Thursday, July 14, 2005
This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 13, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Unresolved Problems" segment tonight, does corporate America owe African-Americans money because of slavery?
TheNAACP is holding its annual connection in Milwaukee this week. And the group is targeting some corporations that may have benefited from slavery. So far, J.P. Morgan (search) has ponied up $5 million for a scholarship program, and other big businesses may follow suit.
Joining us from Washington is Keith Watters, a civil rights attorney. And from Albany, New York, Debra Dickerson, the author of the book, "The End of Blackness."
Ms. Dickerson, what's wrong if a company did profit by slavery "” I don't know if J.P. Morgan did or not, we don't know what the connection there is "” but J.P. Morgan seems to think that they owe the African- American community some payback. And a scholarship fund for $5 million, what would be wrong with that?
DEBRA DICKERSON, AUTHOR, "THE END OF BLACKNESS": Well, I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with that. I think the problem is the murkiness around what "” what is the impulse behind this?
If the impulse is just sort of, "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, stick to it white people," I have a problem with that. If we're talking about justice. If we think that there's some relationship between the past and the present, then what we need is a truth and reconciliation process.
If that leads to some money changing hands at the end of the day, that's fine. If it leads to apologies back and forth, fine. If it leads to a mutual understanding that we thought something happened here, but it didn't, so you people need to let it go.
So it's not the question of whether or not money should change hands. The question is how we achieve truth and reconciliation all over the country.
O'REILLY: Yes, you don't want to do it through blackmail. And I would oppose, Mr. Watters, as you know, any kind of taxation of me or you or any American in reparations for slavery. That's what John Conyers, a congressman from Michigan, wants. And that's insane.
KEITH WATTERS, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, Bill...
O'REILLY: Let me get my question in. Individual Americans owe nobody anything for what happened in the past. We didn't do it. However, if somebody stole land in a slave state and that can be proven, I think reparations there, if you can prove it at that level that that specifically, I am for that. What say you?
WATTERS: I say that America owes African-American as great deal. This country was built on slavery. As Jews around the world...
O'REILLY: You're saying the Northeastern part of the United States was built on slavery?
O'REILLY: That is fallacious and it wasn't.
WATTERS: Slavery existed everywhere in the initial phases, and the north phased it first before the South. But my point is, Bill, you said you don't believe tax-payer money should be paid for that, but Japanese- Americans rightly received compensation for being incarcerated during World War II.
O'REILLY: Yes, because they could prove "” they could prove specific damages, that "They rounded me up. I had nothing to do with it. I was an American citizen. They threw me in a camp and I got damaged." That's in any kind of a tort, you would get damages.
And I submit to you that any kind of extortion of the American public along these racial lines of slavery is absolutely immoral.
WATTERS: But Bill, when you use the word "extortion," that's an inflammatory phrase.
O'REILLY: Because it's an inflammatory subject. If you're going to take my money for something that happened 150 years ago, that's inflammatory, sir.
WATTERS: You pay taxes all the time, and I'm sure some of your tax money, you don't like the way it's spent.
WATTERS: And by the Republicans.
O'REILLY: I don't pay "” I don't pay a specific punitive tax because my great-great-great-great-grandfather might have done something, which by the way, he didn't, because he came over in the famine and didn't own any slaves.
Look, Mr. Watters, corporate misdeeds during slave-time, I understand that they can be pinpointed, and I have no problem with it. Personal taxpayer, I've got a big problem with that.
Do you, Ms. Dickerson?
DICKERSON: Again, we have to take a step back. I think that one of the sticking points is you make that point, which I think is an amazing concession in your point, that where specific harm can be shown, specific restitution ought to be made.
But the problem comes in a situation like Tulsa, where "” which had a state commission that said, yes, this happened. The white people rampaged and they destroyed this very prosperous black area, and yes, there are living victims of that. But here. Here's a commemorative coin. That's all we are going to do about it.
So that's the kind of thing that breeds the kind of animus and lingering resentment that I think fuels this reparations movement.
O'REILLY: Absolutely. But the people of Tulsa "” the people of Tulsa that you referred to, I believe should have some kind of recompense. If I were the governor of Oklahoma I would say...
DICKERSON: Right. They got coins; they got commemorative coins.
O'REILLY: I would say, I "” if your children need state assistance to go to college, we're going to make a special fund available to them. Because I think that's fair, Mr. Watters.
I think that if you deal with it at that level...
DICKERSON: And that's fair, I think.
O'REILLY: ... fair-minded Americans are going to say, "OK, cause and effect, we can see." But if you come into my house and want some of my money and property because of something that happened I had nothing to do with, forget it, sir.
WATTERS: Bill, I think "” I think I could reason with you on this topic. And I think you're open to reasonable solutions. And that's all we want.
We'd like to get a study. There's been a bill in Congress lingering for many years to get a study so we can get the facts and where we can prove a direct nexus, we all agree let's compensate those people. Where the evidence is not so clear, maybe we can come up with another solution such as educational funds.
O'REILLY: See, I would be against "” I would be against that study.
O'REILLY: I would say if you and the NAACP are interested in this, then you raise the money, you do the study, you hire the attorneys. You're an attorney. They can hire you pro bono. You'll do the work. And then you file whatever you want to file. And I'm for that. But I don't want to be paying for any study that has an agenda written all over it.
WATTERS: No. I'm talking about an objective study, Bill, not...
O'REILLY: Yes, but do it in private hands. Let private people fund that. Let lawyers like you do it.
DICKERSON: I have to change sides here, Bill.
O'REILLY: Uh-oh. Uh-oh.
DICKERSON: I think that truth and reconciliation, we need to "” we need to move on in the country. This is a question of justice and injustice. And if the "” if the problem in the inner cities is not as a result of racism or slavery, fine. Let's figure out what the problem is and address it.
O'REILLY: I know what the problem is.
DICKERSON: So I really have a problem with the black-white thing. It's got to be about America and about justice.
O'REILLY: Ms. Dickerson, as you and Mr. Watters know, because you're both self-made people, as you both know better than anyone else, all three of us have something in common. We're all self-made people.
You know what the inner city problem is. It's lack of discipline. That's what it is. It's bad families, families that are fractured.
DICKERSON: That's not all it is.
O'REILLY: Drugs and alcohol, and chaos. That's what it is. And to punish the rest of America for that is absolutely unfair.
I'll give you the last word.
DICKERSON: OK, I changed sides again. Lack of discipline is one problem. But if you send to school "” a kid to a substandard school with teachers who don't know how to teach and then say it's a lack of discipline that keeps him uneducated, no.
O'REILLY: No, that's the teacher's fault. I agree with that. But that's over the umbrella of the whole thing. That there's got to be a standard set in those neighborhoods of schools and personal behavior to allow people to advance in a very competitive society.
Counselor, Ms. Dickerson, very interesting conversation.
WATTERS: Thank you.
O'REILLY: Thank you. Pleasure.