Is this my new reality?
Since the election of President Barack Obama, there has been talk of a "post-racial society." Well, we are looking at post-racial in full bloom now. It seems that the new reality is that any comment by a person in the public arena that reflects on an issue that remotely reflects racial or ethnic bias results in a firestorm.
The President's comments about a police officer's actions; the comments of Shirley Sherrod taken out of context; the recent firings of Rick Sanchez at CNN, and now Juan Williams at NPR -- all of these are the signature events of the new "post-racial America."
It doesn't matter if we are dealing education policy, health care reform, the housing crisis, building a Muslim community center in Manhattan, or joblessness. Every decision seems to be presented in high racial relief. Are we post-racial yet? In the words of John Boehner, "Hell no!"
The notion that such a standard can be imposed is ridiculous on its face. Should we pursue diversity in our policies and workplaces and communities? Yes. Should we try to pretend that our racial and ehtnic differences will not still engender some discomfort or somehow go away? No.
We cannot legislate or wish into existence a colorblind environment -- not even when Martin Luther King Jr.'s challenge is misused and distorted for partisan gains. What we must do is to recognize and respect our differences, and not attempt to suppress them into some misguided notion of a melting pot. To many, this term has come to mean melting away our unique differences into conformance with a dominant culture that does not have to give up its uniqueness. That is not a melting pot, but forced assimilation (resistance will be futile).
I have listened to NPR for many years, and I have been a fan of Juan Williams. I too have been troubled when Juan positions himself in the midst of the troubling rhetoric at Fox News. I listen to NPR because it presents the news at the highest of journalistic standards and Juan has been representative of that ideal.
I think that Juan's recent comment demonstrates what happens when he positions himself in the context of the type of commentary that Bill O'Reilly represents. This is a very differenct standard than NPR. He never would have made that comment on an NPR program. It reminds one of the advice from parents to "watch out who you hang around with."
There was no way Juan could function in these two worlds for much longer. He gets a multi-million dollar reward from Fox. And NPR listeners lose an excellent journalist.