The struggle for racial equality in the U.S. hasn’t been this apparent in the mainstream for many years. Between the Supreme Court’s disastrous 5-4 decision this Summer to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act to the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, the last few months have really brought into stark relief how far we’ve come since the Civil Rights movement bubbled up all those years ago, but also just how far we truly have to come. Nowhere is the chasm of perspective on race deeper or more apparent than in the bastion of conservative talking points, Fox News and specifically, Mr. Tone-Deaf-Shaved-Wookiee himself, Bill O’Reilly.
On his show last night, O’Reilly once again found himself discussing Martin killing as Trayvon’s killer, George, and his estranged in-laws had that strange altercation this week. Videos released have shown Zimmerman conclusively tossing and destroying an iPad on which video of the confrontation is presumed to be stored. The details of the actual altercation are still sketchy at this time, but since he was discussing Zimmerman in the first place, ol’ Bill figured now was as good a time as any to make a terrible, dog-whistle racism tinged comment about Martin’s death.
“It’s a bit complicated, because the reason Trayvon Martin died was because he looked a certain way, and it wasn’t based on skin color.,” O’Reilly pontificated on Friday night’s show. “But he looked a certain way, and that look is how…gangstas look,” O’Reilly continued. So there you have it, over a year after his death and the conservative media can’t keep banging on and on about the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing. The reason so many get up in arms over comments like this is very simple. The implication now comes from Fox News that unless young African-American boys want to get shot, they can’t wear hoodies. In fact, in the segment, Bill goes so far as to say that if only Trayvon had been wearing a suit like that of his guest, ex-Congressman Allen West, he’d have been alive today.
How can conservatives not see how incredibly racist comments like this are? Does O’Reilly really think that had Martin been a young white boy in a hoodie he’d have been approached by Zimmerman? Even if so, the broader implications of Bill’s comments are that no one should feel safe after dark wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Basically the argument being made is that hooded-sweatshirts mean you’re a gangster, or as Bill said with condescension and disdain dripping from his voice…a gangsta. But if that’s the case, and we can start judging people based on what they wear and surmising criminal activity thereof, then can we assume that any white guy in a three-piece suit is a duplicitous, slimy Wall Street financier looking to swindle us out of every dime we own?
How happy would O’Reilly feel about that assumption being made?