So, Bill O'Reilly expressed surprise that a world-famous black restaurant could have the same decorum of a white suburban restaurant. As we all know, O'Reilly revealing ignorance is not news. O'Reilly revealing that he's capable of expanding his understanding of his fellow human beings--well, that is.
I believe we've witnessed an Archie Bunker epiphany.
If this were a play or a story, this could be the moment we work up to, the moment when the protagonist finally has a realization that leads to a shift. Maybe it's a small shift. Doesn't matter. It's an opening. It's what proves his heart, as well as his mind, can be open, that he need not be doomed to a life of rigid prejudice and power-mongering. Not talking presto-chango here. Talking shifts. Changes in the ratio of awful deeds to better deeds. Tiny changes can be major net good when you're talking about someone with his kind of reach.
I'm not trying to give O'Reilly a pass. But as a black woman, I know that ignorance is not going away soon. That blowhards will keep on blowharding. But heart-shifts, like tender plants in the garden, must be nurtured. They are our hope.
So yes, while sitting with Rev. Sharpton, O'Reilly had an epiphany: the people he portrayed as cartoonish and grotesque can be just like him. That they can actually be people. More so than he ever imagined. He revealed that he is not so hardened, not so trapped in his belief structures that he cannot express surprise that the neat boxes he uses to contain the world are bursting. That maybe, just maybe, his certainties aren't that certain.
If more people could have this epiphany, the world would be a safer place.
Think of the Archie Bunkers in your life. Think of the distance they'd have to travel to get to the point that yes, those "others" can be just like them. Think of how this realization can lead to different decision-making in clutch situations.
No guarantee, of course. Just a possibility. But for the folk whose fates can ride on the often capricious decision-making of those in power, the issue of open hearts and minds is not insignificant.
With any luck, this Archie may have reached other Archies. So many listeners of talk radio demagogues listen because they want mirrors. He may have reached people when and where they least expected it. Maybe a few more certainties loosened as a result.
Having said this, I won't cry the day he gets fired. He's made a fortune poisoning the culture with violent misinformation. But at least he's shown, for the good of his own work, for the good of his own soul, that he has the capacity to learn and change.
Follow Stacy Parker Le Melle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stacylemelle