10/03/2005

Is Bill Bennett a Racist?

Since it’s Monday and I am tackling a week of single parenting head-on, I have decided to post on a very controversial subject. Last week Bill Bennett, former Secretary of Education and author of the Book fo Virtues, made some comments on his radio talkshow that have prompted a firestorm of criticism from the left, from Democrats in congress, and even from the White House.

A caller asked the question that if abortion had been illegal for the past 30 years would there be enough more people in our country to fully fund social security. Bennett mentioned the theory put forth by the authors of the book Freakonomics (good book) that as the abortion rate has risen the rate of crime has dropped. Bennett said, “Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. 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. That would be 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.”

Liberal bloggers were the first to take this comment completely out of context and call Bennett out as a racist pig for advocating aborting the black race to lower crime. Then the media took the one line and ran with it. Then the politicians weighed in, largely uninformed as usual. Get the text of the whole conversation here. Bennett is not, never was, and never would be, advocating abortion of anyone, let alone an entire race. Duh. He’s saying that you shouldn’t use statistical social arguments to talk about abortion, because it’s a MORAL issue. Either it’s right or it’s wrong. Either it’s a clump of cells or it’s murder. That is the only argument that matters.

I do, however, think he misstepped when he made the connection between crime and blacks. On it’s face, it is true that there is more crime among blacks than whites. But as the Freakonomics guys point on in their blog, this has more to do with socio-economic factors than race. And I do believe it may also be partially due to racial profiling. It’s the chicken and the egg, do cops arrest more blacks because blacks commit more crimes or do they just think blacks commit more crimes because more blacks are arrested? A self-fulfilling prophesy, in a way. Anyhow I do think Bennett was wrong to make that connection, use that example. I don’t know if he’s a racist but he’s showing us that one particular racial stereotype is at the forefront of his thinking. And that should be cause for some self-examination and humility.

19 comments:

Spikey1 said...

Being a Canadian I have no idea who BB is so it would be unfair for me to comment. So I will not leave a comment in the Leave your comment section... (good dancing eh?) :)

truth said...

Bill Bennett: The Bookie of Virtues.

Mainline Mom said...

truth - Good one.

spikey - you can dance but you don't have to know who Bill Bennett is to comment.

MCANDOU said...

I think as per the usual, some people will use the situation to feign disgust to get at somebody on the other team. It's just politics as usual.

Alisa said...

Oh, I didn't get that he was racist or pro-abortion from that statement at all. People are always looking for something to twist.

I think he could have worded that part of the statement a little bit better, but overall, I can't disagree with his premise. Morality is morality.

Regarding profiling: If 70 percent of the neighborhood is ethnic then there is a high probability that 70 percent of all criminal arrests in that area will be of ethnic individuals.

I'm not sure what the diversity makeup is of those currently serving in prison, but I bet the makeup is dependant on the area that the prison supports.

Kurisuteen Kaneshiro said...

Hmmm...you could take it a step further and analyze whether blacks really do commit more crimes than whites OR is it that blacks are more often convicted and sentenced more severely, more often, than other (dominant/majority) 'ethnicites'?!? I dunno. Alisa made excellent points. I just dislike race discussions (as most of us Canadians do, I see ya spikey1 lol).

But I totally understand the correlation Bennett was making thanks to your dissection of it, Sarah. Good topic, and long time no comment! :) PS. I recently got a new blog too.

Bill said...

You know, it's hard to comment on this without saying something totally offensive. Bottom line is that Bennett's comment was totally racist and totally offensive and there's no defense for it that doesn't show the defender up as a racist. You do a pretty good job trying, Sarah, but you simply should not have tried. You exposed something inside of you that you don't really want us all to see.
When you defend a child molester by pointing out the good things he does for other people, or an abortionist for the freedom s/he gives to the mother, or an abusive wife-beater for his community service, or a dirty politician for his stand on abortion, you are exposing something inside you that sides with the reprehensible behavior of those individuals. Siding with Bill Bennett is no different. Leave the defense to the paid slime-bag lawyers. Otherwise we-all might just start believing that all white Christian conservatives are racist.

