As a fellow White male who has also studied history, I felt compelled to write to you today to respectfully disagree with your stance on White privilege in America. You see, William, on your show The O'Reilly Factor on May 15, you stated that, "I do not believe you are granted favorable treatment in this country because you are White. You have to work for success." This point was conceded as a followup to your May 14th program during which you had a segment discussing how the Kennedy School at Harvard was considering including a portion of its orientation to discuss issues associated with White privilege as a way for students to be made aware of the issue going forward as they began to think about it impact in relation to public policy. As always William, your guests had some interesting things to say on the topic but unfortunately I don't think either they or you truly understand what White privilege is. Allow me to share some of my thoughts as it relates to you and your own life, if I may.
First off William, I don't think you quite have a proper understanding of just what is meant by the term "White privilege." It is not, as you suggested closely related to the idea of White supremacy. Nor is it used to pit the races against each other in a divisive manner as your esteemed guest, Stuart Varney, seemed to imply. Rather, the term White privilege is used to express the idea that all things being equal, White people are given inherent advantages and opportunities available to them that are not given to those of other races. In other words, it is the notion that a person who just happens to have been born to light-skinned, European-looking parents will inevitably be given access to resources and materials throughout his or her life that will put him or her at a distinct advantage over others on the path to success. For the vast majority of those who are part of the White privilege class, it will be something so engrained in their lives that they will either never recognize it, or outwardly deny it.
You see, William, you are are part of that second group: You are someone who outwardly denies his White privilege. As you said on your show, you "grew up poor" and then worked hard to achieve his success. My hat is off to you in that regard. I have no doubt you put in many long hours to achieve your success. However, what you don't realize is that hard work is not an automatic precursor to success. There are people who work just as hard, if not harder who will never have an opportunity to achieve what you have. Don't believe me? Let's take a brief look at your biography, breaking it down to see if we can find any examples of White privilege.
First off, William you come from a long line of Irish immigrants who came over to this country in the mid-18th century. Therefore, your family had been pretty well entrenched in the northeast even before you were born in 1949. Once upon a time, your descendants might have faced discrimination for being new immigrants, but you were born at a time and place when being Irish in America was perfectly acceptable. Your family, including yourself, your sister, and your parents eventually settled in Levittown, New York. Now, William, somebody as well educated as yourself should clearly know all about Levittown and its place in American history. However, there is a little bit of history that most people don't know about Levittown which is actually important in understanding your roots.
You see, William, the town of Levittown represented the American dream. For the first time, suburban communities were mass produced to give first-time homeowners a chance to buy their very first home by offering a 30-year mortgage as well as no down payment and monthly costs the same as rental. Kudos to your parents for snatching up the opportunity when it presented itself. They made a great decision and were to create a stable home, white picket fence and all, for you and your sister to thrive upon. Not only did you have access to a secure suburban community, but your family also had access to some of New York state's best schools in the region. This idea rang true not just for your family but for the thousands of others who also found a permanent home in the Levittown area.
Unfortunately, William, those with access to this community were only of the White race. Thanks to legalized housing discrimination in the 1950s, Levittown sales agents refused to sell homes to African Americans, even if they had served in combat. It was actually written into the buying agreement that the property could not be used or rented by anyone outside the Caucasian race. Racial discrimination was so bad in Levittown that they refused to even sell to those families who were Jewish. William Levitt, founder of the original Levittown, once infamous said, "As a Jew, I have no room in my heart for racial prejudice. But the plain fact is that most whites prefer not to live in mixed communities. This attitude may be wrong morally, and someday it may change. I hope it will." Levittown was finally integrated in the early 1960s as a result of Brown v. Board but the stigma associated with racial discrimination stuck with the community through integration. Current demographics of the town show that the town remains 94% White.
Luckily for you and your family, William, you were both White and non-Jewish.
Now, William, I know that you were just a wee lad during the first few years in Levittown, so I'll let it slide that you didn't really notice your White privilege in terms of housing. In fact, you were probably so busy working hard in school that you hardly noticed your community's demographics. Now, according to your bio, William, you attended Chaminade High School in Mineola, NY. Chaminade is a fine school, and one of the the premier private Roman Catholic High Schools in the region. William, I realize that you said your family was "poor" so it must have been quite the feat for your parents to afford to send you to private school, especially one was prestigious as Chaminade. Of course, they most likely saw it as a sound investment: Chaminade boasts of having a 100% college acceptance rate and even today remains an elite Long Island preparatory academy.
I know, William, you worked hard in high school. You were even goalie on the Chaminade varsity ice hockey team. But part of me wonders about the whole relationship between housing and schooling. You see, William, your family had some disposable income thanks to the sweet deal they got on their home in Levittown. They could afford to pay the fairly modest price to send to you Chaminade. What I'm wondering about is some of those non-White families. They didn't get the cheap housing thanks to the discriminatory housing practices in place at the time so they had to venture closer to the cities where rent was much more expensive. Since rent was more expensive there's a chance they couldn't save as much money. Since they couldn't save as much money they might not have been able to send their children to a school like Chaminade. They might have ended up sending their child to the local neighborhood school. Unfortunately, this was a time period where many schools were fighting integration. Needless to say, these children probably did not end up at a free public high school that boasted a 100% college acceptance rate.
