Remember Jimmy the Greek?
Jimmy the Greek was a very prominent sports gaming figure and analyst on CBS many years ago who stated on live TV his personal belief about how black athletes came to be so dominant in professional sports. He was fired before they shut off the TV cameras and drummed out of TV for - stating a personal opinion. Unfortunately for him his personal opinion - which may or may not have been visceral, was offensive to many and therefore not to be tolerated in polite society. Political Correctness was a term not yet invented. It didn’t matter. There were many sponsors who found Jimmy’s personal views detrimental to their bottom line. I’m not sure NFR’s bottom line will be affected by Juan Williams’ firing, but their hard earned reputation for objectivity certainly has.
I've thought about this situation a lot because as a person of color, I HAVE seen people become nervous around me when, even in a business suit, I walked into a room or passed them on the streets in broad daylight in Chicago. While I never confronted them about being uncomfortable around me (who would?), I felt the urge to say or do something (a faint smile or a hello) to make them feel comfortable. But how does one react to - what is for you personally - a negative visual stereotype that has been placed in front of you when you least expect it?
Williams may have said exactly what any one of us would have said given the circumstances. The problem for him is he's a very prominent person expressing a personal opinion in a public forum. That kind of personal freedom - at least in the last few decades - has become a no -no for public figures in our society. As a professional journalist and commentator, Williams should have known better and kept his “visceral” feelings to himself.
I have a personal bias that I probably will never get over; I get nervous around ANY police officer. A cop angry about something unrelated to me and my situation can take my life, call it a mistake - and go home to family as if it was just another day at the office. All of you law enforcement people out there will cry foul and say that shooting someone in ANY situation is traumatic and life changing. But the thought of being someone’s mistake just never appealed to me. As a result, I get a visceral feeling of dread around police - I guess in the same way Mr. Williams felt at his last airport encounter with identifiable Muslims. The only law I ever broke was going too fast with everyone else on the freeway, but that doesn’t take away that “visceral” feeling when they come to my car and ask for my license, registration and proof of insurance.