Mainline Mom said...

Hey Cee! Thanks for dropping by and leaving your mark. I didn't know Canadians didn't like race discussions. Interesting. I don't know why I am so sensitive to racism and enjoy talking about it once in awhile. It makes my stomach turn when I hear someone make a blatantly racist remark. But I also like to do what I can to correct my own ignorance, enlighten myself about other races and religions.

Alisa, you do make good points. Thanks for the comment.

Mcandou, you're right of course.

Mainline Mom said...

That is the stupidest thing I have EVER HEARD. That is the most flawed logic on the planet!! You can't question somebody's comments unless you're a racist yourself? You say anything good about a bad person? Who made YOU judge and jury, Bill? Life is not black and white. People are not good or evil. Perfect or blameless. Yeah, you cast the first stone alright but it sure wasn't because you're so great. I never said I liked the guy, anyway. I never said what he said wasn't racist, DID I? HUH? NOPE!!!

Redhead Mommy said...

Freakonomics guys have a blog?? and what would that address be? I want to read the book, but it's way down on my list yet!

Anonymous said...

Bill's comments are very simplistic, and he's an obvious

Bill said...

Well now wait a minute. There's something here that I simply don't see.
Are you saying that the Catholic priests who molest young boys are basically good people? We should stand up and defend them?
Are you saying that convicted child molesters who move in next door after they have served their prison time are basically good people? We should stand up and defend them?
Are you saying that abortionists are basically good people? We should stand up and defend them?
Are you saying that wife-beaters who serve as leaders in our communities are basically good people? We should stand up and defend them?
Are you saying that KKK members back in the 50s and 60s who hung blacks for having black skin were basically good citizens? We should stand up and defend them?
Are you saying that dirty politicians who share our stand on abortion are basically good people? We should stand up and defend them?
Because you do seem to be saying that Bill Bennett is basically a good person despite this obviously racist comment which he made in public.
All I'm saying is why bother to defend him? What's your point in doing it? He clearly didn't earn your defense, so why did you give it? Do you hold that he is a good man despite what he said?
Why is that a simplistic and invalid point to make in this case, because it is not simplistic or invalid in other cases. Murderers don't deserve our praise no matter how good they appear to be to us otherwise. Racists don't deserve our praise no matter how good they appear to be to us otherwise. So what does it say about us if we praise them despite their racism?

Mainline Mom said...

I said nothing of the sort. You are so rediculously misinterperating me. Which is exactly my point. The liberal media has for the most part misinterperated Bill Bennett. I am NOT saying he is basically a good person, or defending him. Faulting the attackers is not the same as defending the offender. I wouldn't say any of those people are basically good because, guess what, this should come as no surprise to you, I DON'T BELIEVE ANYBODY IS BASICALLY GOOD. Yes, I believe in total depravity, that the heart of every man is selfish and disobedient to God and therefore evil. Thank GOD for grace. Grace for the molesters, grace for the murderers, the wife-beaters, the racists, and THANK GOD FOR GRACE FOR ME. You are NO BETTER than them, and neither am I. And guess fucking what? I'm not afraid to let people see that. To let people see that I'm not perfect. If I were I wouldn't keep a blog and I would lie through my teeth.

So no, I'm not defending Bill Bennett, but I would offer him the same grace I would offer Bill Clinton, or Osama Bin Laden, or whoever. You really are having trouble keeping up here, aren't you.

blogawakening said...

Very well put Mainline mom. We don't know who Bill Bennett really is. Only he and God does. we know he has headed many programs to help inner city people, and those programs have been successful. Mentioning all those dispicable people seems to be saying that their sins are worse than anything that you or I have done. We are all sinners and have fallen short. There is not one that is reighteous. The human spirit is inherently bad, not basically good. Ah, free will. However, Jesus never once said he despised, or hated the murderer, rapist, whatever. What he hated the most was those of us that are walking by faith and in his light, and we don't share that hope and that joy with others. Where do you all walk? In the light or in darkness.

Bill said...

