The Clare Spark Blog

July 27, 2013

O’Reilly’s riff on ‘race’ relations

MLKJrReacting in part to the uproar over the George Zimmerman verdict, Bill O’Reilly (“number one in cable news”) started the week of July 22, 2013 with an outraged “talking point memo” on the subject of the black family and its disintegration, blaming the current polarization over the jury’s decision to aquit CZ on “’73% illegitimacy” in the ‘African-American’ population. O’Reilly’s causation is typical of culture wars argumentation. Bring the strong father back, and “African-American” culture will right itself again.

The passion, even anger, of his talking points made news all week on Fox News Channel. On Thursday, in the interests of fairness and balance, he invited an assistant professor of sociology and Black Studies from CCNY,  R. L’heureux Lewis-McCoy.  The youthful professor contradicted the notion that fatherlessness caused poverty and crime, but insisted that poverty and lack of access to jobs was the cause of the disintegration of the black family. In other words, O’Reilly had a cultural explanation for the [unruly] black population, while the sociologist offered an economic explanation to explain black problems, (The segment can be viewed here: It starts out concerned with a hip-hop artist and Al Sharpton, but at about two and a half minutes in, pivots to a discussion of the disintegrating, tattoo-loving black family. O’Reilly gave the professor a “D” for not answering a question to his liking.)

The notion of the father-directed nuclear family as the fundamental unit of society providing for stability is a throwback to the medieval order, when peasant fathers remained at home, directing the distribution of resources. “Exit the [family] king” under an advanced industrial society, and women have too much power over young males who are thereby feminized and may go homo, another fear of culture warriors. Enter the now fashionable argot that identifies all public health initiatives as vile offshoots of “the nanny state.” (For details on Ionesco’s play Exit The King see

On the Tuesday (July 23, 2013) edition of The Factor, trained psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer straight out told O’Reilly that not all problems could be solved, Surely he was thinking about the family and its proposed O’Reilly remedy: no illegitimacy and marriage. As I have suggested on this website, intact families are no panacea, but rather are the site of lifelong ambivalence or worse, owing to sibling rivalry, prolonged attachment to the parent of the opposite sex, and hard-to-control instinctive aggression identified by the now stigmatized Freud and his followers.  Indeed, social psychologists attached to the New Deal (such as Henry A. Murray) fretted about mother-son attachments as leading to an overactive social conscience that could go all the way to communism. (See, and, plus others in this series:

I will say this for the efficacy of having a father in the home. Single mothers, no matter how many children, face an exhausting challenge. A modern male who is willing to take part in family life, including child care and housework, is a blessing.

But the presence of both parents in the family constellation is no guarantee that children will achieve upward mobility or avoid a life of crime. Bill O’Reilly, like other Fox anchors, has replicated the terms advocated by multiculturalists (“African-American Community”), avoiding the thorny questions concerning welfare policies, education reform, and the teaching of parenting skills and other useful mental health concepts. [I added welfare policies to this blog in light of Joe Nicolosi’s comments below.]

Such attention to factors other than father-headed families may be a bridge too far for the employees of Rupert Murdoch.



  1. Clare has mentioned above that it would be great to have the efforts of father and mother in the hard task of raising the children. Should we be concerned about pop culture and academic culture tropes that encourage alienation of the father in the home and in the larger culture? Seems to me that if there has been a destructive effect of welfare payments, it has been the displacement of the father as vital source of family support. Unfortunately, the elimination of such payments is a direct route to increased suffering of individuals, a political cost no one is willing to pay.

    Comment by terbreugghen — July 29, 2013 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

    • The question of welfare payments is highly controversial. Is there any uniform system, whereby single-parent families are rewarded for having more children, and punished for having a father in the home? Or does this vary state by state? Then there is the whole question of Medicaid and its abuses.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 29, 2013 @ 6:12 pm | Reply

      • No way to avoid the abuse of a sufficiently large bureaucratic system. Do the benefits of the system to the larger culture outweigh the abuses? And like the immigration debate, neither half of the American political divide has or ever will have the political will to take the hard stand. Wisconsin did see a reduction in welfare with its Welfare to Work program. Also saw a large decrease of Chicago imports coming north for benefits. Did it change the family demographic? I don’t think so. I’m tempted to dig much deeper into the basis for large cultural shifts, along the lines of “what is the purpose and what are the goals of being an adult man/woman in America?” In order to move away from cultural dogmatism in favor of radical liberty, we’ve made it impossible to craft and support a single American ideal. If I were to cite one, I’d go directly to J.S. Copley’s Paul Revere as the New American Ideal, the thoughtful working man.

