Juan Williams: Politically-Incorrect in 2006, Politically-Incorrect in 2010
The unceremonious and unjust firing of Juan Williams by National Public Radio (NPR) earlier this week came as no surprise to me. I had long been aware of Williams's admirable propensity for espousing politically-incorrect truths on certain subjects, even as he remained a staunch liberal overall. Watching Williams on Fox News and reading his columns over the years, I've disagreed vehemently with him many times on matters of foreign policy, but when the subject has turned to race and ethnicity, I've found him to be refreshingly honest.
In fact, I was moved to take note of Williams's excellent book on the subject, Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America, in a September 13, 2006, SFGate column titled "African American Figures Break From Pack." As I noted at the time, Williams was shunned by liberals (black and otherwise) for straying from the party line, while conservatives welcomed him into the fold--much like today. Only this time, Williams is being pilloried for speaking the uncomfortable truth in regards to Muslims, rather than African Americans.
In the interest of shedding light on the current brouhaha by looking back at that episode, I'm reprinting the opening of my column below:
When Juan Williams set out to write his new book, "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America," he had no idea what he was getting into. Williams' scathing critique of African American leadership in the post-civil rights movement era, as well as his emphasis on what he calls the "culture of failure" within the black community, catapulted him into the realm of controversy.
No sooner had the book hit the shelves than Williams was met with a hailstorm of criticism. In calling into question the overreliance on "victimhood" by today's African American leaders and instead promoting personal responsibility, education, achievement and the traditional family structure, Williams was treading dangerous waters. For it has become almost an article of faith among mainstream black Americans that racism is solely to blame for the problems afflicting the black community. To say otherwise is simply taboo.
It didn't take long for Williams to find himself on the receiving end of the usual barrage of epithets applied to black figures who stray from the party line. During interviews to discuss his book, Williams described receiving a torrent of angry e-mails calling him an "Uncle Tom," "Oreo" (as in black on the outside, white on the inside) and worse. In other words, Williams was accused of not being a "real" black man. Were such accusations to come from outside the black community they would certainly be considered racist. But for some reason, the assumption that all blacks must think alike has become accepted by the African American establishment.
Conservatives, on the other hand, both black and otherwise, embraced Williams as one of their own. Having long espoused many of the same ideas, conservatives found in Williams' book both a pleasant surprise and a confirmation of their own political philosophies. All of a sudden, Williams was making the rounds on conservative talk-radio shows and book sales were growing.
But Williams is certainly no conservative. He's a registered Democrat and a columnist for the Washington Post and a senior correspondent for National Public Radio, neither of which are known for being particularly right-wing. In addition, Williams is one of the liberal-to-moderate contributors in the Fox News stable of political analysts. But on this particular issue, he seems to have bridged the political divide. While black conservatives had been saying largely the same thing for many years, it took someone of Williams' mainstream stature to bring it to the fore.
Read the rest here.
(And yes, I did praise then-Senator Barack Obama in the column for, seemingly, bucking the trend of black victimhood in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In light of what we know today, his sincerity is debatable.)
Update (10/29): Speaking of deja vu, Investigative Project on Terrorism founder Steven Emerson recounts his experience being blacklisted by NPR for the "crime" of addressing radical Islam and therefore, offending its apologists: "Juan, I Know Just How You Feel."