COUNTERPOINT – William Bennett’s comments: racist or logical?

By ROSE AFRIYIE

SEE ALSO: POINT – William Bennett’s comments: racist or logical?

Friday night, I was… SEE ALSO: POINT – William Bennett’s comments: racist or logical?

Friday night, I was getting ready to party with some girlfriends of mine when my phone rang. A familiar voice said disgustedly, “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.”

My friend told me that Bill Bennett, former Secretary of Education, made this racist comment in an exercise of his First Amendment rights. Following that phone call came others, and with each call fiery emotions ignited within me.

Bennett’s irresponsible comments evoked pangs of a dredged-up burden of blackness, pangs that echoed my response to the images of blacks drowning and starving because of the impeded Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Statistics, logic and context aside, this was one of the most racially offensive comments I have ever heard. But even more offensive is the fact that people don’t realize this.

How can one statement be received by so many people of color as a direct attack on their race, while others regard the comment as merely “offensive,” ignoring the racial implications of a statement that single-handedly blamed crime in America on blacks?

It highly disturbs me that most people only consider a comment racist when it is blatant. If it isn’t racist, what word accounts for the institutional discrimination and prejudice that happen daily in our society?

Natalie Holloway, the white girl who disappeared in Aruba, dominated Fox News for 26 consecutive days. A few months later, Essence magazine did a profile on black women that were actively missing, right here in America. These women weren’t getting so much as a headline.

On top of all that, in the face of little to no relief in Louisiana, African-Americans were being branded “looters,” while whites were “stumbling upon food.” Both were simply doing everything in their power to survive.

You don’t have to call a black person a nigger to be racist; institutional racism and discrimination are just as offensive. Even worse is the fact that Bennett’s theory of solving crime didn’t include whites.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, whites committed more than 800,000 assault and robbery crimes as of 2003, compared to the little more than 230,000 committed by blacks. Now, I am fully aware of the fact that blacks disproportionately commit more crimes than whites. But they are only one of several factors that contribute to crime in America. It strikes me as odd that Bennett didn’t really mention any other solutions to this problem.

Furthermore, why would someone who wasn’t inherently racist say something like this? Why didn’t he suggest that everyone who committed a crime be executed? This is another very extreme, “morally reprehensible” measure. But I guess because this would involve killing a significant amount of white people, it seemed out of the question.

Now it’s true that Bill Bennett has done charity work in the past while serving as Secretary of Education. But writing a check hardly qualifies as coming to the aid of the very community that Bennett holds responsible for all these social problems. In fact, he’s probably done more to hinder the social mobility and progress of the African-American community than he’s done to help them.

As Secretary of Education he often cited poor black schools as a reason to end federal assistance for education. When he needed something to validate tougher drug laws, he cited black neighborhoods. In his recent “Book of Virtues” he attacks rap music, black dead-beat dads and black single mothers.

And then the cherry on top: the suggestion to abort all black babies. He constantly blames the African-American community for all of America’s social problems. It is specifically this ideology – blaming one group for the faults of an entire society – that gives birth to genocides all over the world. And even after all this, his comment wasn’t racist because of the context in which he stated it? There is no context for racism, blatant or otherwise.

But the fact is, people don’t want to believe that Bill Bennett is a racist because we are a nation of progress. We shudder to think that Martin Luther King’s dream isn’t being brought to fruition, complacent in our diversity without integration.

Cloaked in this belief that progress is being made is the fact that whites and blacks aren’t moving forward. They are standing still. Real progress requires honesty from both sides. But how can we overcome a problem we don’t even admit we have?

E-mail Rose at [email protected]

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