ATWG Answers: Is Juan Williams a Bigot?

A DiversityInc reader asks the White Guy if NPR's former news analyst's remark about Muslims makes him a bigot or if he was just being honest. Read the White Guy's answer here.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Curious: Had Juan said something to the effect that he’s aware that some people cross the street when they see a group of Black people walking along, I don’t think he would have been fired. In this case, he’s speaking of a stereotype that sadly resonates in 2010.

On the other hand, was Williams simply being honest? Does it make him a bigot instantly for his feelings on being on a plane with Muslims?

For those of you who don’t know, Juan Williams was fired from NPR for comments he made on Bill O’Reilly’s show on FOX News. O’Reilly had been under fire for making comments about 9/11 on ABC’s “The View” and Williams tried to help his coworker (Williams is also paid by FOX) by saying, “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.”

He was subsequently fired from NPR, and NPR CEO Vivian Schiller gave her reason—this quote is from an article on NPR’s website: “As a reporter, as a host, as a news analyst, you do not comment on stories.”

Schiller said such restraint was a vital part of NPR’s code of ethics, which states that news staffers cannot say things in other public forums that they could not say on NPR’s airwaves as well. “Certainly you have opinions—all human beings have their personal opinions,” Schiller said. “But it is the ideal of journalism that we strive for objectivity so we can best present the positions of people around all parts of the debate to our public so the public can make their own decisions about these issues.”

I think Vivian Schiller has a real problem: In the eyes of the public, the press has moved on from this concept of “objectivity” in the mainstream press. No human being can be objective, and in the overwhelming majority of content created, “journalism” has only had the veneer of objectivism, not the substance of it. In addition, the line between “news” and “entertainment” is gone in the minds of almost all consumers. Indeed, the majority of NPR’s content isn’t objective. What’s objective about Michel Martin’s show? Or Diane Rehm? I think both women are very fair, but they’re not objective—and I wouldn’t listen to almost every one of their shows if they were (love those podcasts). Further, what’s completely objective about The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal? Not much, but I read both. I even subscribe to the website of the bloated provocateur-propagandist, Rush Limbaugh.

The process of diversity management is to stop “objectifying” people and start viewing them as individuals. I don’t think Juan Williams should have been fired. Perhaps he is a bigot (don’t know him well enough to decide), but what he said is certainly bigoted and ignorant. I think he certainly needs to get to know some of the world’s 1.57 billion Muslim people.

But here’s the thing: NPR knew Williams was a rising star at FOX News—and you go to FOX for what? Enlightened dialogue? Reasonable discourse? Intelligent conversation? Please. Feeding fearful people more stuff to scare them and whipping up xenophobia is their trade. Williams’ comments about Muslims fit right in.

If NPR’s CEO said “Juan Williams has persistent problems, he’s alienating our core audience, he doesn’t reflect our values and we just don’t have a place for him anymore,” she would have been on more solid ground.

Given her comments, I don’t think he should have been fired. Is he a bigot? Time will tell.

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  • Just goes to show ya, Juan hung around Fox media way to often, it softened his objectivity. The same things happens from watching. Note I did not say Fox News, they do not deserve the title.

  • I really would not have a problem with anyone on a plane. We all go through the same security checks so, for me no problem at all.

  • I don’t know Juan Williams but strictly based on the comment that he stated that he gets nervous or frightened when people dressed in Muslim Garb get on the plane do not constitute bigotry but a sense of fear developed out of the 9/11 attacks and the three wars that are currently going on to which the US is involved. There have been many people who fear black men dressed a certain way and will avoid them out of fear. There are people who would avoid a group of white men dressed a certain way and will avoid them. When they are asked why did they avoid these people, I’m sure they will speak from a position of fear more so than racism or bigotry. I don’t think that if their answers are televised, their employer should fire them. If the President reads, this let him know this too is a form of bullying to which I was a victim as well in a wrongful termination. Just my thought.

  • I disagree. I think if a newsman said get on a plane with black people made him very nervous, he would very definately be considered a biggot.

    Aslo this was also in the context of Bill O’Reilly referring to Muslims as trying to kill Americans on 9/11. He was reinforcing the stereotype.

  • If Education Is Key to Ending Bias , what does this say about Juan Williams’ education?

