Read the NPR Story


I am a huge NPR fan, primarily because they are not a voice for the corporate world. Conservatives think NPR is too liberal; real liberals (Pacifica Radio types) feel that NPR is too conservative. That makes me think they are right on target.

 Juan Williams is an authority on civil rights history and an NPR commentator. He was terminated in response he made on a Fox News show.

 Juan said that obviously Muslim people on a plane make him nervous. Juan did not say Muslims should not be allowed to fly. He did not say that he refused to fly with them. How many other people feel the same way that Juan does? The way to overcome this fear is to do the flights, and after a few times when nothing bad happens, you realize there are more important things about which we need to worry. Being honest about your fears is the beginning of learning how to deal with them.

 Free Speech means you get to say what you want, but you also must deal with the consequences of that speech. NPR did not say Juan could not make the comments; they did not infringe his rights.

 Some commentators have said that firing Juan violated his freedom of speech. How did NPR infringe Juan’s right to free speech? No one stopped him from saying it. As a news commentator, whether on the clock or not, you are speaking as a representative of your employer. If those comments are racially charged, the company has a right to terminate the relationship. Free speech does not mean they have to pay you for saying it. I think that is free enterprise. You want freedom; this is what you get.

 An online comment asked me what was racially charged about Juan’s remarks. My response is technically nothing; except that to me treating Muslims as a group or class is the equivalent of grouping people by race. If the remarks had been about Jewish people would it be a racial or religious? In my mind, and maybe I am alone in this, racism is not actually about a person’s race as much as it is about how someone groups people and makes judgments based on that grouping.

 I learned a degree of empathy years ago while riding with a new sales trainee who happened to be black. While we were stopped at a light a car pulled up on his side of the car. The other driver looked at my passenger and frantically rolled up their window and locked the door. I watched how that felt as the emotions moved through my passenger’s presence. I don’t see the fear of that driver as being very different than the nervousness that Juan expressed.