Friday, October 22, 2010
NPR Fires Juan Williams. Jesus Responds.
Early in the morning Jesus arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.
The high priests of Political Correctness brought Juan Williams, who had been caught in Political Incorrectness, and made him stand in the middle.
And the High Priests of Political Correctness said to Jesus, "Teacher, this man was caught in the very act of committing Political Incorrectness. Now the law commands us to stone this man. And to fire him, as well. What do you say?"
Jesus said to them, "Let the Politically Correct among you who has never felt anxiety when viewing someone in 'Muslim garb' on the same airplane flight with him be the first to throw a stone at Juan Williams."
In response, they went away one by one, because all of them, including the most Politically Correct High Priests, had felt the same anxiety that Juan Williams describing feeling: "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."
I've faced exactly what Muslims face. I've been told that people like me are dangerous, and wrong, and not to be funded, published, or hired. I've heard this from potential employers and I've heard it from commentators on NPR. I haven't gotten anyone fired over it. I haven't made any attempt to take away anyone's right to free speech.
I wrote "Bieganski" to respond to negative images of Poles and Polish Americans like me. The answer to speech you don't like is not to take away someone else's right to speech, it is, rather, to produce better speech that addresses other's offensive speech.
I've been told, over and over again, by Jewish Americans, that they would never travel to my ancestral homeland, Poland, because they were certain that Poles would kill them. I didn't try to get these Jews fired for expressing such fear. Rather, I studied Polish-Jewish relations and worked to better understand Jews' anxiety. And I wrote a book addressing the issues at hand. No firing. No hate. No threats.
I have faced this bigotry not just casually, in day-to-day life, but in my professional life, as well. I know it's had a negative impact on me. I have been told, many times, that I was the "wrong ethnicity" to be funded in academia, to be published, or to be hired. And, so far, I haven't gotten anyone fired over this.
One day I was waiting to talk to Alan Dundes, the head of my department at UC Berkeley. He was talking to another student, who asked him about travel to Eastern Europe. Dundes pointed to his nose, and said such travel made him anxious – surely Eastern Europeans would see that he was Jewish and do him harm. I squirmed. On another occasion, when a student did not understand his point in class, he suggested that the student's slowness might be explained by Polish ancestry.
I made no threats. I wrote no protest letters. I recognized Dundes' great stature as a scholar and his value to me as a teacher. I met with Dundes one-on-one, told him how these comments hurt me and other Bohunks like me, and, I think, he came to see and respect my point of view. He was very supportive of my work on stereotypes of Poles, encouraging me to publish.
No threats. Just talk. Two people respecting each other and growing from the experience. Couldn't CAIR have taken that approach with Juan Williams?
As for NPR? Here's a snip from my book "Bieganski" discussing an NPR commentary about Eastern Europeans:
On the NPR program "All Things Considered," Andrei Codrescu reviled the "drunken ditties," alternately, the "nasty ditties," the "morbid fairy tales, and musty chronicles" that constitute the identity of the peoples of Eastern Europe. He condemned their "deep-seated and emotionally unassailable stupidity." He referred to their "stink;" their "muddy ravines" called home, their "smoke-darkened icons."
These are direct quotes from an NPR broadcast. NPR sees fit to describe people like me as stinky, nasty, morbid drunks. I leave the reader to decide the suitability of NPR personnel to preach to others about what constitutes Politically Correct speech.