  • I believe he should be fired, I also donl;t believe it is right to give him the position at FOx that he has been offered. He is at fault for making that statement weather it is his belief or not. If any other reporter had made this same statement but referenced the african american community they would have been fired on the spot and would not be a hot topic. There is no way you can make a statement of this type in today’s world. I would hope that the majority of Americans are able to judge by individual rather than by clothing or any other association. Maybe Juan wanted to be fired, he came out aith a pretty sweet deal, and now he will probably sue NPR and collect more, but these dollars will come from us who fund the NPR!

  • It is unfortunate that we live in times when specific groups of people are scapegoated with the few deviants among them. Not all Muslims are terrorists, just as all blacks are not militant, though many are convinced otherwise. And Mr. William’s comments are indicative of that same prevailing sentiment; we all respond to fear and memory, but enlightenment tempers reaction to such sentiments…At worst, Mr. Williams’ sentiments were poorly stated!

  • I thought that the objective of diversity programs was to be honest about feelings, then discuss how one will deal with others. People can’t control their feelings but they can control their behavior. If that’s correct, then Williams’ statement that he experiences fear – whether it’s rational or not – in the context of 9/11 – is NOT “bigoted” – he’s just expressing his feelings. He spent the rest of the time on the Fox show challenging O’Reilly to be open-minded. Williams is not only NOT a bigot, his commentary is an example of what diversity SHOULD be – open, honest, and unafraid to speak.

  • Mr. Williams comments could not come at a better time .being a African American he should know better then again Clarance Thomas dissapointed many African Americans. ITS ELECTION TIME and the same for Bill O’Reilly . the conservative right wing need to look in the mirror and check themselves when they want to govern by fear. the people do not want to be lead that way. Racism, sexism and disablism rule in the United States and that is a shame because we have so many talented leaders that do not want to enter the realm of politics because of the non sense of the conservative right wing. its o.k. to express your views, its o.k. to disagree but to scare people to death is unacceptable and to use a certain race or religion to further your agenda is a complete disgrace. this is what America has come too and I’m ashame to be an African American-Native American Indian

  • I agree with you in this way: Vivian Schiller’s comment, as you have written it, is ridiculous. An opinion is entirely different from an objective newcast. But other forums, including the Washington Post, as report that Schiller realized the error of her ways in making this statement and has apologized for it. The reasons as reported earlier than Diversity’s report and afterards, for Williams’ firing indicate that NPR and Williams had a long-standing issue of disagreement. I have seen Williams on Fox and have been surprised at some of the positions he took and the statements he made in comparison to those he made on NPR broadcasts. I had a hard time resolving what I thought seemed to look like conflicts in his thinking or reasoning. Unfortunately, I cannot recall any specific instances that I can repeat here, but I just remember the feeling that I got while listening to him on Fox (my husband watches Fox, I am not a fan, but I listen because it’s on).
    I agree with your characterization of Diane Rehm’s and Michel Martin’s NPR shows as commentary, rather than objective news, but they make no bones about that. They are talk shows that involve guest appearances and questions, by themselves and callers. They don’t reflect an objective telling of news events in large part.
    However, Fox bills itself as a cable news venue and there is little, if any objective news conveyed at any time on that network. It’s a mouthpiece for the extreme right and works to disseminate propaganda that is calculated to support conservative candidates and causes. That is not to say that every commentator who appears on any Fox show is in line with that agenda, but I am at a loss to name anyone (since Combs departure from the Hannity insanity) who was on regularly and expressed a different point of view.
    I found myself disagreeing with Juan Williams on a regular basis on NPR, but I appreciated that he brought something else to the table.

  • Luke,

    Kudos to you for pointing out how Vivian Schiller’s rationale for firing Mr. Williams doesn’t hold any water. I listen to NPR daily (I have since college) and am also a frequent FOX News viewer and have enjoyed Mr. Williams on both stations for many years. While I disagree with Juan on many issues (I am a libertarian/conservative) I have always respected both his deeply held convictions and his civility toward those who do not share his beliefs. If more people on both the right and the left exhibited Juan’s willingness to have a respectful and productive dialogue with those on the other side rather than resorting to partisan demagoguery, we would probably be able to accomplish much more as a nation.

