man about something, and I was pretty much owning his ass. Randomly out of nowhere he asks me, "Here's a joke, why is there cotton in pill bottles?"

    If you don't know the answer, you can Google it.

  4. I can't remember the last time I even watched O'Reilly. He's way different from his Inside Edition days (minus that viral meltdown). Of course, that can be said with many of these current talking heads (Geraldo, Maury, Springer, etc.). That said, the sneaky comment directed at Hill was childish, but I like the response by Hill...

  5. I agree with Willow. It's less obvious to you, macon, as a White person, but POC know damn well how easily white people shut down when they think they are being out-smarted by a POC.

  6. I am so happy that Dr. Hill came right back, but O'Reilley did not deserve to be placated with "so we're even." What amazing strength of character to forgo that sort of insult with a smile. I wish he didn't need to demonstrate that superhuman strength of character to be on white-dominated TV.

    Fox has my disgruntled e-mail.

  7. Thank you for pointing that out, Willow and Rochelle -- didn't realize I was wearing my Universalizing White glasses at that point. I've added a parenthetical element to that part of the post that I hope corrects that.

    (I also changed "Professor Hill" in the first paragraph to "Dr. Hill.")

  8. I usually don't watch these clips, because they annoy me and I gotta get through my whole workday with white people.

    But this one was a short clip, so I checked it out. I noted Dr. Hill's face when O'Reilly made that comment. I knew exactly what he was thinking and all of it happened in less than 3 seconds.

    I'm inclined to go thought by thought, but because I know somebody will take it out of context, I won't. Let me just say that it shows how often he has probably been in such situations that he was able to come back with a very good response in such a short amount of time.

    Makes me think of another swpd... "always feel like they need to remind you of who (they think) you are..."

  9. A classic "let me put you back in your place" movement. Not dissimilar to telling a black scholar or professional that they are "so articulate" when they've just dazzled you with their intellect or owned you in an argument.

  10. This happened to me many times over when I had an intellucal conversation or debate with a white person. I use to always wonder why did the person resort to my race or some ethnic joke in hopes of making my position on an issue irrelevant. And, like Macon stated in the article, it WORKS EVERY SINGLE TIME and is a perfect distractor.

  11. Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the rest of the conservative con artists are realistic versions of Archie Bunker, except they don't make me laugh.

  12. This is a variation / example of the "see a potential criminal in every black person" post from 3/30/10. That Bill O the Clown would use this tactic to try "put a black man in his place" surprises me not at all. What does amaze me is that black people are willing to engage in conversation with him at all. I couldn't do it without shaking / screaming / cursing / crying. I'm glad there are some who can.

  13. I think one of the most telling parts of this segment was O'Reilly's line at the end "You're going to find another way to do it [come across the border]." Because most undocumented workers don't walk across the border. That is such a small percentage of how people end up in the US (largely visa overstays). What I don't understand is how someone can advocate sending 10,000 troops to the US/Mexican border, when they know that people will "find another way" to get here.

  14. "What I don't understand is how someone can advocate sending 10,000 troops to the US/Mexican border, when they know that people will "find another way" to get here."

    Oh that's simple, by being a moron.

    I love when John Stewart owns him on a regular basis.

    DR. Hill's comeback is great though I wish he hadn't been laughing when he said it.

  15. "Well, you look too pudgy to be involved with cocaine, but if I had to guess I'd say you're a falafel fan"

  16. This is why I do not belive white people when they try to blame everything else on race when they say a POC is more likely a criminal "he was wearing gang clothing so that's why" oh please.

    My little 10 year old brother was accused of starting a gang with a group of his friends who are mostly black and a group of black boys together automatically mean gang members/criminals to them.
    MY brother was 8 at the time and he would be the first person to laugh at somebody's aspiration to be a gangsta that they see on TV.

    I mentioned my brother on another blog and somebody commented that it is how my brother is dressed that they may think that but no. In the UK every single primary school and high school wears school uniform. He is wearing what everyone else is wearing yet he and his friends who were hanging out together becasue that is what kids do were still seen as potential criminals.

  17. A good comeback would have been, "Really, Bill? I wouldn't know what a cocaine dealer looks like as I am not a cocaine user. I'll have to take your word on that one then. You must know what you're talking about."

  18. @August - Jesus. F8cking. Christ.

    Someone actually said that shit to you? I hadn't heard the joke before, and had to Google it.

    How did you manage to avoid not kneeing him in the balls?

  19. "A good comeback would have been, "Really, Bill? I wouldn't know what a cocaine dealer looks like as I am not a cocaine user. I'll have to take your word on that one then. You must know what you're talking about.""

    That's a good one, but I think it would be difficult to come up with that in the three seconds Dr. Hill had. Really, it isn't fair that he had to come up with a response to such an ugly comment in such a short amount of time.

