Fired (up) over stereotypes

Fired (up) over stereotypes
by Shane Wade

As an avid listener of NPR, I was deeply troubled when I heard that Juan Williams was fired for his recent comments about Muslims; not out of any concern for Williams, but for concern about the regrettable ignorance shown by an experienced and well-educated journalist. And after what happened with Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez, one would think Juan would know better than to spout bigoted, ignorant nonsense.

What’s the issue here? Is it censorship on the part of NPR? No, it’s fairly difficult to shut someone up with a multi-million dollar contract with Fox News. Infringement on one’s freedom of speech? No, it’s not a “chilling assault on free speech” as Williams put it in the New York Times after his firing. Williams absolutely had the right to say what he said, and NPR had the right to fire him for it. And while it could simply be a case of “political correctness” as supporters of Williams cry, I believe the issue here is about stereotypes and fear.

When Williams made those comments, he further perpetuated a damaging stereotype of Muslims as radicals and terrorists. Despite the fact that moments before he defended the rights of Muslims and said that “Americans have to be careful not to let fears lead to the violation of anyone’s constitutional rights,” Williams allowed his fears to demonize a larger group of people for the actions of a small minority. Terrorism is about fear and when we allow our fears to manifest in such manners as to pervert our actions and speech, we let the terrorists win.

Williams is correct in stating “that political correctness can cause people to become so paralyzed that they don’t deal with reality,” but that doesn’t give him license to spout falsehoods about terrorists dressing in “Muslim garb” as a correct statement to justify his fears. None of the 9/11 hijackers wore “Muslim garb.” The last two attempted domestic terrorist attacks were by men that dressed much like any other Westerner. Why would a terrorist want to draw attention to themselves by dressing in such a manner?

It’s true that a handful of Muslims attacked us on 9/11, but they were Muslim extremists with a wayward ideology, and ideology cannot be viewed based upon physical appearance. When we blame Muslims for 9/11, we vilify millions of people and equate them to terrorists. On 9/11, men that used the banner of Islam and Jihad to justify their actions attacked us. The actions of the minority of Muslims that blame and damn America for their problems do not speak for the Muslim community at large. It’s not because of “political correctness” that Williams was fired. It’s because he made an absurd and inappropriate comment that was unbecoming of an NPR journalist. And if Juan Williams speaks for the majority of Americans, then Attorney General Eric Holder was right when he called America “a nation of cowards” when it comes to race.

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