    Nor do I think Juan Williams is a bigot. He was expressing what he recognized as his own prejudices. Very similar to Jesse Jackson saying that it is painful for him to “walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved”. Without a frank, open, and honest discussion of these types of prejudices and what causes them they fester.

    Nine years after 9/11 amid escalating tensions surrounding Islam in America (the mosque near ground zero, the FL pastor who threatened to burn the Qur’an, etc.) we are overdue to have this dialogue as a nation. Ignoring something does not make it go away.

  • First, a brief lesson in some fine points of the English language. Objectifying is not the same as being objective. Please consult your local dictionary. Objectifying (bad) means making an object of someone, to remove humanness and depersonalize them. Being objective (good) means taking a position that considers all the facts. In that sense, the media does have a responsibility to maintain objectivity. When human nature or politics takes individual reporters away from that standard, it is to our collective disadvantage. The further the media removes itself from objectivity, the more disadvantaged we become as a society. We lose our ability to make informed judgements and instead swing from hyperbole to hysteria at the whim of whatever network we watch. When one watches idealogues like Limbaugh or even John Stewart, we must expect that objectivity is sacrificed at the expense of ratings and entertainment, but it is to our shame that we don’t demand more objectivity from our mainstream press.
    Williams comment was a reflection of his feelings. And, his feelings show his prejudice. Why should anyone be upset simply because someone choses to honor a religious custom in thier dress? What if he’d said he gets nervous if someone is wearing a yalmeka, or bindi? His remark is only seen as tolerable because it plays into the mass hysteria and orcastrated distrust of Muslims. To tolerate it is condone the measage that Muslim dress alone is sufficient cause to distrust an individual, and that prejudice is acceptable – as long as it’s the way you feel.

  • One would think that Mr. Williams would have used a bit of logic or common sense before making the comment. There was a time, and maybe still is, when a white person was afraid or nervous to be in an elevator alone with a Black man just because of his color. If a muslim is out to do you harm he/she is certainly not going to dress in “Muslim garb” because of the attention it would draw. Also, all that wear headdress are not Muslim and all Muslim don’t were headdress. People of the Shiek religion are not Muslim but they do wear headress, as do some native African people who are not Muslim. The kkk are christian terrorist and the only ones I know that have commited terrorist acts wearing the headdress. I think the influence of arrogant ignorance on Mr. Williams by the fox media propaganda machine (everything right out of Joseph Goebbel’s play book) has affected his ability to be objective.

  • Williams may not, in fact, be a bigot himself; however, his words were a license for bigotry and hate. Insert “in Latino garb,” or “who are Gay” or “who have HIV,” and the comments are just as condoning of inequality and stripped of the post-9/11 bogosity. Schiller fumbled the attempt to explain the decision to dismiss Williams, but NPR did not commit a foul in the dismissal itself. Faux News accrues viewers through spectacles of intolerance like O’Reilly, and that does fly with NPR’s listeners.

  • He is a bigot. I can’t believe a person of color would talk that way. Clearly its all about the money. Hate seems to be the cool thing now. No bullying policies that we as a society want should apply to all its citizens..
    Any news network who supports a particular candiate or speaks hate speech on air should be given a montary fine. I applaud for NPR having standards which very few news agency have.
    All civil society should be on the same page….no hate speech…it has to stop…it is destroy the core of our American Values.
    thank you

  • It was a racist remark. You can sugar coat it all you want, it was a racist remark. He was condeming an entire race for the actions of a few. Just like it is done against Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. We’re in the 21st century technology wise, but many people minds are still stuck and concreted in the racist days of the the 17th-20th century. Sad, because as long as this continues, America will continue to be a backwards nation. It’s too bad that all the technology that we have, we still can’t get rid of racisim and bigotry

  • I never watch Fox and it surprised me to see Juan Williams in there. I understand where Williams was coming from. Flying back from Europe I saw a very large group traveling to Mecca for the Haj and I mentally was relieved they weren’t on my flight. I made the automatic association of muslim garb and suicide bombers.