LOL
Apparently so...
The Freakonomics blog post regarding Bennett's comment is here:
http://www.freakonomics.com/2005/09/bill-bennett-and-freakonomics.html
I do see what you are saying about sinners and like you, I am no saint. I also see what you are saying about the media attacking Bill Bennett over this issue. I'm not blind to that.
My point, though, is why is it not OK for the media to do this in response to a very offensive racist comment by a prominent Republican figure?
If the media were to fail to come out and report on Catholic homosexual pedifiles, if instead they maintained silence and avoided criticizing the Catholic Church for allowing this to happen, wouldn't that seem a little suspicious to you? If, on the other hand, the media did criticize the Catholic Church for this disgrace and someone came out and criticized the media as anti-Catholic, wouldn't that raise your suspicion about that person? Wouldn't you tend to say the media isn't being anti-Catholic but rather is being anti-homosexual pedifilia?
My point is that when prominent Republicans make stupid racist remarks, the media has the right to shine some light on that racism. There is no distinction between criticizing the media for this and defending the behavior, in this case Republican racism.
It is so easy to see my point regarding other detestable behavior. Why is it so hard to see with this issue?

Anonymous said...

In discussing the individual of Bill Bennett. The comment he made was a racist comment. However, I think I'm safe in saying Bill Bennett is not a racist and should have just thought a little more before he spoke. I don't have a racist bone in my body and I have made a racist comment before. I think that is what happened here. He used poor wording to make a point.

Mainline Mom said...

I think I'm with Anonymous on that last comment. That was sort of the point of my post in the first place. Although I do think that making racist comments that reveal certain stereotypes you keep in your mind does say something about your thinking that requires self-examination. Making a stupid comment using poor wording does not call for the same kind of media attack as the widespread molestation of children and ensuing coverup by the Catholic church. I also think that the media and the politicians that blasted him as a racist did not take the time to put the comment in context and understand the intention. That's where I have a problem. I was pretty offended by George Bush's comment about Trent Lott's house getting rebuilt after the hurricane but I hardly think it makes him a racist. It just makes him not very diplomatic.

Bill said...

For some reason this Bill Bennett thing has stuck in my mind. Maybe I should post on my own blog about it instead of writing here, but my thoughts are relative to this dialog which you have opened up here.
I don't know Bill Bennett. I don't know if he considers other races equal to his own. I certainly don't know if he harbors secret white supremacist notions. But I seriously doubt that his comment, which came from his own head and off his own tongue and which involved a racial stereotype that was not in context with the discussion, originated out of thin air moments before he made it. I suspect that what he said had origins at least in thoughts and possibly in discussions which he had experienced before that moment, perhaps even years before, who is to know. I don't frequent conservative talk radio so I have no idea what ideas are tossed around out there, but I would speculate that this idea didn't originate at the moment Bill Bennett spoke it on air.
You refer to Bennett's statement this way, "Making a stupid comment using poor wording" and claim that does not compare to Catholic pedifilia, but the more I think about it, the more I think it even exceeds the problem in the Catholic Church and if so, that certainly justifies the media response. Here's why I think this:
Bennett essentially dropped a seed into conservative public discourse. Left unnoticed, that seed could grow. The seed was this notion of eradicating the black race from America. To me, that suggestion, no matter how he rationalized saying it, is so Nazi, so foreign to the American way, and so incredibly racist and dangerous in public discourse that it deserved exposure and Bennett deserved the criticism he got for saying it. Once he had said it, the only thing remaining unsaid was just how deep this thread of thought runs in his mind and in the minds of his conservative audience. Was this seed dropped by a well rooted concept of eradicating blacks from American society, or was it simply something that one of Bennett's angels whispered in his ear a moment before it came out of his mouth?
Fortunately, somebody noticed this seed and destroyed it, but how does society destroy the Nazi plant that dropped it into our midst? I know this is strong language, but exterminating inferior races was a Nazi concept. I think the word fits well into this discussion.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how you can read that statement and take it "out of contex"

He pretty much said in plain English "if you aborted all black babies your crime rate would go down" period end of story.

You closet fascist can spin this one all you want but he said what he said.

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