Is William Bennett a racist? Only William (Bill) Bennett knows. That said; Bill Bennett can only be judged by what he says and how he responds to criticisms of what he says.
On September 28, 2005, the following interaction occurred on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio show:
CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I’ve read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn’t — never touches this at all.
BENNETT: Assuming they’re all productive citizens?
CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.
BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don’t know what the costs would be, too. I think as — abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.
CALLER: I don’t know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.
BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don’t know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don’t know. I mean, it cuts both — you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well —
CALLER: Well, I don’t think that statistic is accurate.
BENNETT: 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.
The caller was concerned about abortion in the context of population loss.
Nowhere in his comments were racial overtones discernable. Bill then took it upon himself to inject the stereotype of blacks being pre-disposed to criminal activity.
While it is true that black males have a much higher rate of incarceration and commit more violent crimes than their white counterparts, it is extremely important to find the reasons for said behavior as opposed to assuming a racial component.
The vast majority of violent crimes are committed by the socio-economically disadvantaged, irrespective of race. For historic reasons (slavery, overt and covert racism) this applies to blacks at a much higher percentage. Additionally, laws are written or implemented in manners that disproportionately punish blacks more harshly. (Crack cocaine convicts get harsher sentences than cocaine convicts; blacks get harsher sentences for comparable crimes.)
Entry into the justice system is generally through the first responders, the police. Many studies in many states have shown that police are predisposed to stereotype black males. Moreover, black males do not get the breaks that white males get for minor indiscretions.
In my predominantly white, upper middle-class neighborhood, it is customary for police to escort teenage boys home for drunk driving, bad behavior, illegal drinking, or fights. In most black neighborhoods, the resolution is the immediate teenager’s entry into the justice system. That one event changes the entire outcome of that black teenager’s life and his outlook on the rest of life. He now has nothing to lose.
Bill Bennett-type conservatives believe in simplistic solutions without analyzing the real causes for our country’s problem in general and crime in particular. They believe that law and order on black boys is a major part of the solution. That simplistic approach only fills prisons with a large quantity of angry black males who upon release will effect their wrath from the criminal knowledge acquired in prison.
Crime must be punished. Excuses must not be made for any criminal, black or white. It is important, however, to solve underlying problems that predisposes people to commit crimes. Laws must be written equitably. First responders must be educated on the negative effects of stereotyping and must be punished when such stereotyping can be proved.
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