Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh Why Juan Williams, Why?

If you're a follower of NPR (which I am not) then you might have already heard about [what happened to Juan Williams] this past week.

The news came as a surprise to me, especially since I've always felt that the great majority of NPR is Democratic-leaning, but what came as even more of a surprise to me was where, when, and how Juan Williams' comments -- which subsequently got him fired -- came to be.

Follow [the links] in this post, to read [the whole sordid story] as well as [other reactions].

What I've been hearing throughout the blogosphere and interwebs hasn't been the issue of what Juan Williams said, nor why he said it. All anyone talks about are "the real reasons" that he was fired. Whether commentators bring up the topics of racism, political correctness, ideological censorship by the Left, assaults on Free Speech, etc & so on, the dialogue forgets one thing: Juan Williams is a bigot.

Yeah, I said it. A Black Man can be a bigot.

That's one thing both liberal & conservative media outlets have avoided, with all their White Guilt and sensationalist reporting.

But this post isn't about how racism is commonly seen as something that only White people do to only minorities. This post isn't about the problems of racism in our country that have created this atmosphere where divisions and tensions like this can thrive. This post isn't even about the very real, and very obvious tendency for Black public figures to be held to much higher standards than White public figures, who get away with far more than their Black counterparts, especially on network television. But this post isn't about that.

This post is about what Mr. Williams said, why he said it, and what it means. This post is about our failure to focus on the actual incident that led directly to Mr. Williams being fired from NPR.

Let me post what he said for you (again):

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

That statement RIGHT THERE is why Mr. Williams was fired. That statement is what he said, word for word. That statement is what needs to be discussed if we're to understand what happened.

In that small space of verbiage, Mr. Williams committed many of the same rationalizations that I've heard expressed in anti-racist writings as Common White Tendencies (CWT).

First, he preceded his statement with a declaration of his bigot-less intent. (Always a suspicious thing to do, because people often say they're not a [blank] right before they're about to be a [blank].)

Then, Mr. Williams stated very briefly his credentials against bigotry. (This is the same ridiculousness as someone saying they're not a racist because they "have black friends". Plus it has nothing to do with the subject at hand that Mr. Williams is about to speak on.)

Finally, Mr. Williams actually says what he was going to say. And what does he say? He says, "if I see people who are in Muslim garb... I get worried. I get nervous."

BAM! RIGHT THERE! WHAT THE HELL? To quote one Witchsistah, "Really? For real? For really real?"

Mr. Williams just showed his true colors with that sentence. He is afraid of Muslims, most especially of people who dress like Muslims, and who identify primarily as Muslim. He's stereotyping an entire religion based on his/our own experience with an extremely small percentage of radicals.

You know what that is right there? That's racism. That's no different than retail workers following Black women around their stores giving them the side-eye as if they're going to steal something. That's no different than homosexual teachers being fired from teaching elementary school when they say they can't marry their significant other. That's no different than when my people were scapegoated for centuries in countries from Persia to Germany for the simple fact that they were different when times were difficult.

That's why Juan Williams was fired. NPR is a partially publicly-funded radio station, and since those tax dollars it uses come -- in part -- from Muslim-Americans, and since this is a country were prejudice is supposed to no longer be an official public policy, then Juan Williams job-loss wasn't only morally justified -- it was financially sensible and legally required.

Anyone who tries to bring anything up besides the point that he made an anti-Islamic statement is trying to obscure the fact that what Juan Williams said was bigoted, and that he said it on national television as a representative of a publicly-funded radio station. Being a Black man, the double-standards, supporting conservative issues, personal politics, or even his stature as a public figure are irrelevant to what happened. He said what he said, and now he has to live with it.

Which, apparently, [isn't all that bad] Since his sacking, Mr. Williams has gone on to a lucrative job with Fox news, and received staunch support from Republican icons such as Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Looks like getting fired from NPR was the best thing that could've happened to him.

Well, I hope the money will keep Juan happy over there with the crazies, because Faux News is definitely a shady network, and I'd rate Palin & Huckabee as some pretty poor company, especially for a Black man. (The Tea Party certainly ain't no Civil Rights Movement, despite Glenn Beck's claims at his Angry White People For Guns rally featuring Alveda King.)

But what bothers me is that in all this mishegas, the opportunity for a very real, and much needed dialogue about Islamophobia in this country was lost. (Brian Levin wrote an excellent piece which I linked above about this issue.) So it goes though. In America, The News is more concerned about the racial dramatics of a Black Conservative juxtaposed with White Liberals in the pre-midterm election political posturing, instead of the reality of America's own prejudice to an entire group of its citizens.

This is one of those things you have to say is sad but true.

Cheers ya'll

2 footnotes:

Natasha W said...

I was hearing about Juan Williams and some kind of brouhaha involving him, but anything that starts off "Juan Williams" gets the pass from me so I never knew what it was all about. But since this is on your blog, I decided to see what's up.

And I am not surprised. Why is anyone surprised? I've stated many times that people could care less, and have no issues stereotyping, people that are not part of their "group". Whether that is whites stereotyping blacks, black men stereotyping black women, etc. I've seen many people do it. And um, it's Juan Williams. Not exactly the kind of person I would NOT expect to think like this.

Zek J Evets said...

yeah... i only heard about it because of a blog i was following. but once i started reading more & more about it, i started to get really annoyed -- to the point where i had to write SOMETHING about it. or lose my mind.