Privilege

Privilege
TV talker Bill O’Reilly has waged a persistent campaign denying the existence of White Privilege. Jon Stewart recently confronted him about it, asking about his upbringing in the original suburban subdivision, Levittown, on New York’s Long Island.

“It gave you a nice stable, a cheap home,” said Stewart, “there were no down payments.It was this incredible opportunity … Those houses were subsidized … It wasn’t lavish.”

O’Reilly: No, they weren’t subsidized. They were sold to GIs, and the GIs got a mortgage they could afford.”

Stewart: “Did that upbringing leave a mark on you even today?”

O’Reilly: “Of course. Every upbringing leaves a mark on people.”

Stewart: “Could black people live in Levittown?”

O’Reilly: “Not in that time — they could not.”

Stewart: “So that, my friend, is what we call in the business ‘white privilege.’”

O’Reilly: “That was in 1950, all right.”

Stewart: “Were there black people living there in 1960?”

O’Reilly: “In Levittown? I don’t know.”

Stewart: There weren’t.

O’Reilly: “How do you know?”

Stewart: “Because I read up on it.”

O’Reilly: “Oh, you read up! You don’t know that. I can find somebody…Why would you want to live there? It’s a nice place, but it’s not a place like … Bel Air, come on!”

It wasn’t just postwar Levittown, it was Federal policy. For FHA loan guaranty policy specifically encouraged racially based restrictive covenants, the de facto practice continued for most of the 20th Century, and lingers on in many places to this day.

More:

“Bill O’Reilly’s Levittown denialism,” Eric Wemple, Washington Post

 “This is what the legacy of ‘white privilege’ looks like in Bill O’Reilly’s hometown,” Emily Badger, Washington Post

“At 50, Levittown Contends With Its Legacy of Bias,” Bruce Lambert, New York Times [1997]

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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