This is what the legacy of ‘white privilege’ looks like in Bill O’Reilly’s hometown
The following piece is from the Washington Post. It was written by Emily Badger.
By: Emily Badger
Levittown, the Long Island community where Bill O’Reilly grew up, holds a unique place in history for two reasons: It was the original subdivision, a mass-produced town of neatly uniform, affordable Cape Cod homes that would serve as a model for postwar suburbs for decades to come.
And it was available only to whites.
The latter detail — now at the center of an epic standoff between O’Reilly and Jon Stewart over race, suburbia and the legacy of “white privilege” — wasn’t an innovation specific to Levittown. Racial discrimination in housing wasn’t merely commonplace in the 1940s and ’50s; it wasgovernment policy. The Federal Housing Administration helped finance the construction of many suburban places like Levittown on the condition that they exclude blacks. And it underwrote mortgages to white families there with the expectation that their property values would only hold if blacks did not move in.
At first, the requirement that homeowners in Levittown not rent or sell their homes to minorities was included in the deeds to their homes. Yes, homeowners in Bill O’Reilly’s hometown were contractually bound to keep out blacks.
But after that explicit discrimination was struck down in court, it lived on in other, important ways. It showed up in the hostility of neighbors and the simple refusal of the Levitt brothers, who built the suburb, to sell the homes they’d designed for World War II veterans to non-whites. In 1957, when Bill O’Reilly was 8 years old, the developer William Levitt explained his logic this way to the New York Times:
The plain fact is that most whites prefer not to live in mixed communities. This attitude may be wrong morally, and some day it may change. I hope it will. But as matters now stand, it is unfair to charge an individual with the blame for creating this attitude or saddle him with the sole responsibility for correcting it.
The dual history of this place — as the idyllic town of O’Reilly’s telling and the site of battles fought by black families who tried to live there — has long been an important chapter to urban planners and civil-rights historians. Then, this week, it became the source of this Daily Show exchange:
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