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Readers Respond: Is Juan Williams a Bigot?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. 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.

DiversityInc readers responded to a controversial topic: Juan Williams was fired from his job as an NPR news analyst after he made a remark about Muslims. Is he a bigot or was he just being honest? The White Guy responded here. NPR has apologized for the way it handled the situation, although it says the decision was the right one.

Want to weigh in? Submit your comment at the bottom of the original article.

Read these edited comments from DiversityInc readers on the subject:

Comment: 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 Quran, etc.) we are overdue to have this dialogue as a nation. Ignoring something does not make it go away.

Comment: 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 Hajj and I mentally was relieved they weren’t on my flight. I made the automatic association of Muslim garb and suicide bombers.

Comment: 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 judgments and instead swing from hyperbole to hysteria at the whim of whatever network we watch. When one watches ideologues like Limbaugh or even Jon 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 chooses to honor a religious custom in their dress? What if he’d said he gets nervous if someone is wearing a yarmulke or bindi? His remark is only seen as tolerable because it plays into the mass hysteria and orchestrated distrust of Muslims. To tolerate it is to condone the message 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.

Comment: It was a racist remark. You can sugar coat it all you want, it was a racist remark. He was condemning 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’s minds are still stuck and concreted in the racist days of the 17th–20th century. Sad, because as long as this continues, America will continue to be a backwards nation. It’s too bad that with all the technology that we have, we still can’t get rid of racism and bigotry.

Comment: He is a bigot. I can’t believe a person of color would talk that way. Clearly it’s 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 that supports a particular candidate or speaks hate speech on air should be given a monetary fine. I applaud for NPR having standards which very few news agencies have. All civil society should be on the same page … no bullying … no hate speech … it has to stop … it is destroying the core of our American values.

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30 Comments

  • At least Mr. Williams was honest (something very much missing from modern media discourse!). NPR’s loss, and Fox News’ gain!

  • The question is no if he is a bigot. That is a black and white question in most cases. The questions is was he irresponsible in his response, considering the role he as in the media.

  • To the poster above who said s/he was scared and relieved to see Muslims in Muslim garb not on his flight, let me remind you of this: the 9/11 hijackers were all dressed in “Western” clothing. Not one was wearing Muslim garb. Wearing Muslim garb does not make one a terrorist, nor is it a terrorist symbol, any more than a Christian cross on a person’s neck makes her a right-wing bigot, a priest’s outfit a child molester, a Jewish yarmulke an armed extremist-settler.

  • I don’t know if Juan Williams is a bigot or not, but I do know a cop-out statement when I hear one. Luke Visconti says that objectivity in news is not possible as rationale for his argument. This is a “straw man” argument. No one in journalism has ever made the credible claim in that objectivity is possible… what they have always said is that journalists should “strive” for as much objectivity as possible. This is an obligation they owe their audience. This has been the canon of journalists since Edward R. Murrow. Regardless of Williams’ true positions on race, he violated that canon; on apparently more than one occasion. NPR was absolutely correct in disciplining him. Since I don’t know enough about his previous infractions I cannot say if firing was justified. But he and Luke Visconti are clearly in the wrong on this one.

  • Mr. Williams did not condemn a race – Muslims are not a race, they are a diverse group of individuals from around the world who believe in, adhere to or practice Islam. His remarks were bigoted – not racist. A bigot is one who sees those not like himself as “other”; be it culture, religion, color of skin, economic status, social status or any other category that puts human beings in boxes by definition. His comment was the manifestation of common fear in America. Americans always need an enemy. We seem to be incapable of doing anything that is for the pece and welfar of human beings. There is a way to change that but you would have to first believe in the goodness of others as well as ones self…something American’s are not very astute at practicing.

  • Cultural perspectives play a key role in the different takes given to Juan William’s comments. The U.S. mainstream cultural position is to view feelings as having an action-oriented implication–namely, that if an individual feels a certain way, it suggests that he or she will also act in ways that are consistent with those feelings. The African American cultural position is to see feelings as having its own domain, and not on any action oriented continuum per se. This difference has a direct bearing on the extent to which each group assesses potentiality, or bias, and, as ultimately applied to Williams, his ability to do his job effectively. For a further discussion of how these cultural differences play out in other venues, such as Supreme Court decisions. see my recent blog on talkingculturaldiversity.com.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with juans statements, I feel the same way, terrorist are everywhere, in this country folk should dress the WAY AMERICANS DRESS, when we go to other countries in the middle east we are not allowed to do certain things, Todays world has become to politically correct, makes no sense, i would deport certain people also, i’m tired of waiting to be blow up.

  • Anonymous

    Nobody realy reads whole articles anymore. They wait from someone on the outside to tell them what they just read. That sonmeone outside usually has another adgenda and spins what you supposedly read the way they want.
    America read the whole article.

  • Anonymous

    One person remarked they were surprised a person of color would make such a remark. Why? He is human and he has fears and opinions. I felt he expressed himself in a forum where he was allowed to be open. He did not say this on his program. I am a white woman. I was leaving the mall today and there was a group of white teenagers loitering near the exit. They were wearing hoodies and they were loud and cursing. I was frightened and I walked way out of my way to leave another exit. If I had to label them, I was afraid of these punks. It does not mean all teens are bad. Groups of anything can intimidate anyone.

  • Anonymous

    The remarks made my Mr. Juan Williams are very disheartening and disappoionting, As a commentator and news analyst who supposedly has an impeccable record of struggling for civil rights, he seems to have placed limits on individuals and groups who would fall into this arena. As many others have pointed out, the 9/11 terrorists were not addressed in “Muslim garb” but in blue jeans, tee-shirts and other kinds of Western clothing. Therefore, no one knew they were terrorists until they committed their heinous acts. If Mr. Williams entered an elevator and a white woman who was already there reacted with discomfort or fear because he is a black man, or if he were outside his house cutting his lawn and a driver mistook him for the yardman or janitor, he would be highly offended. So why is he prejudiced towards others because of they way they dress? NPR was justified in firing him because he abandoned the principles and high standards of objective news reporting to which they adhere. And for the sake of those who think that there is no such thing as objectivity in news reporting, I would ask them to go back and view some of the footage of such admirable journalists and reporters like Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Bernard Shaw, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley. They represented the best in the profession and in their generation.

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