Before any of you who lean left give me crap, you should know I also listen to Al Franken's show and probably will continue to do so as long as the few remaining squirrels powering the treadmill that runs Air America continue to be fed.
Anywho, O'Reilly started an interesting discussion that made me wonder how widespread his surprise was.
Here's the deal: By now we've all heard how Democratic Sen. Joe Biden stuck both feet in his mouth last week when he opined that fellow Dem Sen. Barack Obama is "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy."
Biden's comments, which he says were innocent and complimentary, were met with with harsh criticism by pundits and some media-appointed black leaders who wanted to know what he meant by "clean" and why Obama's speaking ability, hygiene, and appearance, warranted that sort of compliment.
So fast-forward a couple of days. In an interview with Fox News Channel host Neil Cavuto, Pres. Bush was asked what he thought of Obama. He too complimented the senator for seeming to be a nice capable guy. And while the president suggested Obama had a long way to go in terms of gaining enough experience to qualify himself for the White House, he added "He’s an attractive guy. He’s articulate. I’ve been impressed with him when I’ve seen him in person."
So back to O'Reilly. He said he was surprised that anyone would take offense at the "articulate" comments. O'Reilly did say that he understood the criticisms of Biden's "clean" comments. But he said he would bet that most white people would also be baffled as to why the articulate thing might be annoying. A compliment of being articulate and attractive should be appreciated, O'Reilly said.
For the record, I am paraphrasing O'Reilly, not quoting him exactly, 'cause I was not recording his radio show. No one is gonna accuse me later of twisting his or anyone else's words.
Now, if you've read this blog for even a week you know I'm not hyper-sensitive about discussions and debates on race and culture. I'm just the opposite, actually. You also know I don't believe in out of control political correctness.
But this topic fascinates me, 'cause I understand the criticisms. I completely understand them.
You have to understand that this one is not necessarily a racial issue. It's a matter of people not wanting to be condescended to.
I've gotten both those compliments dozens, maybe even hundreds of times from white people (usually elderly)...especially the one about how good looking I am ;-)
And I didn't always take offense. It's about context.
If you know me, then you don't need to tell me I'm articulate. I'll assume you think as highly of me as I deserve. If you're a potential employer or someone about to interview me for say a media outlet and you call my associates and ask about me in preparation and they tell you, among other things, that I'm articulate it's all good. They're just trying to give you a well-rounded feel for who/how I am.
But if you're a stranger and you tell me I'm articulate or tell other people how clean I am, I'm sorry, but I just have to wonder why. And I can't help but wonder if you'd feel the need to say the same things to me if I were a well-spoken, clean young white man.The history behind this comes from mass media portrayals of black folks back in the day as inarticulate boobs who all sounded like Mush Mouth from The Fat Albert Show. So yes, some of us ruffle when people we don't know tell us "You speak so well!" or "You are so clean cut!"
Those aren't bad words. They are compliments, taken at face value. But can you understand why I would in turn ask myself "Well, how did you expect me to sound, stupid, maybe?" or why I might ask myself "How did you expect me to look, dirty, and unkempt?"
Finally, I'll leave you with this anecdote: When I was in college, I was blessed with a tough, but great job that allowed me to pay for most of my college bills out of pocket. If you've read this blog before you know that I was a civilian aircraft machinist on the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va. When I was 19 I bought myself a new pick-up truck - maroon Nissan Hardbody. I thought I was the coolest cat around. But that's another story. Anyway, the car salesman told me I should consider investing some of my money more aggressively than I could with a regular bank account. Naturally, he recommended his wife, an investment advisor with a big, well-known firm. After weeks of phone conversations with his wife, I finally agreed to meet her in person at her downtown office. So I skipped class one morning and drove to her office building, wearing my best suit at the time, a $600 Hugo Boss number, my best shoes, best watch, etc. When I got off the elevator on her floor, a young white man stepped off the elevator behind me. He was wearing laborer's clothing and was covered in enough grease to suggest that he was some kind of mechanic too. The receptionist looked us both over and though he stood behind me, she looked around me to ask the other guy if she could help him first. I wasn't having it and corrected her. She pouted, but complied and alerted my financial advisor that I was waiting in the lobby. A minute or so later the woman - the car salesman's wife - came to the lobby. She looked me over. Then she studied the other guy. Finally she extended her hand to him and said "James, nice to meet you!" He was a little confused, understandably. So I stood up and told her "Actually, I'm James." She turned beet red, stammered a minute, and explained what till that point had been an innocent error with "I'm so sorry. It's just on the phone you sounded so, so..."