Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh reached out last weekend to “Charlamagne tha God,” the host of The Breakfast Club, one of the most influential radio programs among African Americans, to discuss ongoing unrest.
Rush sought to understand the views of black Americans as protests raged in the wake of the death last week of George Floyd at the hand of police in Minneapolis. Their discussion, which aired on Monday, was deeply illuminating.
Much of the time, the two were talking past one another. For Charlamagne and his co-hosts, America is deeply troubled by racism and “white supremacy.” For Limbaugh, America today allows anyone to achieve their dreams.
There was one moment that encapsulated the entire problem — and explained the fact that many white, well-off Americans seem to be deeply involved in leading and fomenting the violence that has marred the Floyd protests.
It came after Limbaugh asked Charlamagne how he proposed to solve the problem of racism. Charlamagne said that was not his question to answer: rather, it was Limbaugh who, as a white man, had to undo “white privilege.”
The transcript, from RushLimbaugh,com:
RUSH: How do you stop it? (crosstalk)
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I have a question for you. I want to know. How are you gonna use your privilege as a white male to combat this prejudice. You got a direct line to Donald Trump. (crosstalk)
RUSH: No, wait a minute, I don’t buy into the notion of white privilege. See, I think that’s a liberal —
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: You’re being —
RUSH: That’s a liberal — (crosstalk)
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: You’re being delusional.
RUSH: — political construct right along the lines of political correctness. It’s designed to intimidate and get people to shut up and admit they’re guilty of doing things they haven’t done. I don’t have any white privilege — (crosstalk)
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Do you know what white privilege is? White privilege is that what happened to George Floyd would not have happened to a white man.
RUSH: If what happened to George Floyd had happened to a white man we probably wouldn’t have even heard about it.
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Huh?
The pause lasted more than four seconds, as Charlamagne and his colleagues were caught by surprise.
Of course there have been white victims: Tony Timpa, for example, died in the custody of Dallas police in 2016. But his death did not provoke riots or become a national cause — nor did anyone take it as evidence of the conduct of police in general.
Charlamagne had not considered the problem from that angle. But what was even more revealing was that he was unwilling to discuss solutions to racism unless they involved Rush Limbaugh committing to ending “white privilege.”
In other words, Charlamagne gave power over his life, over black America itself, to a white man.
Many black leaders — including radical ones — recognized the folly of that approach. Malcolm X, for one, preached the importance of black self-reliance. So, too, did Steve Biko, the leader of South Africa’s Black Consciousness movement. (He, too, was killed in police custody in 1977, and is remembered and celebrated today by South Africans of all races.)
Placing “white privilege” at the center of the problem also places white people in the leading role.
With that in mind, it suddenly becomes clear why so many young white Americans have been drawn to radicalism: not just because they have been indoctrinated by their elite colleges or by Hollywood, but also because in a world where “white privilege” is the decisive issue, they can be the leaders. Ironically, “white privilege,” as an idea, gives whites more power.
It has been inspiring to watch examples of idealistic black activists disarming white Antifa rioters handing out bricks, or stripping masked white kids of the spray paint cans they intended to use to vandalize buildings during the protests.
But it has also been disturbing to note that there are few black leaders to whom the movement, or the country, can turn for guidance. Few trust Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, for instance.
The most important voices of a new generation claim “white privilege” is the central focus. That may be comforting, since it shifts the burden.
But it is also crippling, and it simply reaffirms a racist hierarchy that Charlamagne tha God and Rush Limbaugh each, in their own way, abhors.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.