With Black People It’s Either-Or

Earliest known photograph of the White House. The image was taken in 1846 by John Plumbe during the administration of James K. Polk. (Library of Congress/John Plumbe) Found at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/white-house-was-fact-built-slaves-180959916/#hk54Pm4MdSwWPvkh.01

Why is that when positive references are made regarding Black Americans, our accomplishments, or our contributions to society, certain people feel the need to add the proviso (condition) “they didn’t do it alone,” but when negative references are made about Black Americans the underlying caveat (condition) is that the grouping is reserved exclusively for Black Americans?

Case in point —

On the surface Bill O’Reilly’s “Tip of the Day” has the appearance of an affirming — if not neutral—historical nugget, but in fact he implies that the First Lady Michelle Obama asserted the notion that only Blacks built the White House (which she did not) and that the record needed to be set straight (which it didn’t). What’s laughable is that anyone with common sense would conclude that only Blacks built the White House OR that that’s what she intended to convey. The other thing that makes his “Tip of the Day” unsettling is his emphasis that slaves were well fed and had decent lodging as if that justified slave labor.

Can you imagine being the bread winner for your family (already living in much less than adequate conditions) and getting ripped from your family, shipped off to another city to perform manual labor for years (till the project was completed or until you died, whichever came first) and that your only compensation was room and board because your “owner” was paid for sweat of your brow?

Slavery was just as wrong then as it is now, no matter who romanticizes it. But I’ll give O’Reilly half credit for attempting to inform his audience … albeit speciously.

Attempts to undermine or diminish the accomplishments of others to elevate one’s own standing should be relegated to kindergarteners (and there only until they’ve been taught better). The strategy never works and ultimately reveals the perpetrator’s feeble attempt at one-upmanship.

Originally published at www.clayrivers.com.