Friday, October 22, 2010


But 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.
Juan Williams

Certain minority groups [are] disproportionally represented in prison because they have a crime problem.
Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders
I wonder if there is a growing hostility - an "us versus them" mentality that is coming out in the way that we speak about one another. Despite Juan Williams telling Bill O'Reilly that we shouldn't think of all Muslims as terrorists, the statement that cost him his NPR job seems to imply that fear of anyone who identifies as Muslim is warranted. Justice Sanders says that certain minorities are, in effect, unable to follow the law - seemingly because they are minorities.

Both of these statements could have been better phrased. And you would expect the people who made them to have understood that they would be widely quoted. So why didn't they stop for a moment, and express themselves in a way that wouldn't garner such controversy? Williams could have expressed a fear of terrorism without appearing to paint all Muslims as plane bombers. Justice Sanders could have pointed out the factors that land members of some groups in prison at a higher rate, rather than appear to blame simple group membership. I understand the idea that feelings are authentic, and we should always be able to be authentic, but the real world doesn't work that way, and we all know it doesn't. So why do we continue to allow our emotions, especially negative ones, guide our public discourse?

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