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Scholars Eddie Glaude and Michael Eric Dyson Have Healthy Debate on American Exceptionalism, Bill O’Reilly

On the July 28 edition of “Democracy Now,” scholars Michael Eric Dyson and Eddie Glaude responds to the Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly’s comments about the White House providing food and “decent lodgings” to enslaved Black people.

In the nearly 9-minute clip, the two rip apart O’Reilly for trivializing the horror of slavery.

Here is an excerpt of the interview:

Dyson: Well, it’s, Mike Tyson might say, ludicrous for Bill O’Reilly to deny the fact that slave labor built that institution—in fact, built America, Toni Morrison said, on the backs of Blacks. We have erected American society. Democratic projects, institutions and energies all rest on what Black people provided, and not just physical labor, whether Benjamin Banneker drafted the plans and extended what had begun with another architect, or the fact that Black intellectual and social and moral vision made possible the realization of the very democratic energy that that building embodies and represents, the point that Professor Glaude was making earlier, in terms of taking a brief tour of what Black people have done in this country. That White House represents such a powerful moment, a locus of such competing energies.

And the reason Bill O’Reilly is upset and many white people are responding is because Michelle Obama, without saying so, without saying, “I’m engaging in a powerful articulation of Blackness in reaction to the rise of white supremacy and a culture that adores whiteness as the norm for America,” she was invading that. Her Black body invades that. Her talking about her children on the White House lawn is messing with the mindset of these bigots out here who are looking, in the broader scope of things, at just how lethal the presence of Obama and Mrs. Obama and their children represent, beyond any of the politics.”

Glaude: I mean, it’s just stupid. But it’s revealing in its stupidity, because part of what’s at the heart of the problem in our discussions around race in this country is a fundamental bad faith—right?—that there is a sense in which the ways in which folks engage in the conversation around racial inequality, the beliefs and assumptions—right?—that inform that conversation are never made explicit.


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