How sad that Juan Williams got the whack from NPR for expressing his feelings. If you follow the news you have had a few days to digest the story. Here's what Williams said on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor:
"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," Williams said. "But when I get on a 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."
He went on to say that not everyone in a religious group, Christian or Muslim, should be lumped in with extremists.
Juan Williams has been around a while. He worked at The Washington Post for over 20 years before joining NPR and contributes regularly to publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
I found this commentary from the Journal particularly interesting:
He also appears on Fox News, and as Hamlet said, "Aye, there's the rub."
It's those pesky Fox News appearances that have him in hot water, much more than his comments about Muslims.
He shows up on The O'Reilly Factor, a show I catch from time to time. I'm a political junkie, so I catch them all.
Bill O'Reilly is a classic bully, his counterparts on MSNBC classic nerds, and all would probably wear my labels with honor.
O'Reilly brings people on his show who disagree with him. Credit him for that. But most get pummeled worse than a Cub Scout at a Hell's Angels rally. O'Reilly is like the kid on the playground who snags a cupcake from your lunchbox, knocks out your front teeth and then thanks you for joining him.
So Juan Williams is a regular on Fox News. And somehow, in NPR CEO Vivian Shiller's alternate universe, his time on NPR was as an "analyst," therefore he was not allowed to express his opinions elsewhere. If he were a "commentator" he could say what he wants.
Juan Williams has been giving (dare I say commentating) what most would call moderate opinions for years.
But the Juan Williams affair is just noise. The real story is that as a society we continue to focus on "gotcha" moments that squelch necessary dialogue about prejudice and fear.
Kind of like when I hear, "I'm not racist, but" or "I'm not sexist but," roughly translated as "I'm about to say something racist or sexist."
In 1993 Jesse Jackson famously said:
"I hate to admit it, but I have reached a stage in my life that if I am walking down a dark street late at night and I see that the person behind me is white, I subconsciously feel relieved."
We all have prejudices. We all have fears. If we can't talk about it respectfully, how do we move forward?