Since the George Zimmerman verdict was handed down last month in Florida, there has been a significant number of primarily conservative voices complaining that the anger and outrage expressed by many Americans represent a “racializing” of the case. From President Obama on down, it seems that anyone with the temerity to speak out loud of the experience of Black Americans was certain to be criticized for using the case to “politicize,” “divide,” and/or “inflame.” It’s as if the reality has been inconsequential, but speaking the truth somehow makes things worse.
If we’re being honest, speaking the truth does nothing more than give us all an opportunity to reassess the way we have, or have not, been addressing race in this country – whether in terms of justice, or more broadly. But the other thing it does do is expose the deep-seated denial among certain segments of our population. Yes, at that level, speaking of racial injustice is a very real threat to the head-in-the-sand status quo.
This week, a passing comment from the venerable Oprah Winfrey identifying the parallels some Americans see between the Trayvon Martin case and the murder of Emmett Till half a century ago provoked an enraged response on, where else, the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity Show.
Guest Michael Myers didn’t mince words: Oprah used to be a “bridge over troubled water,” but now she’s jumped into the deep end with her “idiocy and racial poison.” He went on to call her a “hypocrite,” charging, “You know diddly-squat about the civil rights movement!”
Coverage of this tirade has largely omitted the fact that the accusation of knowing “diddly squat” about civil rights was a direct reference to Oprah’s own words from August 1st, when the media mogul applied them to “most Americans'” knowledge of the civil rights movement’s history.
Be that as it may, the Hannity panel had no patience with a prominent African-American woman speaking her mind on African-American issues:
Naturally, former Fox News host Glenn Beck lost no time in jumping aboard the how-dare-she bandwagon (link via Mediaite).
OK, two points: number one, the focus of what Oprah was saying clearly is, how important it is to see how far we’ve come – regardless of how desperately the Foxters try to skip past that part of the quote. And number two, if Oprah is somehow unqualified to acknowledge the similarities she (along with countless others) saw between Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till, what are we to make of prominent voices in the civil rights movement, including that of “Moral Monday” founder and North Carolina NAACP head Rev. William Barber II, who recently said the very same thing on State of Belief Radio?