National Public Radio spent the last week of 2010 feeling the pain of minorities in America on their afternoon chat show Talk of the Nation. On Monday, NPR host Neal Conan discussed the mistreatment of Muslims with Moustafa Bayoumi of the City University of New York, author of How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America. When Conan briefly diverted from victimization of Muslim Americans to those radical Islamists "alleged to have been involved" in bombing plots, it was all the fault of the U.S. wars in Muslim countries:
Prof. BAYOUMI: Yeah. In fact, I think that's right. And I think that this is a problem. And I think it's a problem that has something to do also with the longevity of these wars. It seems to me that the longer that these wars go on the more opportunities there's going to be for this kind of attributive, you know, act. And that's why it's more important than ever to find some kind of conclusion to these wars.
I think that we really need to find a way to get out of Afghanistan. We need to find a way to resolve the situations around the world. You know, we've been now been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets were. And it doesn't seem like there's much chance of that conflict declining in the near future. But I think that it's incumbent upon all of us to try to find a way for that conflict to end.
CONAN: Most Americans - I don't think I'm exaggerating here - would see those conflicts in terms of the experience of the American troops. Do you think most Muslim Americans see it through the experience of the Muslims in those countries?
BAYOUMI: Yeah. I think that most Muslim Americans see it from multiple perspectives. I think that they see it -- see them just like other Americans. Muslim Americans also serve in the armed forces just like (unintelligible) Americans.
CONAN: Of course.
BAYOUMI: And they also - though I think it's particularly - if they have family there or if they have family in nearby countries, then they feel the conflict in a more intimate fashion than a lot of other Americans. So I think one of the things that you see is that the Muslim American community is very diverse and it comes from the most - a lot of different places, and that they can bring a lot of different perspectives to the table.
On Tuesday, NPR brought on Eliza Byard of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group focused on selling homosexuality in schools, to describe the landscape of hate and scapegoating for the "gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender person" in a campaign year, when they are the "Willie Hortons of the American political scene." But Byard didn't seem to know how long House terms last:
CONAN: And as you look at these big issues, is it possible to separate your life from the way these things make you feel? (Laughter)
Ms. BYARD: Well, it's interesting. I think that any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person who follows politics dreads a national election year. I mean, you cannot have an election year these days without really feeling like you're going to be a punching bag. We are, I would say, the current Willie Hortons of the American political scene. And this year was no exception with Rand Paul and Jim DeMint and Michele Bachmann. I mean, DeMint and Bachmann weren't up for election but they had plenty to say. And when you want to scare the American electorate, you beat up on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. And that made it a really, really tough year.
CONAN: Just to avoid some of the emails and I'm sure you just misspoke. Michele Bachmann, a member of the House of Representative. She was up for election this year.
Ms. BYARD: Oh, excuse me.
CONAN: That's okay.
Ms. BYARD: I meant Jim DeMint, Jim DeMint.
CONAN: Jim DeMint was not up for election, the senator from South Carolina.
Wednesday was the day for blacks, and the guest was Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic, a Rachel Maddow favorite. NPR's Conan returned to Byard's claim that gays were the new Willie Horton, except he didn't put it that way.
CONAN: And as we look ahead, the situation that we're going to be seeing - we've talked about the permanent campaign. That's since become a cliché...
CONAN: ...in our politics, but there's no question the presidential election of 2010 - 2012, rather, is already well underway and that it's going to be more contentious than ever. It's interesting, we were talking with several other people from diverse backgrounds earlier this year and they say, you know, gay people always seem to be the brunt of, you know, bad - get badmouthed...
CONAN: ...in election year, or Hispanics and immigrants tend to get badmouthed in an election year. Do black people feel the same way, do you think?
COATES: See now, this has been the interesting thing. I think before 9/11, that was the case. And, you know, I'm sure somebody would dispute this. And I don't know if there's an objective truth here, but one of the things I actually noticed is you've seen a - I don't know if the African-Americans are the choice group to bash. I'm not sure. Well, certainly haven't been for the past decade.
So I think there could strong argument made for our Arab Americans or Muslim Americans, Arab Americans, whatever their religion may be. There's certainly is a strong case to be made of the gays. I think I was just reading yesterday at the CPAC Convention. Groups are pulling out because they've invited this group, Got Proud [sic] to attend.
So I don't know. I mean, and to be perfectly clear here, I don't, you know, buy the whole post-racial narrative that we're beyond that. I'm not putting it that way. But certainly, things have become much more complicated and I don't know that bashing black people is really an electoral strategy choice anymore, if it ever was.
Conan mentioned in passing that black Republicans were elected to the House, but found this line more resonant "And it is interesting, Ta-Nehisi, as we think about the anniversary that we're going to be marking of the Civil War. And that it began with a, well, likely attended, but nevertheless, pretty symbolic Secession Ball in Charleston, South Carolina." It's not "pretty symbolic" that South Carolina sent black Tea Party favorite Tim Scott, born and raised in Charleston, to the House. At least Coates didn't buy that the "Secession Ball" spoke for the majority of South Carolina.
By the way, I had to clean up the NPR transcript on CPAC. They wrote it out as "SEA-PAC." They're not quite in touch with conservatives.