FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"Man Up," Juan Williams

by RANNIE AMIRI

“Prejudice squints when it looks and lies when it talks.”

– Duchess d’Abrantès

Prejudice is insidious.

It rears its head in the least expected situations and circumstances, bringing to the fore deeply-held sentiments of intolerance and ill-conceived prejudgment. When exposed, it is anything but subtle.

Generally defined as an “adverse opinion formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge”, it manifests as an “irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics” (Merriam-Webster Online).

Walking on the opposite side of the street when a group of African-American men walk down the other; the inner discomfort felt when parents learn their child has befriended one of the Jewish faith; the wary look at a Sikh’s beard and turban; the unease experienced when the cashier reverts to speaking in Spanish with other customers; the condescending glare shot the way of the rural, indigent Caucasian family; its expressions are many.

It is has found practice through law enforcement’s unofficial use of racial profiling, and in the sociopolitical mood of today’s United States, one group has been on its receiving end.

Last week, National Public Radio (NPR) severed the contract of its longtime news analyst Juan Williams after he appeared on Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor and said the following:

“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.”

In a statement, NPR said Williams’ remarks “ … were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

Williams retorted that the real reason for his termination was because “I appear on Fox” and “I’m not a predictable, black liberal.”

I will leave it to journalism professors to discuss and debate the appropriate lines that ought to be drawn between reporter, analyst and commentator, or how NPR should have handled Williams’ discordant roles on its airwaves and Fox News’. Let us also set aside comparisons with the dismissals of Helen Thomas, Octavia Nasr, Rick Sanchez and the issue of Williams’ (uncontested) right to free speech.

Far more important than these matters are the essence of his comments, for they illustrate how commonplace bigoted, preconceived notions of Muslims have become. The instinctive suspicion Williams voiced about Muslims is undoubtedly immersed in stereotypes and caricature, conflating culture, nationality and religion.

What exactly is “Muslim garb”? Is there a unifying dress code of more than one billion Muslims of every race and ethnicity? Is it the hijab, or headscarf, worn by observant Muslim women, albeit in different forms, colors and styles depending on one’s country of origin? Is it the kufi cap worn by some, but certainly not most, Muslim men?

Williams likely has the image of a Saudi man dressed in his white thawb and shmagh head dress, or the Palestinian in a checkered kaffiyeh, or the Pakistani in the traditional shalwar khameez; all of which pertain to cultural, not religious, identity.

Is Williams’ fear of those identifying themselves “first and foremost” as people of faith meant to infer that the practice of religion somehow equates itself with disloyalty to the state? Or does this just apply to Muslims?

Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald eloquently explained why conservatives rushed to Williams’ defense:

“The principal reason the Williams firing resonated so much and provoked so much fury is that it threatens the preservation of one of the most important American mythologies: that Muslims are a serious threat to America and Americans … and it is this fear-sustaining, anti-Muslim slander that NPR’s firing of Williams threatened to delegitimize.”

Williams was betrayed by bigotry—not NPR, the “liberal” media or his role on Fox.

In the language of his new-found friends on the right: “man up” Juan Williams. Admit your prejudice and the hateful climate your remarks engender.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator.

 

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
John Stauber
The Rise and Fall of Obamacare: Will the Inside Story Ever be Told?
Ted Rall
Ameri-Splaining
Michael J. Sainato
Mainstream Media Continues Absolving Itself From Clinton, Trump Election Failures
Ralph Nader – Mark Green
Divest or Face Impeachment: an Open Letter to Donald Trump
Gareth Porter
US Airstrikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Undermine Claim of “Mistake”
Martha Burke
What Trumponomics Means for Women
Ramzy Baroud
Fatah, Hold Your Applause: Palestinian Body Politic Rotten to the Core
Steve Horn
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill Exempting Fracking from Drinking Water Rules
Joe Ware
The Big Shift: Why Banks Need to Stop Investing Our Money Into Fossil Fuels
Juliana Barnet
On the Ground at Standing Rock
Franklin Lamb
Aleppo Update: An Inspiring Return to the Bombed Out National Museum
Steve Kelly
Hidden Harmony: on the Perfection of Forests
December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail