Friday, October 22, 2010
NPR Was Right to Fire Juan Williams
On Thursday, NPR fired Juan Williams for making Islamophobic statements about on The O'Reilly Factor. On the program, Williams said, "When I get on a plane, I gotta tell you. If I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslim, I get worried. I get nervous." Later in the segment, Juan Williams argued against stereotyping Muslims. Unfortunately, that does not excuse or justify his earlier, bigoted statement.
NPR was right to terminate Juan Williams. Williams has written about the civil rights struggle. As a black man, he knows first hand about discrimination and prejudice. He is the last person that I would expect to make such a bigoted statement. Islamophobia, like anti-semitism, must be universally condemned. Discrimination and violence begin as fear and suspicion. It is dangerous for a man of his stature to legitimize or mainstream such hatred. NPR had every right to ensure that their brand was not associated with such bigotry and prejudice.
Some contend that NPR should not have fired Williams for expressing his genuine feelings. His supporters imply that the 9/11 terror attacks justify such fears. Such an outlook is rooted in ignorance and intellectual laziness. It is far easier to judge a people as a group than it is evaluate people as individuals.
The American people must understand that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists. True Islam calls humanity to peace, righteousness and excellence, not terrorism. Over one billion Muslims should not be collectively punished or feared because of the horrific actions of 19 demented terrorists. That is similar to assuming that most young black men are drug dealers and gangsters or that every African American customer is a potential thief.
Other apologists assert that Williams' statements are being taken out of context. They compare his situation to the infamous firing of Shirley Sherrod. However, it is not analogous. Unlike Ms. Sherrod who rose above prejudice, Williams described his present fear of Muslims and prejudice. Essentially, he was defending the bigoted statements that Bill O'Reilly made on the View.
Immediately after NPR fired Juan Williams, the Washington Post reports that "Fox News on Thursday awarded Williams a new multiyear contract worth nearly $2 million that will expand his role on the cable news channel and its Web site." Basically, Fox News awarded Williams for making such insensitive remarks. After the announcement, right wing commentators Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity came out of the woodwork to defend and support Juan Williams. O'Reilly told Williams:
"Number 1, this is good for you...You are going to get a big book contract..Number 2, you will be able to host the O'Reilly Factor tomorrow. More people will see you tomorrow night than will see you all year on NPR. Number 3, everybody likes you now. Now everybody likes you, everybody that counts. Number 4, Congress is going to defund NPR. They are going to lose all of their public funding.."
I hope that Juan Williams does not blindly embrace this fake love. Although I do not always agree with him, he is the voice of reason on the Fox News Sunday. Hopefully, he will not lose that voice. In time, perhaps, he will learn from this experience.