In what I would call a surprise move, Rush Limbaugh informed his audience today that he had pretaped a conversation with the popular Radio Show, The Breakfast Club. Of course the killing of George Floyd in the annals of popular outrage over police killings of unarmed Black men is an unusual one in that unlike most others, there is only one side. This isn’t a Michael Brown situation, in which the details of the killing were disagreed with. With Floyd, everyone knows what happened, no one is arguing about the details, no one is arguing that Floyd asked for it, and everyone agrees that it was horrible and deserves justice.
So naturally the country had the worst rioting in years.
What to make of a situation in which the country is united, yet also tearing itself apart? Given the odd unity of the country on George Floyd, and Rush’s own disgust with the crime as expressed on his show last week, he took the initiative to reach out to the show with the largest Black radio audience to…what? Seek common ground? Honestly I don’t know what he hoped to accomplish but it did make for fascinating radio. The full transcript is here, but I do have a few comments on some of the points that were gone over.
First a general observation; The Breakfast Club maintained a low level of hostility towards Rush throughout the interview while Rush clearly was trying to reach out with a “come let us reason together” type of attitude. However there seemed to be no reciprocation of that. Just a hat tip for negotiators, the person who reaches out puts themselves in a position of weakness. Here is a good example:
DJ ENVY: You talk about peacefully protest, right? And you were very opinionated about Colin Kaepernick when he was peacefully protesting, right? And now people are saying, “Oh, they’re not peacefully protesting.” This is the same thing Colin Kaepernick was kneeling for that the world was so upset about and the world said he’s taking it too far and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This is exactly the reason why he was kneeling and protesting…
RUSH: Look, I – (crosstalk)
DJ ENVY: And looked at us like, yeah, I’m doing it and what?
RUSH: Guys, I’m trying to tell you, I’m all with you, I’m a thousand percent with you on this. This is why I wanted to talk to you because I know that there are — you know, we all have preconceptions that we live under and biases that we live under, and I wanted to reach out to you guys specifically, you were the ones that I was told to speak to, that this is intolerable. Now — but — (crosstalk)
I have to admit, Rush didn’t come out looking good in this exchange, particularly with the easy bait of Kaepernick dangling before him. Anyone who had actually listened to Kaepernick knew that his “taking a knee” was about rejection of the country, not any particular list of social justice grievances. He said it himself, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…” For Kaepernick, it was always about America (or Amerikkka as he might spell it).
The other, and in my opinion more troubling issue was the total lack of similar vocabulary.
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?
DJ ENVY: We definitely would have heard about it. You definitely —
RUSH: You think so? If George Floyd — if George — if George — (crosstalk)
DJ ENVY: — be killed by –(crosstalk)
ANGELA YEE: Yeah, I would like to — (crosstalk)
RUSH: I don’t think — if George Floyd — (crosstalk)
ANGELA YEE: Rush, there’s a lot of instances where this does happen and we don’t hear about it. There’s a lot of times that there’s no video that exists and then people are — police officers lie and they say this is what happened, just like we’ve seen it happen so many different times where fortunately there was video. There’s a lot of cases that won’t make it.
RUSH: I think – (crosstalk)
ANGELA YEE: That don’t go viral. (crosstalk)
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Never hear about it, that never make it to TV, that never make it to social media because there is no phones, there is — (crosstalk)
RUSH: I think you misunderstood what I said, guys. I said if George Floyd were white, we wouldn’t have heard of this. And if the same thing had happened to him, we wouldn’t have heard about it, it wouldn’t be — you know, we — (crosstalk)
It’s clear The Breakfast Club cannot conceive of a situation in which an unarmed white person is killed by the police and it go unremarked, “White privilege is that what happened to George Floyd would not have happened to a white man.”
But what does actual data reveal?
The Washington Post has a database of police shootings and it reveals data that goes against the narrative. For example:
In 2019, 9 unarmed black people were killed by the police.
In 2019, 19 unarmed white people were killed by the police
Does anyone know any of their names? Yet I’m sure if you presented those figures to Charlemagne Tha God, he simply wouldn’t believe you, so his entire definition of White Privilege, based on this radio interview, is false.
Even if Rush had confronted The Breakfast Club on the actual data, I don’t think it would matter. In fact, I can’t remember the last time real data or facts have mattered, but it definitely doesn’t matter if you don’t even bother to bring it up. Rush needn’t have bothered. There was never going to be any dialogue. The Breakfast Club would have been happy to accept Rush’s surrender, but they weren’t interested in having a conversation.