Self-delusion is a wonderful thing, but not if you’re a Black man working for Fox News. You think they want you on there, but in actuality you serve a slightly different purpose. Your presence is to justify that your employer can spout all manner of borderline to actual racist content without getting into trouble. Because, after all, they employ minorities.
Fox News’ “Of COURSE I’m not racist! I have plenty of Black friends” excuse got into a scrap with a college professor over his Fear of a Black Planet. The professor, Dr. Caroline Helmand, teaches at Occidental College. Their conversation on NPR began with her agreeing that Juan Williams shouldn’t have been fired by the news agency, even if she felt his comments on Muslims were bigoted. She further stated that “I think that if I were to say that I clutch my purse every time I walk by a black man that might resonate with a lot of Americans. It might be the truth but it’s a bigoted statement.”
Williams did what he is paid to do: He reassured his viewers by insulting me and other Black men. I spent several years in a Red Midwestern county, and several women clutched their purses when I walked by, even though I had no intention of robbing them. So Helmand’s statement is very well worded, and Williams could have run with that and made some valid points about profiling. He could have even worked his actual statement into that, making for an educated discussion from a Black perspective on Fox. Instead, he made a DIRECT pander to the predominantly White audience who watches Fox News.
First, he made a soothing “it’s perfectly OK to think like this, Fox viewers” blanket statement. He said “Let me just tell you, with the amount of black on black crime in America, I get nervous and I’m a black man.” So, every Black man scares Williams, even Steve Urkel and Buppies. After Helmand challenged him again, Williams dug in his heels: “I’m the father of black young men and I’m saying that if you saw a couple guys walking around looking like thugs down the street late at night, you’re saying ‘Oh, I’m not going to think it through.’ Caroline, I think you are way off base.”
Let’s dismantle Williams’ bass-ackwards statement. Suppose those “couple guys walking around looking like thugs down the street late at night” were Williams’ KIDS. I’m sure they are very nice, respectable young men, but Williams’ statement paints them as potential thugs simply by inclusion. What is the description of a “thug?” To many people, the definition of a thug is “young, Black men.” Williams’ kids, to use the classic racial profiling excuse, “fit the description.” Would Williams be understanding if his children came to him, as I have more than once to my parents, to describe an upsetting racial profiling incident? With my bald head, stern look and—hell, my skin color—I look like a “thug” to some people. I suppose by Williams’ rationale I should mug the shit out of you. Then, since I am college-educated, I can give you a calculus lesson as you crawl down the sidewalk. Calculus is a lot more painful than mugging–trust me.
Williams does what the rest of the Fox pundits do: He blatantly disavows that his statements could offend. They always act stunned when someone calls them on the potential offense, knowing damn well what they are doing. This is cowardice. I state right now that what I am saying in this piece may offend you. I don’t give a shit, but at least I’ve given you the respect of acknowledging that your offense could exist. I can hear you now: In his comedy routine, Chris Rock made a statement similar to Williams’, and he won the Emmy for it! What liberal nonsense! Rock did indeed make this statement, but he surrounded it by 10 minutes of differentiating and absolving Black men who are NOT thugs. And Chris Rock is a COMEDIAN, not a news anchor. Actually, Rock used much stronger language than “thug,” and while Williams didn’t use that particular word, I’m sure Roger Ailes wouldn’t mind if he did.
Sadly, this isn’t the thing that pisses me off most about Williams’ subbing on the O’Reilly Factor. He missed a primo opportunity to ask for some motherfuckin’ iced tea. I would have. That is my biggest disappointment with this episode.