Juan Williams: ‘There’s a Racial, Cultural and Gender Blindness That Still Limits Opportunities for Too Many in American Media’

By A.J. Katz 

Fox News political analyst and co-host of The Five, Juan Williams was recently honored at the CultureX Conversations Event for Talent Reflection of Inclusion in Television.

The award is given out by Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News magazines.

As part of his acceptance speech, Williams told an interesting story about being contacted by PBS to do an interview about the protests for racial justice that began with the death of George Floyd.


However, according to Williams, the white PBS host pulled back the request before he could even respond upon learning that Williams was born in Panama (Williams has lived in the U.S. since age four).

“The white host said he is a fan of my work on television, but my background didn’t fit with a program about black protest,” said Williams. “And it’s also true that my dad is a black man. He was born in Jamaica. My mom is a woman born in Panama to a father from India and a mother of African descent who was born in the Caribbean. When I got my Ancestry.com ethnicity profile recently, it said 50 percent of my background comes from Benin, Togo, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. All African. 30 percent of me comes from India and there’s 20 percent from Scotland, Ireland and Norway. Some mixing in there, no doubt due to the history of slavery.

“But as you can see, I’m mostly black. Now, keep in mind that my family ate Spanish and West Indian food as well as American food. They spoke Spanish and English. They danced to calypso, reggae, salsa, merengue, as well as the blues, Nat King Cole, Sinatra and Motown. I went to school and lived in low income black Brooklyn. You know, that’s where I grew up. I know my way around a lot of people and out of a lot of stereotypical boxes.”

TVNewser has been told the show of which Williams speaks is America & the World, hosted by Dennis Wholey.

In addition to writing columns for The Washington Post, NPR and The Hill for years, Williams also reiterated that he’s the author of several bestselling books on Black History — Eyes on the Prize, America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954 to 1965; well as his biography of Thurgood Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, American Revolutionary. He also wrote a book that accompanied the PBS series This Far by Faith Stories from the African-American Religious Experience.

He wasn’t saying this to brag, but rather to affirm the case that he’s more than qualified to speak about issues pertaining to Black America, and to hammer home his point about a “racial, cultural and gender blindness that still limits opportunities for too many in American media.”

Williams added: “It can come from executives who think all Latinos should have light skin or all blacks should think alike. Some seem to think their ratings are safest in the hands of blonde women and white men. Instead of seeing an increasingly diverse America that’s hungry for real debate from authentic voices from all walks of life, you know, real people with viewpoints and information to offer and to share, somehow they see only risk in staging a realistic symphony of American voices, a symphony that would carry across lines of race, culture and gender. You know, that symphony is the real America. It’s what makes up America. And that’s why this award, gosh, it means so much to me. Thank you. The struggle to diversify the voices of American media is key to today’s civil rights movement. This is history taking place and all of us, all of us have a role to play.”