On Monday night, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a moving and thoughtful speech at the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. One of the speech’s most impactful lines was “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.” In a speech full of powerful lines and emotionally charged moments, it was perhaps the most memorable of the evening and the one that had people talking about the next day.
One of those people was Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who addressed the First Lady’s speech and specifically, the line regarding the White House being built by slaves, on The O’Reilly Factor Tuesday night. His comments were cringe-worthy to say the least.
“The history behind her remark is fascinating. George Washington selected the site in 1791, and as president laid the cornerstone in 1792. Washington was then running the country out of Philadelphia. Slaves did participate in the construction of the White House. Records show about 400 payments made to slave masters between 1795 and 1801. In addition, free blacks, whites, and immigrants also worked on the massive building. There were no illegal immigrants at that time. If you could make it here, you could stay here. … Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor.”
The reaction to O’Reilly’s comments came in fast and furious. People pointed out the asinine logic he was applying, the glossing over of slavery he was partaking in and the overall tone deafness of the statement. On Wednesday, Questlove of the Roots delivered one of the more passionate and resounding responses. The drummer and producer took to his platform of choice, Instagram, posting a harrowing picture of a slave with whip marks on his back accompanied by the kind of considerate, impassioned commentary we’ve come to expect from Questlove.
“Slavery was inhumane. Slavery was sadistic. Slavery was uncomfortable. Slavery was unjust. Slavery was a nightmare. Slavery was a despicable act. Slavery is the pebble whose ripple in the river still resonates on and on and on and on. I’d like to think most of you have common sense. But there is nothing more dangerous than a man in a suit pretending to be a journalist giving revisionist history on the ugliness that was slavery. What’s so fun and lighthearted about being shackled? being separated from your loved ones? Being molested and raped HOURLY, being branded with hot iron? being property? being castrated? being flogged? being malnourished? living in high stress conditions? forced to lay in your own feces? being sold in a heartbeat? suppressing ANY emotion (with the surprising exception of singing it was illegal —lashes or death–to read, write, “talk back” or “sass”, cry (how many of you heard “you better NOT cry before I give you something to cry about!”), get angry, or even more surprising LAUGHING (a plantation barrel of water was always in proximity to dunk ones head in so one could express emotions and suppress the sound as to not alert your overseer of your “sassing”—deep history I just learned about laughing and the slave period—the first recorded song “The Laughing Song” was the defiant “F%^k Tha Police” of its day (also where the term “Barrel Of Laughs” gets its origin)—I’m getting beside the point. I dunno if that man’s (never say his name) point is to troll at any cost whatsoever but his entire existence is a 5 steps backwards for any progress made in humanity. My dismay is the percentage of people who get their news from memes/headlines/& sources to whom they have 0 clue is feeding them false information. Human Trafficking in any form from today’s underage prostitution, to the private Prison System we exercise here in the US, to the Holocaust to 500 years of Slavery–and all other examples I’ve not mentioned is INHUMANE & Evil. —watch where you get your information from and the company you keep people.”
Questlove frequently pens tributes and offers commentary on social issues on Instagram, but this one is easily his most powerful to date.