Juan Williams, Priests, Prejudice and Planes


Without getting into the wisdom of NPR’s decision to fire Juan Williams, it is amazing how article after article in the mainstream press make great efforts to minimize Mr. Williams’ unquestionable and unapologetic justification of prejudice. Ms. Parker, it’s not like he “gets a little nervous” but then recognizes that the nervousness is irrational and unfair. To the contrary, he has argued that even though not all Muslims are terrorists, he was justified in believing that people who dress like Muslims on planes are potentially terrorists because they are dressed like Muslims.

As Glenn Greenwald found in digging up some of Mr. Williams earlier writings on racial prejudice,

In 1986, Juan Williams participated in a forum in The New Republic regarding a column by The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, who had justified the practice of D.C. jewelry store owners who would “admit customers only through a buzzer system, and [] some store owners use this system to exclude young black males on the grounds that these people are most likely to commit a robbery” (h/t).  Defending this race-based exclusion, Cohen argued that “young black males commit an inordinate amount of urban crime,” and that “black potential victims as well as white ones often act on this awareness, and that under certain circumstances, the mere recognition of race as a factor . . . is not in itself racism.

“Responding to Cohen’s argument, Williams said:  “In this situation and all others, common sense in my constant guard.  Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me.

But the prize goes to Robert Scheer who made the most telling analogy on “Left Right and Center“. According to Scheer, if we follow Mr. Williams’ logic, then parents should being concerned about having their children sit next to Catholic priests on planes, especially considering that a much larger percentage of priests have committed acts of abuse than Muslims have terrorism.

Finally, people dress differently in different parts of the world — not to mention that people in different Muslim countries dress differently from each other — not to make a political or religious statement, but simply because that is how they dress. I am sure that when Mr. Williams gets dressed in the morning he isn’t contemplating expressing his Americaness, drones, and civilian casualties.


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