  • Folks on NPR have said much worse things and haven’t gotten fired. Juan was just doing what he always does…being honest. Millions of Americans feel the same way. What he said is neither bigoted nor irrational. Since 1972 3,098 have been killed by Muslims in America in 67 terror attacks. The last terrorist attack against America was by an Islamist (Much to mayor Bloomberg’s angst). The next major terrorist attack will be by an Islamist. It will likely be on an airline or mass transit system. Some Americans have figured out that you can silence most people instantly by labeling them. Millions of Americans have been beaten into submission (figuratively), scared to death of being labeled a racist, or a bigot, or a homophobe. I will give you the best example. I voted for President Obama. I have found that I am diametrically opposed to many of his policies and I will not vote for him again. But, I have observed directly on numerous occasions that anyone who criticizes President Obama is immediately considered, quote… “a redneck racist”. It is very sad.

  • Shame on Juan. I was not aware of the incident until I heard the discourse of Bill O’Reilly and Carl Rove.on O’Reilly’s show several nights ago. (I don’t know why I hesitated on O’Reilly’s show when channel surfing to find the Philly/Giants game.) Their motive was to slay Ms. Schiller of NPR and their funding with dialog typical of them outside of the instant debacle, instead of protecting Juan Williams. I was so embarrassed for Black people (I’m Black) as he sat their with a deer in head lights expression on his face while two so very unlikely people (Carl Rove!!!) disparaged “liberals” and Rev. Sharpton for not protecting Juan. The naivety displayed around this instant matter was most uncomfortable to me. Juan, even more embarrasing, made a comment to the Rev. Sharpton quip suggesting that he wasn’t in the Rev. Sharpton camp. (Rev. Sharpton gets a point on the score board.) Like the response to a compelling portion of a baptist sermon, O’Reily and Rove amened Juan with transparent conviction. (Did you feel this, Juan/) What a mess Juan go himself into. I always enjoyed his thoughts on various subjects as he shared a seat on mind expanding panels. But over identifying with the far right, on Fox, no less, just because Fox has courted you, Juan, might be construed as the covers coming off. Who is Juan Willaims, some would ask? I would, too. For the professional embarrassment you exprience, those who love and support you as a person, and all others of similar mindsets, I feel for you. For such comments that tarnish the entire Muslim population, because of your personal fears, and running to O’Reilly for comfort I’ll only miss the intellignet Juan, not the ignorant one.

  • Interesting point but the best diversity programs, training, books, materials – focus on breaking through barriers and beliefs that keep us from having an open mind to new cultures, religions, beliefs that might be different from the ones we are most comfortable and familiar with. Breaking through those barriers allows individuals to basically get more done because they have gotten past a false impediment like sexual orientation, accent, country of origin, race, or religion. Diversity is not about changing either person in an encounter-it is about making those people stop and reflect on their actions before they act on them-and try to frame their behavior and remarks in a context free of any preconcieved beliefs. In any setting that is fostering diversity awareness this does not mean that “all is forgiven” or say “anything you like” because NOW everyone is just open and accepting. Juan’s fear based on how a person is dressed, is certainly his own feeling – but still an ignorant and bigoted feeling and I am sorry he epxressed it in a public forum, ie., anywhere outside of his home or car. I have read and reread all of his books over the course of my life; i know the dialogue from almost every episode of Eyes on the Prize. Perhaps he has gotten comfortable sharing his feelings with viewers while on the Fox network, but the feeling he shared was extremely bigoted. We would all be embarrassed if a child or family member made a remark like “I don’t want to sit next to so and so at school because they wear the same pair of shoes everyday”. Juan’s comment in terms of newsworthiness and value … had the same degree of value. The “garb” of any passenger in an airport is as relevant in terms of the purpose of the setting as the “garb” of a customer in a store or a student in a classroom – unless that garb prevents someone from learning, shopping or safely taking off and landing, the attire is really very personal. Thank you to everyone that commented on the various items of attire warn by muslims, moslems, and other residents of the globe. Thank you Luke for your outstanding response. Any thoughts on Mrs. Thomas’ request for an apology? Yes, it is a full moon this week. I am not more fearful because of it, but personnally… I have noticed that in general people do seem to behave a little differently when the moon is full! Have a good weekend, cliffi79

  • Why did we choose the word bigot? Why not prejudiced or racist? The words we choose are not nearly as important as what circumstances they are trying to convey. Didn’t anyone hear him talk about fear??? He did not say that he thought he was better or more intelligent than Muslims but that when he was on an airplane (one of the most vulnerable places a human being can be in this society) and saw certain passengers in certain ethnic and symbolic garb, he gets worried. This situation is much more about fear than hatred. Juan Williams would probably also admit that he would be equally fearful walking down the street in the evening if he were being followed by a group of young black men.