  20. I love animy's comeback but agree, it'd be a hard one to come up with on the spot in a situation like this. Anyone who could do it is my hero.

  21. He doesn't even look like a cocaine dealer in the movies, so I have to conclude that he actually looks like O'Reilly's dealer. Must be nice not to have to slum it to get your drugs, eh Bill-O?

  22. I think we're missing a big racist implication here. While it's humorous to say O'Reilly must be thinking of what his own dealer looks like, the real issue is the white assumption that if a black man doesn't look poor, he must be making his living as a drug dealer.

  23. "I think we're missing a big racist implication here. While it's humorous to say O'Reilly must be thinking of what his own dealer looks like, the real issue is the white assumption that if a black man doesn't look poor, he must be making his living as a drug dealer."

    This is something I've heard people say a lot; the instance I am thinking of specifically was regarding one of my high school teachers. "A black man living on a teacher's salary and dressing like that? [he was always well-dressed] Must be selling drugs or something." My response was usually some form of "Think about how fucking stupid that sounds for a minute. What the hell is wrong with you..."

    For the record, Bill O'Reilly has embarrassed himself and decent human beings in general too many times, and he just needs to get off the air. I'm sure he would claim not to be a racist, but it's obvious that he has a deep-seated fear/mistrust of everyone who is not white and/or doesn't subscribe to his brand of conservatism.

  24. To what extent this is relevant, each individual will have to decide on his/her own. However, I think it is relevant to note that Hill appears regularly on O'Reilley's show. They often exchange "barbs."

  25. I just have to say, thanks for the video on Europen Immigration. Love it. I've been writing alot about this on my blog lately and this is perfect. Thanks.

  26. August: Jaw drop. Did you know that joke? If so, did you just walk away?

    Cuesque: Yes. Maybe it's more choreographed outrage theater for the masses. Gets the team fans through to the McDonald's & BP ads, & our performing heroes go home with the fat paychecks. Kind of like we're all played chumps, racing in our old hamster wheel.

    If not, Hill is quick, practice or no.

  27. I have had similar experiences to Mr. West. Let me relate one to you....

    Years ago I went back home to Charlotte,NC while on a 2 week leave from the military. My friend had just brought a new Jeep Cherokee and we decided to floss around town a little bit. We picked up 2 girls that we were trying to impress and we hit the town. We proceeded to drive through the Uptown area and we got blue-lighted by the cops. We wondered why we were pulled over since traffic was heavy and we were not speeding. The first thing the pig said when he came up to the window was and I quote, "What is 4 niggers doing in a jeep this nice. I know you have something in here I should know about. Get out and sit on the sidewalk." I tried to show the cop my military ID, but he wasn't having it. He called for back up, made us sit on the hot ass side walk, it was the middle of August, while we waited for the dogs and 3 more pigs to show up. They ripped my boys Jeep apart right there on the street and when they were finished and did not find anything, we did not even get an apology. We had to call a tow truck because they took out all the seats and they did not put them back. This is one of the many reasons I hardly ever tell people I am from NC and why I will never live there again. I claim MD and that is where I probably will end up once I decide to leave TX. I can definitely feel Mr. West's pain on this.
    Good post.

  28. Yes, it is that thing again where some white people hate to see a successful and educated black person who has made great achievements and feels the need to bring the person down a peg or two.

    Also, is it me, or does Bill O’Reilly have that tone of superiority in his voice.

    I am so glad that Lamont Hill flipped it on him and told him that he looked like a drug user. Funny how a number of white celebrities and aristocratic white people are busted for drug possession but nothing comes of it. They always seem to have a get out of jail free card to get away with just about anything imaginable.

    I've had this myself from an ex-Manager telling me that I was over-confident.

    There appears to be this constant need to bash black people at every opportunity and for no reason whatsoever?

    Off topic: I think Marc Lamont Hill is just so lovely.

  29. I'm white and I covet any time I meet a person of color who is smarter than me. I went to a mostly black Jr high and elementary school. I was always accused of being a ”wanna be” by a lot of kids. But the few white kids who went to my school literally lived on the other side of the tracks, they came from two parent homes and their parents were mostly doctors and lawyers. I could not relate to them at all. When I moved on toJr high, which was a magnet school in the hood, to which rich kids were bussed in from other neighborhoods, I was told by both white and black administrators to stop associating with the bad black kids or I would be sent back to my home school, they failed to realize that was my home school. In Jr high I dated a black boy and his cousins would always come to my house and try to fight me. Now 16 years later a lot of my friends have left the hood mentality behind and I still find myself trying to relate to the ones who haven't but theyre still interested in the Game, fighting, disrespecting other women, and generally being shitty. I love when I meet a person of color who has escaped or ignored the cultural expectation to adhere to what the media defines as black America. Because I'm white but you can't define me by that and the same is true for every race.


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