One of my pet peeves is this notion that if you get fired or backlash or in trouble for something you say or write--this is somehow a chilling of your First Amendment rights. Here is the thing people...the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law." It does not say that you have a right to say or do whatever you want and expect everyone to like it. Dr. Laura or Don Imus or Rick Sanchez or Helen Thomas or Juan Williams...they were all canned because they said dumb things. The Constitution does not protect you from your own stupidity. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech.
Yes, everyone is a bit sensitive about which words are used and how they are used...and I agree with many reasonable people that "political correctness" has long ago served its usefulness. However, I think that you have to stand by your own biases--especially when you express them publicly. When I heard the Juan Williams offending clip, the first thing I thought was that if he had given his fear some context, he would not have sounded so bigoted. The truth is that all people have biases...the least we can do is be up front about them and start from the assumption that being unbiased is an unrealistic expectation. What do we do with our biases? If we can acknowledge them and resist their comfortable pull, we give them less oxygen in our lives.
Are many rational Americans fearful of people who "look Muslim" if they are boarding a plane? Yes--this is an honest report. But given the context of Islamophobia that has infected our country since 9/11--it is understandable that NPR didn't want to appear to go along with the mob on this one and I respect that. Juan and FOX got want they wanted--Juan got 2 million bucks and FOX got to whinge on and on about liberals. Would it have been ok if Juan said that he was afraid of black men in saggy jeans late at night? Would that have got him canned? It seems that rampant Muslim-bashing is so common (as is bashing of Hispanics) in the media and in public discourse that someone needs to say "Enough."
I didn't think much of Juan Williams anyway, nor any of the other media personalities that have bitten the dust recently...the only one worth anything is Helen Thomas--if only because she is as old as Methuselah, a tough broad (in the best sense) and Republicans hate her. I have many biases. I don't like most cheerleaders, old people behind the wheel, rich people or most Republicans. But, everytime I get righteous and start to enjoy looking down on anyone--I remind myself that all stereotypes result in pseudospeciation (thanks Erik Erikson) and that is unhelpful in the least and destructive at worst.