So I was on Melissa Harris-Perry on December 12, as part of a good discussion about Islamophobia, and a comment of mine upset Bill O'Reilly, leading to a swarm of hate-tweets and emails. Breitbart had singled out something I said for a brief article only hours after the show aired, and The O'Reilly Factor picked it up from there, truncating my quote to one partial sentence.
Which is too bad, because my point isn't controversial: that every community and every culture has toxic aspects, and that terrorism—globally and in this country as well—has a long and ugly history that predates 9/11. In the United States, that terrorism has often taken the form of white racial violence (lynch mobs, Japanese internment, the Zoot Suit riots, much more). The current demonization of Islam and attacks on Muslim Americans perpetuates that history.
And the fact that so many people get so exercised by any reminder of America's history of white racial violence is a good reason why we need to have this conversation.
Just for the record, my MHP remarks, in full, from the transcript:
BELTRAN: There are going to be troubled people in lots of different communities. But you're totally right, the way whiteness has a way of individuating subjects in a particular way. And I do think that this is a really scary, awful, alarming moment in our politics.
But I think the one possibly useful thing here is perhaps we can expand the logic of terrorism and talk about white racial terrorism, and talk about the way white fear has garnered racial violence historically from anti-immigrant riots, to anti-black riots, to lynch mobs—find a way to talk about that that doesn't just demonize all white people. That's not the conversation. But to talk about when fear and hysteria happens, that there has been racial terror in this country, and that whiteness has been allied with racial terror.
And we need to have a conversation about that, to help people maybe saying to themselves who are frightened in those communities to realize: Oh, that's the history here; I don't want to be lumped in with that either—I want to think about how to individuate people and not treat them as just a group…