    This FEAR issue conc;erning those who don’t look like us and of those who the mainstream media tell us are “synonymous” with death and danger is something we have yet to sufficiently explore in this country. In my opnion he made a serious mistake and that is ONLY because he got too comfortable. He started to believe that the folks on FOX news feel any differently about him. There are rules of public discourse in this day and age. If we get no further at least most of us know the sorts of things that should and should not be said in public situations. I think NPR only fired him because Juan Williams, of all people, simply should have known better.

  • Very interesting comments on this article. I didn’t see too very much commentary on other NPR “news reports” that stated blatant bias, hatred, and “personal commentary” while reporting on news events. Anyone remember the NPR reporter who stated she wished a Congressman would develop aids and die; not a lot of objectivity there. Juan Williams has always straddled the fence and supported his commentary while others just spew hatred. While I am not a democrat, I do believe he was fair-minded and only stating is personal thoughts when asked. Tolerance goes both ways, not just slamming Fox News because they don’t agree with your thoughts/beliefs. Diversity also means difference in opinions. Last I checked, eveyone has an opinion; not all are the same. That’s what makes the world go around. The media just needs to listen up and be more objective. Promoting 99% of similiar political views in the media is what killed news reporters. At least many of Fox channel’s personnel are registered Democrats and do their best to be objective; I don’t believe there are any Republicans at CNN, MSNBC. Just my thoughts.

  • Has anyone thought of the possibility that the ocmments were staged to nudge toward a firing and to get media attention? How convenient that Mr. Williams quickly has a $2 million contract with Fox News so quickly thereafter. Those types of contracts ususally take a LOT more time to negotiate.

  • I have a dream that one day people will stop judging/fearing others based on the clothes they wear and/or their religious beliefs. Imagine how you would feel if you were in their shoes and treat others the way you would want to be treated. There are extremists in many religions but you can’t recognize them by how they dress. Your choices reflect your character. Choose not to be xenophobic about your fellow human beings. It is very freeing to let go of irrational fears of others. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

  • It was ten year ago Juan and I were going out for a drink as we walk down the street in D.C. a group of older white ladies saw us and cross the street. Were they bigots or they there feeling scare that two well dress black were the monster that they grew to hate. Are Black men scare of there brothers or is Mr. Wiliiams kissing up to Fox. Mr. Williams in no bigot he was playing up to the Fox Crowd. When will this madness stop or is it a plan to Isolate our Muslim brothers and sisters from America like in Germany. Getting Mr. Williams to speak like this is just another nail in the coffin of the Muslim in American. Wake up American. Or is this the next justified holocaust. Mr. Williams shame on you and Fox.

  • Juan exposed his prejudice with this statement. We all have these blind spots in our lives (to a greater or lesser degree), but when we go so far as to propogate them into society as Juan did, I believe that goes way past the line of simply proving incapable of being “objective”. Far from the original question, given in another context, Juan’s statement could just have easily been, “But when I walk down the street, I got to tell you, if I see people who are sporting a big afro and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Black, I get worried. I get nervous.” The only difference between the two is that Islamophobia is tolerated in today’s society, while racism isn’t *as* tolerated.

    True, Luke, that complete objectivity is never possible, but that doesn’t mean it should be any less of a goal in journalism. NPR is the last bastion practicing objectivity as a goal and that’s why I’m a donor. They do a good job delineating journalism from opinion. NPR is better for Juan’s dismissal. FN is, well, still every bit Fixed “News”.

