First, THE comments:
Williams responded: "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."
Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
I have a few different things I'm thinking. Two that differ quite a bit and one that is not too important.
I'll start with the superficial one. Muslim garb. Tee hee. That makes me want to giggle. Maybe not so superficial when you consider stereotypes and how they play into prejudice...
With that out of the way, lets move onto a few things that stick out to me.
Ok. I'm going to start with a defense of sorts, then move to the other direction, hoping that all these things that popped into my head can make some sort of sense.
One might say he's brave for stating that he's afraid of people dressed in traditional dress. It's not really PC to judge a book by its cover, but really he can't be wrong necessarily for stating his opinion. That's how he feels. He either wasn't thinking or bravely opened himself up to criticism.
In the clip that was played, he did say that this opinion doesn't justify profiling or denying mosque building. It appears as he says- he was trying to reign in O'Reilly. Now, reigning that guy in at all means you're probably still in the abyss, but slightly less so, but he makes a point.
Having said all that, I don't think he should have stated his fear on the air. On The Diane Rehm Show, she tries to get him to examine his roles as journalist for NPR and commentator for Fox and he kind of talks around it. I think he was in a precarious situation balancing those two roles and failed.
Another reason he shouldn't have gone there, even with the disclaimer that his fear doesn't justify discrimination, is that people DO use this fear as the basis for discrimination, especially lately. The Park 51 mosque thing and Quran burning and the infamous survey was educational in this regard. I also learned what some people I know thought about Muslims that I wish I didn't.
I mean, just think. When or if you hear that a white person is afraid of black people, what do we think? It isn't PC. We might not think a lot of them. We might think they need to be educated and talk to black people so that they can see that people are people and there are common threads among us all. I have this same reaction as I do to people afraid of black people as I do people afraid of Muslims or "Muslim garb." ( Jeans and scarves--ooooh. Scary. :( )
This fear of black people has been used to discriminate and that's not ok. Same for Muslims. Unfortunately, it seems it will take us a bit longer to figure that out. It seems people are more accepting of judging Muslims by the small percentage of extremists who use religion to recruit to fulfill their political ambitions than to judge all black people or all Jews by whatever stereotype comes to mind.
His comments in the times we live in now are inflammatory and are just going to feed the fear and give it more of a voice and higher profile. The comments about not using the fear for discrimination are irrelevant in the present time given how the majority of Americans feel (and know) about Muslims. See the polls below.
I guess it's not really the fear of the group that's really wrong. I mean, that's your feeling. What you do with that fear and your feelings is the really important thing. Do you ask questions and find out about this group? Do you talk to them despite your fear to find out what is prejudice and what is real? Or do you retreat and believe all of the junk email forwards, Fox News commentators and movie stereotypes and freely spew them forth as though you are an expert on the topic?
***Links to the polls I mention or reasons why I think Americans think it's PC to hate Muslims:
Poll: Americans think "Muslim" means someone they dislike
Poll shows more Americans think Obama is a Muslim