        Comment by terbreugghen — July 29, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

  2. The fact that two parent families are not a “guarantee” of good outcomes does not mean we should not play the odds. Certainly, the subsidization (and incentivization) of single mother households and teen pregnancy has led to some terrible outcomes that will be felt for generations to come.

    Comment by Joe Nicolosi — July 28, 2013 @ 5:41 pm | Reply

    • Joe Nicolosi has made a welcome economic argument for the rise of single mother households and teen pregnancy. Neither O’Reilly nor his black sociologist guest looked at this crucial factor. One wonders why.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 28, 2013 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

      • I have watched the welfare system do untold damage in minority communities. It is a national tragedy, and nobody wants to believe those of us that speak of it.

        Comment by Joe Nicolosi — July 28, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

  3. “O’Reilly’s causation is typical of culture wars argumentation. Bring the strong father back, and “African-American” culture will right itself again.”

    Actually, I think this is a good point made by otherwise pretty disgusting O’Reilly…
    I read the same even in one of Bill Moyer’s works – and he can certainly not be accused o being a right-winger-culture-war-monger: by 1981 over 50% of Black Americans from 1 to 21 – now it’s over 75% (then VERY FEW in the South, where also criminality rates were much lower among the Black population than in the big cities in the North) – were born in fatherless families and he, certainly not a right winger culture war monger, made the same connection between rampant POOR single motherhood and normalcy of out of wedlock children and rampant criminality…

    Comment by HaDaR — July 28, 2013 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

    • Both Moyers and O’Reilly think in collectivist terms. I am not promoting single motherhood here, but rather a consideration of extra-cultural factors that are economic in nature. Where are the black men? Jobless, and/or in jail, or in criminal activity. Inner city schools are a national disgrace.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 28, 2013 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

      • Sorry… The marxist style “economy is the structure, the rest is superstructure” is as false as the rest of Marxian theory…
        Let me tell you a story…
        I taught for a few years in the ONLY 100% minority (85% Latinos, 15% Black), Chapter 1, school in South Central L.A., 150 yards away from the first restaurant that went up in flames during the L.A. riots, in a place where THREE of the bloodiest gangs dictated the law and murdered those who dared tagging in the wrong place or wearing the wrong colors… and I can tell you without the shadow of a doubt that family structure is all and poverty nothing. Thousands of oriental kids from very poor families who now fill UCLA as Jews from poor families once did, can demonstrate that too.
        My students were ALL Latino students, who ALL had a family behind, a mother, a father and some other relative, all had barely to pit food on the table (you could see it ALSO from HOW they ate with pleasure in the school lunch cafeteria what was for many THE ONLY MEAL OF THE DAY), but all had someone at home besides their mother and many of them were succeeding, learning English and the curriculum at a pretty good pace and with good results. Not so the black kids, who were often less poor but had all broken families or no family at all, with mothers on crack, or third generation at home with AFDC and Food Stamps (that together were MORE than what most of my kids’ fathers were making as bus boys etc.).
        I know that empirical knowledge is not all, but it might count for something, doesn’t it?
        After finding out that NO ONE of my kids had a desk at home, I went on explaining to poor Mexican and Salvadoran parents, that even if they did not have money for a desk, they could get a couple of boxes at the market and make a simili-desk for their kids, where they HAD TO let them be in peace for at least one hour to learn and do their homework; and after telling them that they could get a library card without being discovered by the “migra”, I got smiles and thanks: I did not get spit in the face or insulted by the Latino mothers or grandma’s (the fathers usually worked late and could not meet them much) as others did by the black mothers… The improvements were such that my Principal, Ms. Magdalena Guajardo, an older Mexican American woman from San Antonio, TX, after coming to see my teaching, because the Black vice Principal was very much opposed to the way I did things, and complained to her, she let me do as I wished, not following the official and ridiculous California Curriculum, but going on with teaching how to hold a pencil, how to write on the lines, how to write the alphabet, etc. By the end of the first trimester, my III graders, who were ALL totally illiterate until I got there, were able to write and most even to read, certainly in Spanish (I taught ALL the curriculum in Spanish) and some even in English (which NO ONE used as a language at home!) and ALL started speaking English with pleasure and enthusiasm by the end of the year and, I found out, taught it to their parents too!
        One afternoon, kippah (you might say yarmulke, I guess, if you are Ashkenazi), peoth (peyos), tsitsith (tzitzis) and all – yes, on Central Avenue! – I had the weird experience of being approached in the school parking lot by one of my students’ brother, who showed-up with a black low-rider style Honda Civic, with black tinted windows, golden wheels, and when it stopped right next to me I had a moment of pause… Here come’s down a short but tough looking muscled Mexican guy, bandana, tattoos and all, obviously a professional jail-bird, and while he opened the door I clearly saw an Uzi sub-machimne gun on the floor on the side of the driver seat. I was not reassured, but he came up to me and he said very nicely: “Hola, Maestro! Usted es el maestro de José, verdad?”… And I said Joselito [last name]….? To his last name he said “Yes!” with a big smile. I asked him: “Que puedo hacer por usted?” and he: “Quiziera decirle gracias con todo mi corazón.” “Porqué?” I said to him…”Que hice por merecerlas?” and he: “Usted es otra esperancia, junto a mis padres, que José no llegue adonde llegué yo. Cuando yo fue niño, y no tenía papà, por que él estaba lejo. Yo dejé la escuela y perdí la oportunidad de amejorar mi suerte. Por favor, continue ansí. Y si usted necesita algo, me llame.”
        He sounded like a printed Spanish book: I guess that he rehearsed the whole thing a lot…
        I answered politely, “No, gracias. No quiero hacer diferencias entre los niños”. But VERY OBVIOUSLY looked at his Uzi while I smiled at him and he understood very well.”
        I must say that EVERY AFTERNOON he was there with his gang to make sure that nothing happened to “el maestro de Josè”.
        Do you know where I took my III Graders from South Central L.A. for their ONLY YEARLY FIELD TRIP before I left for Israel (where they kept on writing to me for years)?… I took them to a “surprise special place”.
        I took them to visit the UCLA Campus, and had half of the parents coming along for a pic-nic in the UCLA athletic stadium. And told them all: “Miren, aquí hay gente de todas las naciones y colores. Ricos y povres. Si los niños estudian como deben, y los padres los ayudan como pueden, además aprendiendo ellos mismos desde los niños, pueden pedir dinero en bolsas de estudio de los Estados Unidos y del Estado de California, y estudiar aquí también.” No es fácil, pero se puede hacer. Yo vengo de familia muy povre de obreros tambièn y estudié aquí.
        I had about 40 something people with their eyer wide opened and in awe for a whole day…
        Do you think that my colleague’s kids’ black mothers authorized their kids to go to that “useless trip that makes my son feel bad?”…

