The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

what is real bigotry and racism

This week, Bonnie Bernstein , a well known sports reporter, made a casual reference comparing NBA hopefuls to Palestinians who push their children to be suicide bombers. She was on a popular ESPN talk show broadcast I Chicago called "Mike and Mike."

NAAJA protested after receiving many complaints, demanding an apology.

Bernstein, ESPN, and the producers of Mike and Mike apologized.

NAAJA accepted the apologies, yet still, many people continued to criticize Bernstein, Some demanding Bernstein did not properly apologize.

Some argued Bernstein should have apologized for the stereotype, insisting that she ackowledge it is not true.

Here are the facts:

BB did not argue that Palestinians raise their children to be suicide bombers. She DID reference the stereotype in an unrelated discussion, citing something she said she read in the New York Times -- clearly a disreputable source when it comes to Middle East issues.

There are two kinds of racism: the first is when people assert, argoe and claim a stereotype is true. This happens all the time; the second is when someone innocently constructs a racist comment, uiing a stereotype naively.

I do not believe BB intentionally made the commentt as an attack against Palestinians. I think she did cross the line, though. Stereotypes are never appropriate, whether you are a bigot or a caring person who slips.

BB has no history of racist comments -- like Sean Hannity or Anne Coulter or Glenn Beck ...

Bernstein apologized for referencing the stereotype. It was carefully constructed so she clearly knew she was walking a fine line. She did apologize but never went the extra mile to acknowledge how much hurt the stereotype inflicted. It would have mitigated the problem to acknowledge the stupidity of the stereotype. You don,t paint an entire people because of the actions of a few.

Bernstein is also controversial and the debate is embroiled in other sports issues beyond the Palestinian comments.

When you confront stereotypes, you must be fair yourself. I'm satisfied she did the minimal thing needed. Couald she have said more. But that is not NAAJA's responsibility to make reporters more caring or human. We asked only that she address and apologize for using the stereotype.

Ray Hanania

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