Saturday, October 01, 2005

What is wrong with Bill Bennett?

Bill Bennett, that bastion of morals and values. Surely he would not violate any of those values that he holds so dear. Is there truly anything wrong with what he said this week? What he said was

"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."

Of course liberal blogs are agog with outrage over this statement. And outraged over those that are not outraged. Should we be outraged? There's nothing wrong with Bennett's statement if you examine it based on the fact he sites. He is correct. At this point in our history, with our history of black slavery, white racism, and the excruciatingly slow exodus of African-Americans upward through the economic ladder, black abortion could well lead to a lower crime rate, as there is a higher rate of crime commission among blacks than white.

Outrage seems appropriate to me. Because what he said is wrong. It is morally wrong to equate the color of a person's skin with criminal intent, however hypothetical. It is wrong to suggest, even rhetorically, that killing off black babies will make the US better. It is wrong to use the African American race as an example in this way. It is misleading. It is mean.

Would it be more tolerable to use the words "white baby born in poverty" in place of "black baby"? I don't think so, though some have suggested that the real issue is being born in poverty and so this substitution would be ok. It still misses the point. Are poor people more likely to commit a crime? Empirically, yes. Does that empirical data indicate then that poor people are innately more inclined to crime?

Are they criminals because poor people are morally bankrupt? Or are they more likely to be criminals than the white middle class housewife writing this blog because poor people have lost hope and faith with the rest of the human race, don't see the world ever working in their favor, and just plain don't believe the system will ever work for them so why would they bother respecting it?

Statements like Bennett made are reprehensible because they equate people of color with crime, people of color with immorality. Even with all the backpedaling in his next sentences. And that statement violates my values, even if it doesn't violate Republican Bill's values. Values like fairness and honesty. Weren't those values that Bill Bennett espoused? Is it fair or honest to make an entirely misleading hypothetical?

Or how about kindness? Is it a kindness to African-Americans to use their color in a hypothetical that encourages erroneous judgments about race and morality? Seems unlikely. Seems like Bill forgot some of the values he wants all of us to learn. Maybe there's one more he needs to learn: atonement.

Until tomorrow,


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