Poor Martha MaCallum. She was upset over Larry Wilmore’s use of the N-word at President Obama’s final White House Correspondents Dinner, when he addressed the president as “my n—a.”
Here is Wilmore’s remark in context:
“When I was a kid I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback … Now think about that: A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.”
“Words alone do me no justice. So Mr. President if I’m going to keep it 100: Yo Barry, you did it my n—a.” You did it.”
As he spoke, Wilmore pounded his chest.
Because it’s not right some people should be able to use the N-word, MaCallum says, and others – white people like her – not. Why is this a problem? Because “it makes you feel like you know, that there are different rules for different people.”
She just noticed that, did she? Don’t get excited though. She hasn’t noticed that the beneficiaries of these different rules are white people like her. There is no “black privilege” in this country. And it’s not white kids with toy guns being shot by police officers. Or white kids with no guns at all.
Take a listen and see if what she ran up the flagpole on Monday’s The Kelly File makes sense to you:
MARTHA MACALLUM (HOST): The White House doing a bit of defense after the host of this weekend’s Correspondents Dinner went into kind of an ugly place to get a laugh.
MARK HANNAH: It’s tough for me to come out as a guy who personifies whiteness and has like white privilege oozing out of my pores here. The debate with Kevin on whether people should be taking offense at Larry Wilmore. But look, I’ve been to these White House Correspondents Dinners, I went to one with George Bush as president. You’ve got to have pretty thick skin to get there and this is late at night. There are some off-color comments. Even Bill O’Reilly has come out and said tonight even that Larry Wilmore was coming from an affectionate place. That if you read these remarks in context, it’s not that bad. What really ticks me off frankly is when people like Kevin, black conservatives, come on TV and say the Black Lives Matter protesters are being too sensitive when they protest somebody who has basically been shot, an unarmed black kids has been shot, but yet when a comedian uses a bad word all of a sudden they’re protesting. Methinks thou dost protest too much, Kevin.
MACALLUM: I need to point out that the word he used was the N word, because we bleeped it out. Just want to make it clear to everybody at home so that they know what we’re talking about. But Kevin, you know, weigh in on this because you know I tell my kids never to use that word right? So then they see this [inaudible] and they say like, how come some people can use it and other people can’t use it? And It’s funny when some people use it. It sends a very — it’s kind of a divisive message actually because it makes you feel like you know, that there are different rules for different people. And if you can get away with it, then it’s okay.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama was not offended by Wilmore’s remarks and that he “appreciated the spirit of the sentiments that Mr. Wilmore expressed.”
April Ryan, author and bureau chief for the American Urban Radio Networks, herself African-American was, unlike MaCallum, not worried about white people being left out. She was worried about Obama and what use his enemies might make of Wilmore’s use of the word, telling Earnest:
“Many African Americans in that room – who included civil rights leaders, black comedians – were very appalled. … Black Republicans were upset, black Democrats were upset. People felt that not just throwing it at him, he threw it at them, and also, it diminished the office of the presidency and it diminished him. Did he cross the line?”
And Leonard Greene wrote at the New York Daily News Monday that “Wilmore just gave white people, many of whom have for nearly eight years been beside themselves over a black man in the White House, license to use the N-word against the leader of the free world.”
Both Ryan and Greene express legitimate concerns, not that white people have seemed to feel they need an excuse to express their racist attitudes towards our president. These concerns are not, however, the concern expressed by Fox News host Martha MaCallum, who, in an Elizabeth Hasselbeck moment, completely missed the point.
Ryan reminded Earnest that “There was an eerie, awkward silence and quietness. People didn’t know how to handle that.”
Well, she’s right: you’ve got a room full of mostly white people, which itself says something about the skewed power structures in this country. Wilmore himself alluded to this when he joked that MSNBC stands for “missing a significant number of black correspondents.”
This makes a mockery of MaCallum’s claim that use of the word somehow highlights a disparity between white people and black people, with the white people being the disadvantaged group.
It might be well to note here that though MaCallum says Wilmore went to an “ugly place,” and Rev. Al Sharpton feels it was “in poor taste,” Obama’s own reaction was laughter, and he pounded his own chest in approval. He clearly understood where Wilmore was coming from.
Wilmore admitted on “The Nightly Show” later that “Like the president himself, the reaction was mixed,” and “I completely understand why people would be upset about that. It’s a very charged word — I get it.”
MaCallum, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to get it, and that’s hardly surprising. We’d be shocked if she did.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.