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:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail