Posted by Brad @ 10:42 am on October 21st 2010

Juan Williams Latest in Series of Newscasters Fired for Saying Anything Remotely Human About a Minority Group

Come on NPR.

Here is William’s comment:

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. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

That to me is an admission of humanity, not bigotry. Everybody has prejudices, everybody has soft generalizations and gut-level, instinctual racism of one sort or another. That is not to excuse those things, but denying that they even exist should not be the goal of polite society and it should certainly not be the goal of thoughtful news analysis. If the thought Williams was expressing there was that we SHOULD feel like that, I might understand better the decision to fire him after so many years of service. But it seems to me that Williams is more expressing that he DOES feel those things, that it’s hard not to let that kind of bigotry seep in living in this culture. And that’s a thought worth expressing and being honest about, as that’s the best way to combat it.

For some reason, it reminds me of Jesse Jackson’s famous remark:

“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps behind me and start thinking about robbery. Then look back and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

At the SHALLOWEST level you could call that bigotry. I happen to think it’s one of the more thoughtful things he ever said, in the context.

Or, you can take a much less generous read, as Glenn Greenwald has done, and assume that what Williams meant was an admission of that bigotry as an endorsement of it. And I guess there’s a case for that read; but that wasn’t my first thought.


  1. I guess I’m not the only one that had that Jackson association.

    Comment by Brad — 10/21/2010 @ 1:21 pm

  2. One obvious difference: Jackson’s comments were critical of his own ethnicity; Williams’ comments were interpreted as critical of a different ethnicity.

    I’m pretty sure Williams HAS made comments critical about the behaviors of certain groups of African-Americans (stuff in the Bill Cosby vein), and he didn’t lose his job over them.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/21/2010 @ 1:51 pm

  3. Other people to be afraid of on planes:

    * People who “identify first and foremost as the owners of small, yapping dogs.”

    * People who identify first and foremost as babies.

    * People who identify first and foremost as “indulgent parents who want you to hear their child’s opinion about the airplane, Dora the Explorer, and his favorite breeds of truck.”

    Comment by Rojas — 10/21/2010 @ 3:43 pm

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