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

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail