Does Civil Rights Equal the Right to Be Scared of Other People?
If like most minorities, you are wrestling with uncomfortable stereotypes, prejudice and bigotry, someone who was once a civil rights activist is making the fight appear fruitless. It is said that if you live in glass house, do not be the first to throw a stone. Juan Williams, a long time respected NPR analyst did not take this with any seriousness. Juan Williams works for both NPR and FOX News. NPR is a public radio station which is listener-supported and has a history of being fair, balanced and accurate. FOX News, in most cases, cannot be described with same adjectives. They want it raw, red-hot and spicy.
Jesus once said it is very difficult to serve two masters and please both equally (especially when the two masters are so opposite as in the case of NPR and FOX News). Mr. Williams gets a pay check from both NPR and FOX. It would perhaps have been manageable if Juan provides commentary for Fox anchor like Shepherd Smith, which I personally like for his fairness, comparatively. Unfortunately, Mr. Williams fell in love with Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, 8 and 9 pm anchors respectively, who are known for making highly outrageous comments.
O’Reilly himself made one of such comments about a week ago on the ABC program The VIEW. He indiscriminately said Muslims killed Americans on September 11, 2001.
O’Reilly, being smart and looking for someone to hold his hand, was able to trick Juan Williams to make a statement that is very uncharacteristic of Juan. This is what he said to O’Reilly
“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.”
Brother, did you just say that? This is not the most outrageous comment ever. It shoud not however be coming from someone who could have been the subject of such stereotypes.
On Wednesday night NPR release the statement. J. Williams “remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR”. He is fired.
It is fair that people will have the same feeling Juan Williams expressed in the above quote, looking back at September 11, 2001 and other episodes. On the other hand, no one will expect such a seasoned journalist to just say it out so bluntly. Imagine someone say “when I’m walking alone and meet a black guy in jeans and sleeveless, I feel very uncomfortable, I feel nervous”. How would you feel, Juan? This is not an arbitrary example. I’ve heard the exact statement before. I guess some of you have similar stories.
First of all, Mr. Williams has written a number of books on civil rights. Juan of course, is an African American who has spoken out against discrimination and bigotry in any form. Why would he just forget all that and just focus on pleasing his anchor and audience for his bi-weekly check?
Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ is still a long way from fulfillment, but such comments by individuals who also describe themselves as comrades on the battlefield makes the war appear to be a lose-lose effort.
Fear of Muslims or islamophobia is on the rise in the US and parts of the world and it is a tool used by some religious groups and politicians to rally their base.