  • I’ve read all of the comments, and I find a lot of this discussion to be naive and unreasonable. One important piece of diversity is recognition of human nature. It’s perfectly natural for human beings to feel fear or discomfort based on previous experiences. It’s how you respond to that momentary discomfort which determines if you’re a bogot or a racist. Juan only said what should be obvious to all of us as a normal human response given the circumstances. The argument that Juan’s comments are racist towards Muslims based on the comparative insertion of African Americans, Latinos, East Indians, etc to the same situation is ridiculous. Why? Because Juan’s fear is not based on ethnicity. It’s based on the fact that 100% of commercial airline hijackings used to attack the US have been carried out by Islamic radicals. Note that he refers to individuals who identify themselves primarily as Muslims – not Arabic people. It’s similar to saying “I feel nervous when someone who identifies themselves primarily as a gangster walks into my convenience store.” To deny these realities in life is to be willfully ignorant. The fact is that if a store is robbed, it was probably robbed by someone who identifies with gangster culture. Likewise, in our current geopolitical environment, if a commercial airline is hijacked, it was probably hijacked by a radical fundamentalist follower of Islam (i.e. Muslim). Juan’s point is that none of us is enlightened by attempting to deny the realities of the world. He didn’t mean to imply that someone dressed in traditional Muslim garb is an actual threat – he was just pointing out the natural discomfort that any normal person would feel when placed in that situation with someone who identifies themselves primarily as a follower of Islam. Anyone who can’t admit that this kind of thought would cross their mind in the same situation is either kidding themselves or lying.

  • There seems to be a belief that being prejudice is somehow being a liar. Do people honestly hold prejudiced views, and speak them truthfully? Absolutely! To hold prejudices is not, in itself, wrong. To hold them and believe that they are the right thing to do, usually is. The 60’s Southern White Man honestly believed, overall, that black were inferior, and said so truthfully

    To defend a prejudiced position is always wrong. To not recognize that the prejudiced position is based on virtually no evident is ignorant. So this brings us to Juan, is he a bigot?

    Perhaps but that is more his problem to deal with. Our problem is who should we, the public, deal with it? Should we violate free market principles and claim that an employer has no right to terminate an employee? Should we violate free speech rights and demand that Juan be forever silent? Should we sucumb to the Far Right’s dream and fully defund NPR?

    No, what we should do is recognize NPR’s right of control of their employees, bask in the light of Juan’s discourse, assuming one can find any, and accept the fact that the Far Right doesn’t want a nearly honest news outlet to exist.

  • Really? As a member of a corporate diversity team, I have been reading your magazine for years through my corporate subscription. You claim to be all about diversity, yet when I am inspired to join the conversation, you reject a simple difference of opinion. What about my comment was offensive to you? Was I profain? Racist? Hateful? No, I simply have a different viewpoint which I expressed thoughtfully and respectfully.

    Luke, I would expect you (as CEO of a publication dedicated to Diversity) to understand that diversity cannot flourish in an environment where only one mindset is acceptable. I suppose you support diversity in all areas except thought. As a diversity advocate myself, I’m very disappointed to receive this email from you. Your attitude is very indicative of your unfortunate failure to live up to the values you advocate and I’m sorry to say that we will be cancelling our subscription to the magazine. Furthermore, in the interest of true diversity, I will be sending this correspondance to several blogs and magazines to ensure that your lack of tolerance is visible to others.

    Best Regards,
    Darius Johnson

  • Luke, there is no point in continuing this discussion with someone who is blinded by idealogy. However, I want to correct you on a couple of issues: 1) Muslims are NOT an ethnic group. 2) My reference to gangster culture was not meant to be a connection to Islam – it was meant to show how silly it is that some of the commenters to this story mention racial prejudice and discrimination to show that Juan’s comments are bigoted. My point is that they are completely different and this issue is about religion and culture; not race. 3) The fact that the 9/11 hijackers did not dress in traditional garb is well taken. It supports my assertion that Juan was not trying to insinuate that a person dressed a certain way is a threat – only that it’s normal for people to have an emotional reaction when they see it. My final point is that I am not claiming to be an expert – just a person with a point of view on this topic that you attempted to censor. Best, Darius

  • I don’t know whether or not Mr. Williams is a bigot, but he clearly is afraid. The remedy for fear is to run to the roar. I find it astonishing that a journalist who has risen in the ranks of the media industry as he has, is so ill-informed about one the major world religions that millions of Americans ascribe to. I want to challenge Mr. Williams to run to the roar by educating himself about the Muslim faith. I wish someone would tell us what a terrorist looks like. Perhaps if we figure that out, we can stop illegitimately targeting people of a particular race, religion or culture.

