Rush Limbaugh is trending on social media over comments he made about Michelle Obama’s Monday night keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” Mrs. Obama said in her speech. “I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
During his radio show, Limbaugh compared the relationship black people have with America to that of a cheating wife. In order for the relationship to work, Limbaugh says, the husband must forgive his wife.
“Imagine that your wife has an affair … and you decide that you’re going to forgive her your relationship hasn’t a prayer if you can’t let it go”, said Limbaugh, according to Media Matters.
In order for this country to be united, blacks have to forgive slavery.
The key problem with Limbaugh’s analogy is that it doesn’t account for economics. The husband of a cheating wife doesn’t lose out financially, as black slaves and their descendants have; the husband loses out emotionally. The wife can make up for that with dutiful devotion over time. When is America going to make us whole financially? When is this country going to make up for slavery through economics?
It is also easy to castigate Limbaugh for his comments because he’s a white Republican, but we should recall that even some of the black community’s most cherished icons have in the past held similar views on slavery.
In 1989 even Oprah Winfrey questioned whether it was time for black people to stop using slavery as an excuse, as quoted in Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era.
“I think a lot of people still use the slavery experience as an excuse,” Winfrey said. “Some people are still walking around thinking that this system–now Mr. Bush owes them something because we were in slavery, is that fair?”
Winfrey frequently discussed poor people as a burden to society due to their own personal choices as opposed to the way in which society is structured.
“So, you know, we have all heard stories of how being on welfare takes a hold of some families, about two and three generations of mothers and daughters and sons that get stuck in a cycle of poverty that provides little inspiration to the next generation to to better,” said Winfrey. “People who work and pay taxes have a lot of big gripes about those who spend decades and generations on welfare… Today we asked families–mothers who have raised their children on welfare and their daughters who are also raising their children on welfare–why the cycle gets repeated.”
Keep in mind that these comments by Winfrey were made during a period when war was being waged against black Americans. While black communities were still reeling from President Reagan’s ‘trickle down’ economics and besieged by the crack epidemic, Winfrey was wondering if it wasn’t time for blacks to just move on from slavery.
Winfrey’s views may have evolved since then, but it is important when criticizing Limbaugh to understand that this thinking is present in the black community as well. It is imperative that we
unlearn the propaganda we’ve been conditioned to accept as fact. This applies to African-Americans as well as right wing hacks like Limbaugh.
Watch the clip below as Oprah sets the stage for the descendants of slaves and slave owners to make peace.