I apologize, William. I guess I'm rambling. I'm sure your neighborhood upbringing and your private high school experience were not a direct result of your race. Please allow me to continue.
After high school, you attended Marist College at the urging of your father. For those who don't know, Marist is a private university located in Poughkeepsie, New York. While at Marist, you were an honors student majoring in history. You also were fortunate enough to be able to afford a semester abroad, which you spent at Queen Mary College at the University of London. After graduating from Marist you moved to Miami and taught English and history for a couple years before returning to school to get your master's degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. While at BU, you were able to land an internship at WBZ-TV which gave you your first expose to broadcast television news.
Your adventures in cable news took you all over the place. I'm jealous of how often you got to travel, William! In a roughly ten year span, you worked at various affiliates in Scranton, Dallas, Portland, Denver, Hartford, Boston, and New York City. You worked for both CBS News and ABC News. You certainly hit it big in 1989 when you began hosting the CBS show Inside Edition for six years, which helped make you a household name. You then returned to school in 1995 to get your second master's degree, this one in public administration from the prestigious John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In October of 1996, a gentleman by the name of Roger Ailes brought you over to a little-known network called Fox News and gave you a show which came to be called The O'Reilly Factor. The rest, as they say, is history!
Now, William, let me start out by complementing you on your hard work. Moving all over the country could not have been easy but I'm glad you had the financial resources to do it! However, there's one thing I'd like to ask you about. It's probably nothing, but I thought I should bring it up. You see, William, there was an unpleasant event that occurred on the set of Inside Edition some years back. I realize you are a hard-worker and had probably just had a long day. However, there is video of the incident and it's a little bit unpleasant. The video shows you cursing out your set director at the end of the taping for an episode of Inside Edition. Now, I realize nobody was hurt and by now it's water under the bridge but that incident got me thinking a little bit, William. Allow me to briefly share some thoughts on that unpleasant little event.
Now, William, as a White male, you are not typically associated with any stereotypes. Which, let's be honest, is a good thing! However, I couldn't help but wonder if the reaction to the incident would have been different if you had a darker skin complexion. For example, do you think that an African American male who said "F*$% it we'll do it live!" as you did on the set of the show would be treated any different than you? I can't help but wonder, William, if there might have been some unfortunate stereotypes involved if that incident had happened. Would this anchor have been called just a "typical angry Black man" or would they have been given the leeway that you were? Luckily, there's no "angry White man" stereotype, so I guess it's a moot point after all. However, it does get you wondering a bit, doesn't it, William?
Which brings us to our last point William: Your current job at Fox News. Now, William, I'm not going to get into the various topics your network talks about. However, I think it's worth discussing the idea that 88% of the guests on your network are White whereas 72% of the nation is White. In striving to be fair and balanced, it seems your network is a little off in terms of demographics. And, of course, we all know how off they are in terms of political ideology. Now, William, what I'm wondering is why someone who identifies himself as an independent would want to work for an organization that is so one-sided? If you truly don't believe in White privilege, William, why do you work for an organization that refuses to acknowledge that the issue might be worth discussing? If you are so confident in your abilities as a hard-worker, why not have a person on your show to debate you about White privilege and whether or not it exists instead of having on two panelists on your show, talking about the issue for five minutes, then moving on to the next segment?
I'll tell you why, William. You're scared. All of you at Fox News are. You're scared because the system we have in place benefits people who have your exact skin complexion. From segregated neighborhoods to elite private schools to never having to face stereotypes to never challenging the status quo, people like you, William, are scared shitless of the face of changing America. Your go-to word during the original White privilege segment was divisive. Why do liberals have to bring up such a divisive issue? Why do we as a nation have to divide ethnic groups against each other?
Because, William, that's how it has always been. There has always been White privilege in this country. You as a history major and author should damn well know this. We have a Constitution that says Black people are 3/5 of a person for Christ's sake! We fought a civil war over this idea. We segregated schools, parks, water fountains, and even our own military. Even today, we are scared of darker-skinned people. We are afraid of them wearing their turbans on airplanes. We are afraid of them speaking different languages in our malls. We are afraid of them overriding our southern border with drugs and gangs. We are afraid, William, because they are all a threat to White privilege.
The Kennedy School should damn well have a discussion of White privilege during its orientation. In fact, our elected leaders should have a discussion of White privilege. We have two African American and two Latino senators out of 100. Who are we really setting public policy for in this country if not for the White, ruling class? Believe it or not, William, just because a person encourages these discussions about White privilege does not mean they don a hood and White robe at night. What it means is that they recognize a system that is inherently unequal. A system that is rigged through living situations, education, expectations, and media exposure. A system that allows people to live their entire lives as beneficiaries of this system and to be unable to comprehend that it exists in the first place.
In other words, William, we need to have these conversations for people like you.