  • The question asked in this article is whether or not Juan is a bigot. I understand Luke’s point and agree that the statement reflects Juan’s ignorance of Islam and Muslims. In his defense, Juan may have been wrong, inaccurate, ignorant and afraid but respectfully disagree that he is intolerant, aka, a bigot. The central theme of his comment was about his fear. The stated goal of the terrorists (not Islam or Muslims) is to create fear, to defeat us, and destroy our way of life. Unfortunately Juan’s statement is evidence that they are having some success. When we are afraid, they are winning.

  • The ambiguity of the American people never ceases to amaze me. Whatever happened to “one man’s rights end where the next man’s rights begin? Juan William has every right to voice his opinions/fears as longs as he does not attempt to interfere with the Muslims rights to religious expression on public transportation. But on the other hand, I have a 16 year old child who makes straights “A’s” in school, has perfect attendance, and exhibits immaculate behavior wherever she goes. And the friends that she chooses all do the same. Yet, after a long week in school (studying hard), she cannot enjoy a Saturday afternoon with her friends at the mall of their choice. Most malls in my city have parental escort policies in place which prohibit them from going to the malls.without an adult. They are treated like castaways in the few malls that don’t have these policies(followed around by mall security, store personnel, etc.) . It is the popular opinion that it’s ok for these malls to have such policies or to treat teenagers this way based upon the bad experiences that they have had with delinquent minors. So, my child and her friends are labeled delinquents and treated unfairly because of the actions of other youth to whom they have no association, nothing in common; except the misfortunate of being the same age. Why isn’t someone demanding the firing of the executives and apologies from the owners of these malls? But, that’s right… it’s okay for them to have these policies based upon the fears of the customers and the past experiences of mall security…..Think about it!!!

  • Given her comments ALONE – Juan Williams shouldn’t have been fired. Given your comments “what he said is certainly bigoted and ignorant. I think he certainly needs to get to know some of the world’s 1.57 billion Muslim people.” – it would appear that he should. As a TRUE journalist, he is looked to for information and facts, this statement made on the public airwaves, just absolved him of his journalistic duties. He is a perfect fit for Fox News where facts and information don’t have a place.

  • As a WASP male who grew up in the South of the 1940-50’s, I find myself a “recovering” racist, homophobe, and xenophobe. It is impossible to be raised in a racist, xenophobic, homophobic culture without it being a lifelong struggle to overcome. I recognize my prejudices for the most part but still have visceral reactions when surrounded by black faces or gay friends or in the company of those who dress in Muslim garb while traveling. Juan is only honest enough to tell the inevitable truth. He is among the fairest and least “bigoted” commentators, and I deeply admire him. I consider myself a political moderate and Juan a few degrees to the liberal side from me.

  • And one more thing, people need to stop constructing this as if bigotry is the opposite of honesty. One can be an honest bigot. Just because Williams shared what he purports are his “honest” feelings, does not exclude them for being bigoted.

  • Honestly, the man was being paid by NPR to be an appropriate host on their program. When he is a guest on another program, and maybe after a couple of glasses of wine, the inhibitions come off. I believe in NPR’s decision, and this just proves that we can’t change our hardwiring just because we are told to. This is not a simple act of bigotry, it is a deep-seated culture of many people. He should have indicated that his opinions and experiences are not that of NPR, and maybe he still would have been fired. NPR has to remain squeaky clean. This was not a case taken out of context as we have seen before, specifically in political cases. This was the truth spoken by a man of color, and could have been said by anyone of us. Unfortunately for Mr. Williams, his personal opinion was not shared by his “at will” employer, and maybe next time he will share his opinion without the representation of his emplopyer. My employer would have fired me too, tenure or no tenure.

  • Luke, you keep saying that you don’t know Juan so you can’t judge him to be bigoted, but you sure label Fox News and their viewers. People are human and have fear and stereotypes. That’s how humans work. There are too many examples in the Muslim communities and countries on how they treat women, gays, non-Muslims. Of course not all and not most I know, but come on. If a group of mostly whites got together, your and your readers comments on this website label them as racist with out knowing them.

  • I wasn’t trying to compare Fox to Muslim and whites. It was an example of how experiences from all sources form opinions. For the fake address, it was a typo. Maybe your tech team can add a validation check.

