Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Juan Williams firing

It's one thing to be honest about your feelings regarding Muslims in public and then admit that something internally needs to be done to address this self-proclaimed bigotry. That is perfectly human and understandable.

But to be honest about those feelings and then use that in a justifying sort of way (i.e., y'know, I'm a black man who is obviously not a bigot, but I think Muslims are scary and we should be okay with that) is an entirely different thing. That is admitting your bigotry and saying that that is something reasonable and acceptable in our society. That kind of admission in front of millions of Fox viewers is not only unhelpful in the growing tension between Christians and Muslims, but completely destructive.

Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald also document the glaring hypocrisy of Juan Williams in the light of a speech he made in 1986 regarding racism against black men in NYC by jewelry store owners. He said the following:
Neither black nor white store owners are in business to display the virtues of admitting people of all colors, creeds, and fashions to their stores. They are in business to make money. I would want to take precautions to prevent robbery; I would look closely at people entering the store. The race of a potential customer would be one factor among many to be considered as I girded myself against thieves.
But in Washington and almost all other major cities, blacks do patronize jewelry stores. A jeweler in Beverly Hills who closed his door to heavily bejeweled Mr. T would be foolishly closing his cash register. Unless I am a racist, race and age cannot be the sole deciding factorsin calculating whom I will and will not let into my store. And I certainly would not close my door to, say, all young black men - not even to those who are casually dressed and behaving nervously. I would act cautiously in dealing with them, as I would with an antic, strangely dressed white man.
As a cabdriver I would apply the same considerations. Discrimination can be used judiciously. I would certainly exclude one class of people: those who struck me as dangerous. Nervous-looking people with bulges under their jackets would not be picked up; nor would those who looked obviously drunk or stoned. It all comes down to a subjective judgment of what dangerous people look like. This does not necessarily entail a racial judgment. Cabdrivers who don't pick up young black men as a rule are making a poorly informed decision. Racism is a lazy man's substitute for using good judgment.
The elevator question is disingenuous. I suspect you are suggesting that I am a white woman getting into an apartment building elevator with a strange black man. Of course, black women have just as much to fear as white women. Nevertheless, black women living in black neighborhoods ride elevators with black men frequently, and do so without being raped. In this situation and all others, common sense is my constant guard. Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me.
How could he possibly justify that statement with the one he just made on Fox News about Muslims? How?

P.S. Also, I highly recommend this very eloquent defense of NPR by Jim Fallows against the recent brutal attack (led by Fox) in the wake of the Williams firing.

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