With the success of the new F/X reality show “Black and White”, NBC thought that they could produce a similar reality segment with America Muslims. They attempted to intentionally provoke a reaction from NASCAR fans in Martinsville Virginia with the attendance of “Muslim-looking men” at a NASCAR race. However, the producers of Dateline failed miserably. Dateline should have done its homework – there are several hundred thousand Muslims that call Virginia home, one of the highest populations of Muslims after California, New York, Texas, and Michigan. As a former journalist, I was always taught not to make the news, but rather to report it. It is amazing that a network with such graceful history in journalism has fallen so far. Dateline’s NBC has forgotten this simple “Hippocratic Oath for journalists” and as a result, we at Muslims for America feel that NASCAR and its fans are owed an apology from Dateline.
One might want to overlook this incident as an isolated case, but in 1993, Dateline tried the same type of unethical journalism with General Motors. In 1993, there were reports that particular GM cars would explode when colliding with other automobiles in accidents. When they tried to repeat these experiments, the GM cars did not explode so Dateline lined the cars with explosives so that they would explode on impact. You would have thought that Dateline NBC would have learned their lesson from that incident, however, thirteen years later, they are at it again – manufacturing a story instead of reporting one.
Going to school in Charlotte, NC, home of the future NASCAR Hall of Fame, I as an American Muslim, did not experience the discrimination that NBC was hoping to create with NASCAR fans. NASCAR fans, and people in the South, are some of the friendliest people in the U.S. Now, I agree that minorities in general make up a very small fan base for NASCAR, but the sport is growing. I think that all NASCAR fans and drivers from Casey Kane to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. should take this Dateline segment as a potential racist attack on their sport and also demand an apology from Dateline NBC for misrepresenting their fans as being racist.
After working on the campaign to help re-elect Mayor McCrory for his fifth term as Mayor of Charlotte, I did not experience any negative reactions during the campaign. After 9/11, Mayor McCrory reached out to the Muslim community in Charlotte, North Carolina and visited mosques in hoping to create a strong understanding between Christian and Muslim communities in Charlotte. I hope that NBC takes a lesson from Mayor McCrory and from the citizens of Charlotte by learning to help create bridges with the American-Muslim community instead of trying to destroy them.