October 22, 2010
Join the National Conversation on Race and Get FiredBy John T. Bennett
Score a point for thought control. Juan Williams joined the conversation about race, said something non-PC, and NPR fired him.
We now regretfully understand, even more clearly, why 75% of Americans consider political correctness a problem, as a recent Rasmussen poll reported. Juan Williams, who is one of the only independent thinking commentators we have, walked off the liberal reservation and found himself banished. Of course, what most people mean when they say "conversation about race" is actually not a conversation at all.
Linguist John McWhorter, who has taught at Cornell and Berkeley, notes that "conversation about race" really means a one-sided lecture. McWhorter, who is black, says that the phrase "conversation about race... means that black people have something to teach white people if white people would just sit and listen. And it is not a conversation in the strict sense." Part of the travesty of Williams' firing is that he was answering the direct encouragement of the president and attorney general.
Incredibly, the president and attorney general have actually encouraged unwitting Americans to stick their neck out and join the conversation. President Obama actually said in a speech that we should have this conversation about race "around kitchen tables, and water coolers, and church basements, and in our schools." It's a curious conversation though, because the president knows what the conclusion is before the dialogue even begins. The president says we need to "discuss" the "divides that still exist." He defines the divides for us as "the discrimination that's still out there, the prejudices that still hold us back." So those are the rules of the conversation. You must accept the premises of discrimination and prejudice. We already know what the appropriate outcome of the conversation is. If those are the rules, no discussion is even needed.
Yet, you're in the cowardly part of our "nation of cowards" -- to use AG Eric Holder's phrase -- if you don't take part in the conversation. Just make sure that you think and speak the correct way, or you'll get fired. Ask Juan Williams.
Everybody knows it would be manifestly unsound to actually have a conversation about race in the workplace, or any other public venue. The notion makes plaintiffs' attorneys salivate, thinking of the poor fool who dares flirt with harassment or hostility. Yet the president himself suggested that Americans -- all Americans -- take part in this cleansing conversation about race at work, around the "water cooler." It's almost as if he is setting people up for an easy ambush, but pure naivety is the more likely explanation for the president's destructive urging. Juan Williams is now the highest-profile example of that.
Recall that the President's last contribution to our conversation about race was to say, with no knowledge of the facts, that a white police officer "acted stupidly" towards a black Harvard professor who appeared to be breaking into a home. The president responded to the furor over his rash and insulting comment by dropping out of the conversation about race. Obama went 6 months without giving another press conference. If the public, egged on by this Administration, said something remotely definable as offensive we would not get to hide from scrutiny for 6 months.
Williams' situation reminds us that the PC, lecture format is the way we're supposed to have a conversation about Muslims as well.
In this lecture/conversation, you are only allowed to conclude certain things- If you doubt that this statement is true, then conduct an experiment: When speaking with a liberal, criticize the behavior of an ethnic or religious group. You are almost guaranteed to be met with one of the following propositions: Every antisocial, violent act committed by an ethnic or religious minority should be excused or overlooked and white people, America, or the West has done something worse. If groups ever behave differently than one another, then society is to blame. Those are the only acceptable responses in the conversation about race.
Juan Williams took the "conversation" part too literally and he was punished as a result. What this administration and liberals want is an unhealthy lecture that only has one acceptable outcome- minorities describing their discomfort with society. Williams' concerns about group behavior are not permitted in the grand conversation.
Liberals want there to be a conversation about race, you had just better say the proper things. Liberals want dialogue in the same manner as the mobster cornering you in a dark alley and saying under his breath, "Let's talk." It is precisely this thuggish, Orwellian pall over our conversation about race that makes most Americans avoid that discussion like the plague.
What the Williams incident proves is that, in some circles, you can't even point out your concerns with certain groups now. You must accept that diversity is essentially perfect. After all, if diversity is our strength, then all those who oppose diversity would make us weak.
The last thing liberals want is an open discussion of race or group differences of any kind. In fact, not being liberal gets you labeled racially insensitive. For instance, NYT columnist Frank Rich, who must be considered a fair representative of establishment liberalism, finds racial problems in the Tea Party. His evidence: A poll showing 52% of Tea Partiers felt that "too much" has been made of the problems facing black people.
So what type of society do we end up with when the most simple observations about social life get you branded as racist or fired? We end up with the dishonest, neurotic society that we have now, where a sensitive, thoughtful man like Juan Williams loses his job for saying something that many people feel. If you want to see the culmination of contemporary liberalism, look no further than Europe, the panacea of progressivism. In the Netherlands, the head of the most popular political party is on trial for inciting hatred and group defamation, which are in essence thought crimes. That's the direction PBS and their ilk would move us.
Some liberals will respond that they support the right of free speech, but believe that there should be "consequences" for exercising that right. There should be consequences for screaming at bears or yelling obscenities in a plaza. The larger point is that there should never be consequences for voicing a reasonable concern about group behavior, or any other matter.
For educated people in positions of public leadership to cast a chill over open, reasonable discussions- that is beneath free people. Speech control and thought suppression occur in totalitarian societies, and a measure of that threat can arise in free societies where racial sensitivities and PC dogma are favored. As NPR showed, there is that temptation here. We should guard against it. Stand with Juan Williams wherever his talents take him next, and make Congress defund PBS.