The Right's Warped Racism: The Firing of Joe Williams

Jul 07 2012 Published by under Featured News

Yet another win for the right wing in their war on reality. This one came in their success at getting Joe Williams fired from Politico for saying on the Martin Bashir show that Mitt Romney was very comfortable around white people.

Joe fired back in a column for the Grio this week, which is a must read, because he points out how the right wing targeted him and destroyed him for speaking his mind. Don’t tread on me seems to uniquely apply to certain kinds of white people.

Here’s Joe outraging the world by speaking the truth:

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After a relentless witch hunt against Williams, including combing through his Twitter account and Googling him for proof of Williams’ “racism” against white people, the Right wing made themselves heard, and his statement was deemed by his bosses at Politico as “unacceptable”:

Politico editors Jim VandeHei and John Harris called the statement “unacceptable” in a memo to staff. It “fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way,” they wrote.

Really? So reality is now “unfair”? Lots of things aren’t fair. It’s not “fair” that minorities are underrepresented in the media. It’s not “fair” that women are losing their rights in America. It’s not “fair” that Eric Holder was found in contempt for something there was no proof of him doing. It’s not “fair” that Mitt Romney was born to his rich father and others were not. None of those things are fair, but they are all reality. As the right wing likes to tell us, “get over it.”

What part of what Williams said is unacceptable? He didn’t call Romney a racist. He said Romney was very comfortable around white people. Given Romney’s own behavior — his infamous lack of compassion for others, his inability to empathize with those who were not raised with a silver spoon in their mouth, and his awkward encounters with minorities, not to mention his policies — it seems a fair assessment.

Joe Williams walked us through how he lost his job:

As soon as the words escaped my lips, live on national television, I suspected I might have a problem. I’d used the phrase trying to explain why Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent so much time chatting with Fox News, why he’s kept the mainstream press at bay, and why he seemed so awkward and stiff around minorities…

By now, my cautionary tale is familiar: after saying Romney, a millionaire businessman, is more comfortable with around people like him was like waving a red cape waving in front of a charging bull — namely, Big Media, an arm of the late Andrew Breitbart’s online empire, and DC Caller, a web site scandal sheet run by Tucker Carlson. After rummaging through some 3,000 tweets, they cherry-picked ones designed to prove their flimsy case: that I was biased against Romney, a racist against whites and a representative of my employer’s slant against conservatives.

You only need to tune into CNN to hear a “mainstream” outlet perpetuate racism courtesy of their “conservative” hires who were clearly brought on to give voice to this ironically dubbed “underrepresented” voice. That is deemed being “fair”. So, giving a voice to racists is free speech and balanced journalism, but letting a black person speak their truth is not.

Politico is no doubt aiming higher than the tea-chasing CNN, and yet their knee-jerk cave is troubling, particularly in light of the fact that the outlets that targeted Joe Williams are behind birtherism and other clearly racist attacks. How is this “fair”?

This cultural bias regarding who determines what is “fair” and not “fair” is in and of itself racist and teeming with privilege.

It is an empirical fact that our media sorely lacks voices from minorities, from blacks to women to disabled people — especially in political punditry. Politics is still considered a white man’s world. Thus, media outlets hire people from different perspectives in order to give voice to various segments of our culture. Why would they hire a black person and expect him to not see things from the perspective of a black person? Isn’t that precisely why we need more minorities in the media?

While there are many areas in which race will not impact one’s perspective, when it comes to issues of race, it seems rather self-defeating to expect a minority to leave their own perspective at home. Who exactly is allowed to give voice to the experience of minorities if not minorities? Is this a privilege saved only for white men? Must we get big daddy to understand first, and then we can say it out loud?

Mitt Romney is clearly more comfortable around wealthy people, and the preponderance of the über wealthy in this country are white. This isn’t an accident and it’s not a coincidence. It is precisely why black people, like other minorities and like the working class, are marginalized to a certain extent.

It would be perhaps more accurate to say Mitt Romney is more comfortable around people of great privilege, but then, Joe Williams said people like him – and people like him are white and rich.

When we can’t say the truth anymore because, as Joe Williams put it in his column on his firing, “a small cabal of self-appointed watchdogs on a perpetual hunt for perceived liberal bias” will destroy our careers, there is a problem.

Joe isn’t allowed to speak the truth, so I will repeat it for him, and for all of the many Americans who know that he spoke the truth. There is a culture of privilege that Romney inhabits and embodies. That culture is not comfortable around people who aren’t like it. Black people by percentages are underrepresented in the culture of privilege, as they are in the media.

Joe Williams did his job, part of which is to bring his own unique perspective and experiences as a human being to his interpretation of events unfolding around him. Telling him he can’t say Romney is very comfortable around whites would be like hiring a female writer and telling her she couldn’t point out cultural bias against women.

My question is why are the rights and opinions of black people so tenuous that they are not allowed to speak to their own reality in pointing out cultural bias? Why is this culture so ready to blame black people and ruin their reputations over things they’ve said or done or even not done (Eric Holder, Shirley Sherrod, Van Jones, etc.)?

Right there, in that fact — in the easy targeting and blame and silencing and shaming — is the bias.

Shame on you, media, for kowtowing to a known group of racists (right wing tea party loud mouths best known for their own racism and hatred of this President) in firing Joe Williams. Shame on this country for continuing to presume that a black person is less entitled to their experience than a white person.

It is what it is, and that’s not Joe Williams’ fault and it’s not my fault. The fault lay with the people perpetuating it. Mitt Romney is very comfortable around rich, privileged, white people. There are many rich white people who have the ability to empathize with people who are not like them. Mitt Romney has yet to demonstrate that he is one of them, and his policies don’t reflect any effort on his part to even try.

This is how the right’s warping of racism works: Joe’s own summary of their assault to prove “that I was biased against Romney, a racist against whites and a representative of my employer’s slant against conservatives” shows how it’s okay to accuse a black person of being a racist, but not okay for a black person to say a white person is very comfortable around other whites. I note with great irony that Joe’s alleged racism against whites “proves” his bias against conservatives in their minds, which is sort of an admission that it’s a white’s only club.

Racism is a tool of oppression used against a minority. You have to be oppressed and underrepresented for racism to be used against you. Perpetuating unequal access to resources between groups is a form of racial discrimination; so it follows that denying someone the right to speak their truth while allowing others to say the same thing only worse in reverse is racism.

The reasoning behind the conservatives’ attack on Joe is that it’s okay for them (a group of self identified white people) to call Joe Williams a racist, but it’s not okay for Joe Williams to say that Mitt Romney is very comfortable around white people. Got it?


Note: As a strong supporter of women’s rights, I am aware that Mr. Williams plead guilty to assault charges against his ex wife. Partner battery is unacceptable. However, this article is not meant as a defense of Mr. Williams as a human being; rather, it’s meant to examine the hypocrisy of conservative charges of racism and our media’s acceptance of white privilege. Mr. Williams’ assault charges do not magically make conservatives correct in calling Williams a racist.

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