“…you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Thus spake former Secretary of Education William Bennett on his radio talk show, Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, on September 28, 2005.
Much outrage has been expressed about his comment, but the mainstream media has done an abominable job of explaining why people are outraged. As usual, nuance has been lost. Some people are “outraged” by his comment, some by the fact the it was “taken out of context.”
Also as usual, some of the alternative news outlets have done a good job of filling in the gaps in the mainstream coverage. See, for example, this Media Matters article.
Bennett could have said, “you could abort every poor baby” or “inner city baby” or “baby with an addict for a mother” or even “baby with a single mother.” All these are factually accurate, as is, quite frankly, the statement he made. What makes his comment racist is that when he spontaneously chose a characteristic indicating unborn children likely to commit crime, the characteristic he chose was race.
Why does this matter? Because if “blacks are criminals,” then the rest of us can simply shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s not our fault. There’s nothing we can do.” But if, in fact, what causes so much black crime is all the blights on the typical inner-city landscape, combined with the fact that so many blacks are stuck in the inner city, then there is something we can and must do. We must work, and pressure our governments to work, to improve conditions for all people mired in poverty and despairing of any hope of escape. We have a moral obligation to help.
For those of you who don’t recognize that moral obligation, there’s also a pragmatic reason why you should help. Like it or not, what happens in the inner city impacts you both directly (e.g., increased crime means increased crime everywhere, not just in the inner city) and indirectly (e.g., increased crime means more police, jails, courthouses, judges, public defenders, etc., all of which you pay for with your taxes).