Glenn Greenwald examines this issue in a thoughtful and interesting way, continuing with his previous writing on the unjust double standard for public figures when it comes to statements about Jews/Muslims.
In all honesty, as an Arab-American growing up in this country, I accepted this double standard so long ago, that I find it difficult–if not pointless–to get mad about it.
I will say that Juan Williams has been saying stupid crap like this for years on his gig on Fox News. That’s his job, to play the role of the African American pundit tired of the PC discourse and who states his views plainly. In a highly beneficial coincidence for Fox’s demo, those views tend to reflect the secret inner-workings of the average white bigot’s mind quite accurately.
Should he have been fired? All things being equal, no. And, of course, this brings up the parallel of Helen Thomas. Should Helen Thomas have been fired (or rather forced to quit) when she said that Israeli Jews should go back to “Poland…” and etcetera? No, of course not. That doesn’t change the fact that it was an incredibly stupid and facile comment–nearly 50% of Israeli Jews have no or little European ancestry and are actually Arabs. And even if they were all European, Israelis have done nothing to their indiginous population that Anglo Americans hadn’t already done a hundred-fold. Israelis born in Israel have every right to stay in Israel for the same reasons we as Americans tend to think that people born in our country deserve to stay here. It was a comment so stupid that Helen Thomas should have apologized, not because the comment offended Jews, but because as America’s paramount (and in my opinion, unfairly crowned) official liberal/left journalist, she had no business saying something so incredibly stupid into a hot microphone. Seriously, one of the stupidest things every said about the conflict by a supporter of Palestinians, hands down.
Do these two stupid statements by people who should know better have equal weight? No. In the first place, Williams has been saying stupid things for years, while Thomas has said many more well-informed things than stupid things. Neither should have been fired or forced to resign. But our discourse is no poorer for the loss of Juan Williams from NPR for too many reasons to go into here.
Apropos to Williams’ utility at Fox, here we have the horse’s mouth braying:
“I don’t fit in their box,” Williams told O’Reilly. “I’m not predictable, black, liberal. And let me tell you something else, you were exactly right when you said you know what this comes down to, they were looking for a reason to get rid of me because I’m appearing on Fox News. They don’t want me talking to you.”
There you have it. Because any African-American commentator or pundit who resists and counters their own bigoted feelings towards members of other ethnicities or religions or who fails to hew to anti-affirmative action, pull yourself up from your boot-straps bullshit, is a typical “black liberal”. You can’t trust that inestimable number of African-American commentators on NPR, NBC, CNN, ABC who embrace diversity, and talk about their lack of fear of odd clothing and grooming habits regularly in pungent prose and soliloquy in public discourse. They’re not bigots!
The reality is that there are no “liberal” African-American commenters to be found anywhere on major radio or tv outfits, no counterpart to Williams’ “non pc” discourse. NPR is now left with Michele Norris, who will probably have her job until the day she dies, because she never speaks out on any issue whatsoever publicly. That’s the only way for a person of color to survive in our media environment–either don the “I’m with Whitey” trucker cap, or keep your mouth shut. That’s how far we’ve come.
I won’t be very surprised if in the coming weeks, Norris’ book, The Grace of Silence is eviscerated by the right in an attempt to find examples of “liberal” bigotry–that is anything that speaks plainly about the US’s history of racism.