        Comment by HaDaR — July 28, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

      • Taking economics into consideration doesn’t make a speaker a Marxist. The author of the comment does not know much about Marxist theory. It does not say that economics is the substructure, determining the superstructure, though that might be vulgar Marxism as practiced by populists. Marxist theory is concerned with the relations between classes in industrial or even agrarian society. They believed that workers were exploited, but that culture could take on a life of its own. Theorists of market society looked at all factors, including the division of labor and enhanced productivity in industrial society. Such persons as Hayek, von Mises, and the Friedmans defended markets without being Marxists or anything like them.

        Comment by clarelspark — July 29, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

  4. there would be no crime or poverty. Simple solution.

    Comment by al sowins — July 28, 2013 @ 2:54 am | Reply

  5. I couldn’t disagree more. Scripture is clear that the father is the head of the home, the wife is in submission to him, and also the children. The father is to treat the children fairly and behave self sacrificially toward his wife.The cause of crime/poverty is immorality. Those who live by the New Testament(very few indeed), do not commit crimes and do not find themselves impoverished, as their fellow christians assist them in every way possible. Just as no man can be a mother, no woman can be a father. God’s plan is for a lifelong marriage between one man and one woman. Noone else will come up with a better plan. And, Clare, boys are to become men; not ladies. Lacking an appropriate adult male role model or ten, boys are likely to become effeminate, rebellious, criminal, rowdy, etc. Sometimes the board of education needs to be applied to the seat of learning, and few moms are adept at discipline. It is almost impossible to set a proper balance of affection, attention, discipline and supervision in a one parent home. And the

    biological father is not absent because he can’t find work. He is absent because he is incarcerated, drunk, doped up, stealing or fornicating. Why does he do so? Because no one makes it really painful for him to do so. We support his string of doxies and his bastards and he runs wild. Because he is amoral. He has never been convinced that he must obey God or end up in Hell forever.Good dads convince their children of that salient fact. When dads fail to do so, our present dilemma devolves.If we would all live by the New testament

    Comment by al sowins — July 28, 2013 @ 2:53 am | Reply

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