Yvette Carnell: Lessons in Tokenism from Juan Williams
by Yvette Carnell
During the FOX News debate, Newt Gingrich put Juan Williams on display, and in his place, by extending and prolonging his Latino first name. Gingrich made a short little one syllable name like Juan sound like J-U-A-N. It was almost as if the words hung in the air, like Jordan seconds before the dunk. It was beautiful, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fellow.
Of course, Juan IS Latino. His family extends from Panama, but most people don’t think much about that or know much about that since FOX brands J-U-A-N as its authentic African American voice, giving him carte blanche to speak out on all pressing black issues of the day, even our history in this country, a history that, for the most part, doesn’t extend from Panama.
I, however, have no issues with that since a) The issues and interests of black and brown people intermingle and b) We’re a mixed bag. There is no such thing as being authentically black and I’m not much interested in purity tests. Going back down the road of paper bag tests and one drop rules is not the direction I’d like to see black and brown people head down, certainly not in the 21st century. For me, Juan Williams definitely presents as a black man and that’s just as good a reason as any for him to speak on black issues. Plain enough?
The person who has an issue with Juan, the man who stretched out his name in some sort of contrived demonstration, is Gingrich. And this I find surprising considering that Juan is a center-right pundit who has done an excellent job of carrying the water for the Republican establishment over the years.
In this instance, no good deed goes unpunished. And although racists are very often good pretenders, they’re still racists. This explains why Newt Gingrich chose MLK Day to let loose on black people in general and Juan Williams in particular. Racists are not “down” with you because you share their ideology. They’re not your brothers in the Lord because you share the same religion. And they’re certainly not above using your black face to exploit their agenda when the opportunity presents itself.
Racists never forget. They never forgive. They’re in it to win it. They’re in it to realize your full subjugation under the banner of Old Glory. And it would certainly help the cause of freedom if black people like J-U-A-Nwouldn’t aid them in doing their dirty work. Because in the end, there is no reward for the token, only betrayal and jocular ridicule. Let this be a lesson.
Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Yourblackworld.