  • Juan Williams is now out of the closet. He was probably always a bigot. No question about it. If you or I were on Bill O’s show telling him that we feel get nervous around black people, then we would be bigots.

  • Juan Williams is not a bigot nor is he a racists. He is however naive if he bellieves he can express hing honest feelings given his position with two of the new works. His comments could not have come at a worst time given the anger unleashed upon the Muslim communities throughout the U.S.A. On the otherhand his comments have opened up an opportunity fir him to have dialogue/focus groups to talk openly an honest about this issue and a lot of other issues regarding race, ethnicities and gender.

  • Wow. Can everyone take a chill pill here and have some honest dialog without slinging the slime all over the place. Humans have many types of fears built in and that is why we survive by choosing fight or flight. And if anyone tells me they never stereotype, i know they are being less then truthful.

    Also, don’t forget, those of us who live in the United States of America, are free to express ourselves through speech and trying to silence those with differing views does nothing more than breed hate that leads to a “I’ll punch you in your face” discourse, which benefits no one.

    And as a note of interest, I listen to NPR, Fox, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and others to get both sides of the story, and frankly, I am rarely swayed by any of them, as I have learned a long time ago to investigate and decide on my own.

  • Hello Luke and Readers. I read DiversityInc on a regular (several times a week). I often find the articles engaging, as I do your commentary on current diversity happenings around the US and globe. As a Native American (Osage) gay guy, I am deeply fascinated by this line of discussion, particularly because I also teach multicultural education. I don’t find Juan William’s comments troubling because I see it as an honest reflection of his feelings, which were describing a momentary and visceral reaction he would have while getting on a plane if he were to experience people he perceived to be Muslim. I agree with some of the other writers here who suggested that his feelings weren’t matched up with a behavior: he wasn’t suggesting that Muslims be required to undergo additional security checks or be denied access to the plane or even that he would treat them differently if he were to interact with them (we don’t know how he would respond to them in person). In my view, real diversity is about an open dialogue. One of the things I tell my students is that they can express *any* idea in class as long as it does not devolve into a personal attack (your exchange with Darius seems to be personally attacking — suggesting his comments are foolish and that he has a serious problem since he doesn’t agree with you — seems to be lacking in civility). I create a safe place in my classroom so students can be open about their prejudice…and then we can begin to deconstruct them. Helping people become more accepting doesn’t happen when we silence them.

    It is a good goal to examine one’s prejudices…so how do we do that in a public forum if we are told that we cannot express them? (I agree that FOX news is very closed minded, but so is NPR) I see William’s comments as a wonderful opportunity to explore a diversity of feelings and thoughts about difference. We all have prejudices, Luke…even you (and me too).
    Thanks for reading my comments. Warmly, Matt.

  • JMO: He WAS being honest and he WAS being a BIGOT…identifies the work that we ALL have to be doing, and the behaviors that we all have to be alert to! In his position – playing two sides of the fence for $$$ he was deserving of the severed relationship with NPR. My friend calls that talking out of both sides of your neck! :) You get what you ask for. And Juan, DO NOT fall back on the “I am black so I’m not a racist” game. We’re all racist/biased to an extent: the glory lies in introspection and THINKING before we act and before we speak. No matter how much money we’ll be making! Suck it up, pal, and own it.

  • Mr. Williams is a troubled man. I think his fears of persons on a plane wearing Moslem garb, as he phrased it, reflects his confusion about terrorism and Islam. During the Civil Rights era that he wrote about and which I lived through. There was no way of identifying the terrorists who were blowing up churches, butchering human rights workers, setting attack dogs on women and children, burning crosses or shooting at us with high-powered rifles, handguns and whatever was available. Anyone with a skin was dressed in the garb of terror. We learned who our enemies were and more importantly who our freinds were by what they did in support of justice.

    Mr. Williams and I met in the doorway of a suburban Maryland supermarket of couple of years back. I greeted him and said something positive about his journalism. The look on his face was one of abject fear. To this day I don’t know why given that we were both African American, casually dressed in shirts and slacks (no Moslem garb, thank you) and the excahnge, such as it was, was civil. This goes deeper this what appears to be his pandering to the right or disdain of the left. Brother Juan, please seek professional help. More media exposure is not the answer to what is troubling you.

    with compassion,

    Khalid Moussa Foster.
    M.Div. student

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