That's right, I said it. Michelle Obama should be able to "play the race card-" a topic recently brought up by Fox News host Bill O'reilly of "The O'reilly Factor."
O'reilly hosted a panel of authors Monica Crowley and Alan Colmes to discuss the appropriateness of Michelle Obama's mentioning of slavery in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus.
He referred to a clip of the first lady, in which she said, "As we mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, I want you to remember that the house they were standing in, the house my family has the privilege of living in -- that house was built in part by slaves."
He noted that there are sound objections to using race to make a political point, to which, Crowley responded that "all is fair" in politics, adding, "I do think it was a bit exploitative but again, we're talking about politics and so let's not be naïve about the ultimate objective here."
Colmes went on to assert, "I think she was talking about we, as Americans, together, have evolved our society beyond the kind of society where slaves did the work to build the country and now that there is an African American family living in the White House... we have evolved to that point. I didn't see it as a left-right issue."
Certainly there is a point to having the discussion of whether race should make an appearance in politics for the purpose of political gain, but the truth is it happens all the time.
It was evident during the Vice Presidential courting period of Florida Senator Marco Rubio when many Conservative pundits gave their vocal support of a Rubio pick for many reasons, a significant one being his powerful influence on Hispanic voters to shift a greater favor for Mitt Romney.
And speaking of Romney, some might suspect that the whole purpose of his rehashing of his father's roots in Mexico is solely for political advancement. He even joked in a private fundraiser that it would've played better with voters if his grandparents were actually Mexican and not just American-born Mexican residents.
It was the mention of slavery that particularly stood out to O'reilly, but it is not as though Michelle Obama introduced the topic of slavery out of context. If she had been performing a monologue on SNL or conducting an interview with the ladies of the View, sneaking a mention of slavery wherever it fit and even where it didn't, then I would agree to its gratuitous nature.
But she was speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus in a responsible manner, acknowledging that there is a remarkable trajectory that blacks have been on since the 17th Century; recognition that this uphill climb has only recently begun to near its peak, beginning at an almost unfathomable bottom, and if that recognition is "playing the race card," then so be it.
For a people who were barely recognized as full citizens with equal rights under the laws of the country they helped to build, it is a victory, whether you are Obama supporter Reverend Al Sharpton or Romney advocate Herman Cain, that a black man now assumes the highest office in the land, no matter how many right-wing extremists try to belittle and discount his validity. And Michelle Obama should not have to ask permission to say so out loud.
I won't go so far as to say that O'reilly believes Michelle should never talk about the historical barrier her husband broke in 2008, but I get the sense that he believes there is a right way to talk about it, or rather a right time.
I suspect that after the election, win or lose, O'reilly won't care about what Michelle says about slavery, where she says it, who she says it to, just as long as she doesn't say it during a period where votes are up for grabs, where it apparently becomes a weapon or an edge and not simply a factual retelling of American history.
Maybe O'reilly wouldn't have a problem with the "slavery talk" if Ann Romney and her husband had something to counter it with, keep things "fair and balanced," which is ironically disturbing for the fact that along with the first black president, there is an unspoken admission of an "unfair advantage" in bringing up the suffering of one's own race. By way of O'reilly's resistance and in the spirit of Ann Coulter-like sensationalism, one might be tempted to say, "Who knew slavery would come in handy for the black man running for president."