COMMENTARY | Friday's suspension of journalist Joe Williams from news site Politico is, at the very least, perplexing. While a guest on MSNBC's Martin Bashir, Williams, a White House correspondent, was asked about Mitt Romney's problem with minority voters. With a recent Bloomberg Poll showing that a mere 16 percent of "non-white" voters support Romney, it's an issue that should be addressed. Said Williams, reports Raw Story, after noting Romney's many unscripted appearances on Fox & Friends:
" ... it also points out a larger problem he's got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall: Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That's one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can't relate to people other than that. But when he comes on Fox & Friends, they're like him. They're white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company."
Conservative blogs complained to Politico about Williams, reports Raw Story. Politico then issued a statement about the suspension. Paraphrasing Williams, it said that he suggested that "Romney was only comfortable around white people." Stating that Joe had "acknowledged his poor choice of words," nonetheless, Politico said:
"His comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way."
And now I can finally say it. Wow.
Just wow. Oh, and also, Romney currently isn't the "governor" of anything, except perhaps his fate.
While it's possible that this appearance alone did not lead to Williams' suspension -- the Politico post refers to tweets about Romney's wealth -- this tale exemplifies the backward, clueless tack we take with race in this country.
Let me boil it down. A man of color was asked why he thought Romney has a support issue with minorities. That man answered the question to the best of his ability, based on information publicly available, and, it seems his own observations.
The side that is losing with people of color -- and losing boldly, hugely, fantastically -- did not like what the black man had to say. And so they punished him.
That's got to help the poll numbers, right?
This is a splinter of the insidious kind of racism that needles its way into almost everything these days, under the shadow of the black president that no one is judging for his race. Everyone just hates policies. It has nothing to do with skin color.
Until you look at the poll numbers, as described by Bloomberg. And then it's impossible to say that it has nothing to do with skin color.
Williams offered a great insight, a valuable insight, if only anyone wanted to listen. If Politico wants to call his statement biased, then it's biased for Romney, because it simply tells him something that this group that does not relate to him sees, but he and his cronies probably never will. If he could take that information and internalize it, it could make a difference in an election year where minority turnout will decide the race.
But that's not what happened.
People become very uncomfortable when confronted with a suggestion of their own racial bias. Sometimes even when what they're saying itself is blatantly, clearly racist, like the right-wing commentator Barbara Espinosa -- who hasn't been suspended, as far as I know -- who not only affirmed she called President Barack Obama a monkey, she reiterated it.
And then said, reports Mediate: "With a last name of Espinosa I'm anything but racist."
Pointing out that a white person seems to be uncomfortable around people who are not white is not racist. It is a simple observation.
Suspending a journalist for pointing it out? Well, feel free to draw your own conclusions.