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Tuesday, October 04, 2005  

News: Bennett's remarks are not benign

Wednesday, on his radio talk show, "Morning in America," former U.S Secretary of Education William Bennett took a call from a listener who said that there would be more Americans available to fund Social Security if abortion had not been legalized.

Bennett responded that the crime rate would be lower if all black babies were aborted.

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down,"] Bennett said.

He went on to call that "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

But he added, "The crime rate would go down."

It is not clear why Bennett responded to a question about Social Security by asserting that abortion of black fetuses would prevent most crime in America. He seemed to be implying that African-Americans are solely responsible for crime, and, that genocide is open to discussion if the concept is being applied to the black population. (Obviously, aborting all white fetuses would also reduce crime, but that idea doesn't seem to have crossed Bennett's mind, suggesting that, discussing, even briefly, abortion of all white fetuses, is unthinkable.)

Bennett's subsequent remark can be interpreted as a fig leaf meant to cover his outrageous assertion, though he claims his goal was to declare the idea of aborting all black fetuses reprehensible.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, other leaders in the Democratic Party, and several civil rights spokesmen have demanded that Bennett apologize for remarks on his radio program linking the crime rate and the abortion of black babies. President George W. Bush has also taken issue with Bennett for making the remarks.

"WASHINGTON -- The White House on Friday criticized former Education Secretary William Bennett for remarks linking the crime rate and the abortion of black babies.

"The president believes the comments were not appropriate," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Bennett has said he did not intend his comments to be racist. However, the obviously racist aspect of Bennett's remarks are the key to the controversy that has arisen. If his remark had applied to all fetuses, it would still be outrageous, but not evidence of racial bigotry. Bennett's singling out of African-American fetuses makes it clear that he perceives race as being key to the proposal that abortion can prevent crime.

Not all liberals in the blogosphere are offended by Bennett's remarks. Matthew Yglesias, writing at TPM Cafe, has posted a defense.

Not only is Bennett clearly not advocating a campaign of genocidal abortion against African-Americans, but the empirical claim here is unambiguously true. Similarly, if you aborted all the male fetuses, all those carried by poor women, or all those carried by Southern women, the crime rate would decline. Or, at least, in light of the fact that southern people, poor people, black people, and male people have a much greater propensity to commit crime than do non-southern, non-black, non-poor, or non-male people that would have to be our best guess. The consequences, clearly, would be far-reaching and unpredictable, but the basic demographic and criminological points here can't be seriously disputed.

Nor, as Bennett says, can the moral point be seriously disputed -- doing any of that would be wrong. Contra Harry Reid, Bennett has nothing to apologize for. Or, rather, Bennett has a great deal to apologize for, but none of it pertains to this statement. He's still a bad dude, but for totally different reasons.

In order to support Bennett, Yglesias had to change what Bennett said. As I said previously, a claim that aborting all fetuses would prevent crime would be offensive. However, Bennett did not say all babies, Southern babies, or male babies. He said black babies, specifically. He telegraphed, intentionally or not, that he believes that black and criminal are synonymous. This comes as no surprise to those of us who take more than a passing interest in civil rights issues. The 'scientific' racism movement has been offering disproportionate criminal behavior as a rationale for, if not elimination, segregation or ‘benign neglect’ of blacks and Hispanics for at least 30 years. Bennett was echoing that perspective. I have no idea whether he is an active participant in the secretive groups that promote such beliefs, but he is obviously familiar with their propaganda.

Part of being a minority or female participant in the blogosphere is confronting efforts to silence one's voice. Those efforts do not always come from the Right. Liberals like Yglesias can be just as blind to issues of race and gender as participants in Blogs for Bush. I've sometimes wondered why some liberal bloggers conspire to silence minority and female voices here. While reading Yglesias' blog entry about Bennett, I had an epiphany of sorts. If voices like mine are silenced, then voices like his are enhanced. A Matthew Yglesias -- young, white, weatlhy and privileged from birth -- becomes the 'liberal' agenda setter about issues he knows nothing about. Meanwhile, those of us who do have insights into society he never will are discouraged from sharing those insights. I don't believe the blogosphere will change much. It is mainly a bastion of middle-class white males talking to each other. Their political differences are often not nearly as deep as they claim. One of the things they agree on much of the time is silencing those who are not middle-class white males.

Anyone who believes Bennett's remarks about aborting black fetuses and crime were acceptable is wrong. That a well-known liberal blogger can defend Bennett's remarks, claiming that African-Americans do have a propensity to commit crimes, is evidence of what is wrong with blogosphere -- too many arrogant white men and not enough common sense.

7:00 PM