The other night, Bill O'Reilly was discussing whether or not America had a "Muslim Problem." (If we do it is in great part O'Reilly's fault. He went on "The View" last week and announced that "Muslim's killed us on 9-11." In reality it was 21 Muslim fanatics and their murderous handlers abroad) Williams was his guest. Williams said the following:
"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot," Williams continued. "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."
Of course all the usual suspects (NAIR, Andrew Sullivan, and NPR brass) all started hand-ringing and accusing Williams of being prejudiced. Then in the expected second act, the NPR Brass fired him. Why? Because he had the temerity to express in words that he feels fear when he is placed in a situation where people of a certain background have in the past created havoc.
Sorry guys you are wrong.
I sent the following letter to the NPR Obudsman. I reprint it in full below.
To whom this may concern:
You and your organization have seen the last dollar you ever will from me. Are you all a bunch of crazy people? I am a Criminal Defense Attorney and a Civil rights lawyer.I have news for you. I represent thugs, gangsters, and the seriously deranged individuals. I walk the streets of ghetto neighborhoods and I am often in dangerous places around people who do not look like me.
I represent Muslims and Sheiks and all types of religious, ethnic and sexual orientations. I also represent gang members from Bikers, to Russians to Spanish (el Salvadorian and Mexican) to Italian and Albanian. I do not consider myself to be prejudice.
That said, I also see people who dress in a certain way or are in certain places and I feel nervous. It isn't prejudice, ITS SMART. Being aware of your surroundings is important. Being on guard when you are the odd person out is wise. Neither Juan nor I am advocating doing something stupid like not getting on a plane or leaving a restaurant. It was a true and natural reaction to what is going on.
If I walk into a Mosque I am not afraid. I am not unwilling to speak to a Muslim or anyone else. I am aware and a bit anxious when I see people wearing gang colors. I watch what they are up to. I observe more. I see a bunch of kids in the mall and they are dressed like Gangstas I watch them more, I look for behaviors like their creating a scene while another steals something. It happens occasionally. I see a bunch of Muslims speaking in foreign tongues and I watch them. I worry that maybe this is the next shoe bomber. I don't report them to security but I watch. It is the right and smart thing to do. It doesn't uncover deep seated prejudice. This didn't happen before 9-11-01. It isn't a deep seated fear. It is not something that happens in restaurants but it happens on trains buses planes. Around synagogues too.
Firing Juan Williams was a terrible error in judgment. I agree with the commentator that describes liberals as all for freedom of speech as long as they agree with it. You are no better than tea party activists. I am a libertarian. When I have the money I have donated to Public Radio stations in NY and to Public TV. I want more than one opinion. I don't want dishonesty. Williams is NOT the only person of reasonable mind who feels this way. His expression on O'Reilly was how he felt. It gives permission to others to admit their fears and to address them.
Juan Williams is not the problem. He is a solution. Frank discussion and truth are the ways to address the issues and pretending that people who are intelligent do not harbor fear because of the situation is a good way to be sure the underlying issues are never addressed.