At this writing, Megyn Kelly is off the air at NBC. After her horridly vapid statement saying she didn’t see anything wrong with Blackface, she apologized the next day and even invited journalist Roland Martin on to take her to school.
Martin did a brilliant job in explaining the history of Blackface and the way it demeans African Americans. It was great that he had the opportunity to educate not only his odious host, but also the millions who watch Kelly daily.
Kelly tearfully apologized and she listened to Martin and television commentator Amy Holmes as they talked about race. But, did Kelly “get” why her remarks were so objectionable? Martin says she does, but I’m not so sure.
She prefaced her apology by saying that she was not a “‘PC’ kind of person.” I’m not sure what that means, and what is wrong with being “politically correct” if it means being perfectly civil, informed, and mindful of others?
If African Americans say that Blackface is offensive, it’s offensive. Whether you know the history or not, if members of a group say something is wrong, why not accept it? Or does your White privilege allow you to determine what is offensive and what is not?
This is not the first time Kelly has put her foot into racial quicksand. Confident in her Aryan-ness, she has previously proclaimed that both Santa Claus and Jesus are White. To declare Jesus as a White man, given his geographical roots in Africa and Middle East, is to embrace a special kind of both spatial and historical ignorance. But, if you are vested in the world being a narrow White occasion, then you are free to spew racist myths or, shall we say, “fake news.”
On the Santa tip, since Santa is not a real person, but a fairy-tale, figment of someone’s imagination, his race is subject to the imagination. But, Kelly seemed to have a problem with a Black Santa. Why? Does a Black Santa offend her lily-White sensibilities? Is she so steeped in Whiteness that she can’t think outside the box? And, did NBC throw the talented Tamron Hall under the bus for that? This speaks to their own racial bias and sense of White superiority!
It is tragic to consider that Kelly has three young children who are undoubtedly being influenced by her warped racial views. NBC on the other hand, may, perhaps, be reconsidering their relationship with Kelly. It would be a great loss for them if she were bounced off the air, though there are some who think she has learned her lesson sufficiently to continue her career.
What if, instead of losing her job, she was involved in a “Black immersion” experience? What if she had to spend a month in a dormitory at Bennett or Spelman College, spending time with the young Black women she seems not to have taken into consideration heretofore?
What if her conversation with Martin could be the first of many and she was directed to spend time with Essence Editor Emerita Susan Taylor, NNPA Chair Dorothy Leavell, Jada Pinkett Smith, Rev. Jesse Jackson or well-known Black leaders and celebs. Might that make a difference for the ill-educated Kelly? Or maybe she should just read a book or two.
Kelly is not the only White person who is ignorant of American history (because the history of Black people really is American history). White ignorance is one of the reasons I look askance at some aspects of the #MeToo movement.
Fifty years after the Kerner Commission report which investigated the causes of the 1967 race riots, it is clear that there are still two Americas: one Black, and one White. These two Americas have two different realities and few bridges to understanding.
This is why, even in all-White communities, Black history must be taught. This is why our textbooks ought to speak realistically about enslavement, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and lynching. This is why we need to bust the myth that lynchings were about sex and Black men lusting after White women.
Actually, too many lynchings were about economic envy — White men lusting after Black people’s property. After White vandals destroyed the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, one report actually described the cause of the devastation as “too many n***rs having too much money.”
White ignorance is a choice, especially among adults who can educate themselves and expose themselves to the totality of history. Kelly chose to expose herself to Martin and Holmes. Too bad she shot off her uninformed mouth before she got educated. Perhaps, she will now remove the term “PC” from her vocabulary — unless she happens to mean perfectly civil.
Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. Her latest book Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy is available via www.amazon.com. For more information, visit www.juliannemalveaux.com.