Bennett And His Black Boys | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Bennett And His Black Boys

"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." No, that quote did not loom anonymously on some racist Web site, nor did some bigot boom it at a Council of Conservative Citizens rally. A former member of Ronald Reagan's Cabinet—his Secretary of Education, in fact—uttered it on the public's radio airwaves.

Yes, William Bennett—staunch Catholic, Bush I's drug czar, Bush II's ideological buddy, the author of best-selling books about morals and values—said on his national radio show last week that aborting black babies would reduce crime.

The world—or at least the decent people in it—reacted with outrage. Rep. Omeria McDonald Scott, D-Laurel, called a press conference during the special session Friday to demand that Bennett, a prominent Republican leader in the country, be "ostracized" for his remarks. "His comments were an outrage, and it is almost incomprehensible that he would feel comfortable enough in this day and time, in this country, to make such a foul statement," Scott said in the Capitol rotunda.

Indeed. The condemnation was roundly deserved. But there was an error of sorts in much of the condemnation: Much of it attacked Bennett for suggesting that abortion was a good idea to lower crime. This interpretation, in turn, gave the shrewd Mr. Bennett an out. He refused to apologize and accused critics of "willful distortion" and of lifting his comments out of context because in his next sentence he said it would be "morally reprehensible" to actually abort black babies.

The truth is, it's fatuous to argue that Bennett—a radical-right conservative—was arguing that abortion is an acceptable option. No, he was not calling for such a thing, even if he ought to be bitch-slapped for even considering using such a disgusting way of refuting someone's theory.

That brings us to his real sin. When he made the comment, Bennett was discussing a best-selling book called "Freakanomics" in which economist Steven Levitt does intriguing statistical analyses of unexpected scenarios. Bennett was having an, er, intellectual discussion about the authors' conclusion that legal access to abortion is actually linked to lower crime—but here's the kicker, and listen carefully.

Bennett injected race.

Bennett has espoused the Thug Myth since his Reagan tenure. Bennett may not have come up with the idea that black folks are more prone to crime, but he has polished it up for the mainstream with the help of other Southern strategists (like Haley Barbour, both in the Reagan administration and later as head of the Republican National Committee) in order to draw the racist vote to the GOP.

The self-ordained morals arbiter—who lost $8 million gambling in Las Vegas—quite literally wrote the book on bad black boys. His 1996 book, "Body Count: Moral Poverty … and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs," which became a tome of the radical-right think tank world, was co-written by John J. DiIulio Jr. and John P. Walters. Walters is the current "drug czar," leading the country's "war on drugs," which is filling prisons with drug offenders, most of them young and black. DiIulio was the first director of Bush's "faith-based initiatives" scheme.

DiIulio also was an early advocate of the "superpredator" theory—a political concept based on an actual scientific theory that human "super-predators" had wiped out prehistoric animals. Criminal-justice professor James Alan Fox, had argued that many young people, especially "urban" dwellers, are "superpredators" who will "kill and maim on impulse, without any intelligible motive," and cannot be reformed. Fox warned, "A 14-year-old with a gun in his hand is far more menacing than an adult, because a teenager will pull the trigger without fully considering the consequences."

In an infamous 1995 essay, DiIulio—then a fellow of the Manhattan Institute, which funds scientific racism theories such as the "Bell Curve"—warned that "super-predators" would just keep multiplying: "By 2005, the number of males in this age group will have risen about 25 percent overall and 50 percent for blacks. To some extent, it's just that simple: More boys begets more bad boys." The U.S., he said, could expect a "sharp increase in the number of super crime-prone young males." The next year, Bennett and his friends published "Body Count," pushing the theory as a basis for public policy. In turn, conservative politicians used their "science" to promote nonsensical zero-tolerance policies, blanket drug testing, curfews for young people and horrendous juvenile sentencing laws.

The authors barely hide their race obsession: "Indeed, the nation's drug and crime problem is bound to grow over the next ten years, especially among young urban minority males." The arguments often border on the nonsensical: After saying that the Family Research Council had found that young people in the poorest neighborhoods are at the highest risk for criminal behavior, they outright reject the argument that economic poverty increases inner-city crime. Instead, they blame "moral poverty," which can be repaired only with a mix of stronger traditional families and the most punitive sentences for first offenders, including juveniles. Using language more appropriate for an Old West posse, "Body Count" simply tried to terrify Americans into supporting draconian measures for young people, particularly of color.

One problem, though: the whole thing was a fabrication. A lie. A myth. Just as with Reagan's "welfare queen" myth of the 1980s, time would soon show that the youth crime wave was already reversing before Congress adopted federal zero-tolerance policies and even before Fox would predict a surge of super-predators. Dramatic drops in urban crime simply proved DiIulio wrong. By 2001, when Bush appointed DiIulio to direct his faith-based initiative campaign, even DiIulio and Fox were admitting that the research was faulty.

But wingnuts like Bill Bennett didn't get the memo—or ignored it. They continue to fan faulty fears in order to gain power on the backs of young people and any black woman who might have a child. It is time to call these people what they are. Racists.

A Packard Future of Children fellowship funded this research.

Previous Comments

ID
70862
Comment

Now he can go back to losing all his money at the casino. I LOVE the fact that this guy has a huge gambling problem but tends to overlook that in his talks about "morality".

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-05T15:56:58-06:00
ID
70863
Comment

This is how Mr. Arbiter of All Things Moral for Young People answered when asked if he had ever done illicit drugs: : ìIf I have any confessions to make, I will make them to a priest. I will stipulate for the record, however, I was young.î He gets to be young and stupid, but heaven forbid anybody else be. Especially if they're poor and from the inner city. Blech. And you know he did go on a blind date with Janis Joplin. For what it's worth.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T16:03:25-06:00
ID
70864
Comment

I see too much blaming the victim's of poverty for their conditions for me to ever accept these guys reasoning. The haves seem to demanding that the have-not accept their impoverished and left-out conditions as something they deserve and can't do anything about. They seem to be saying, "If the have-nots would just accept their positions and keep waiting on heaven to give them their just due, like the slaves used to, the world would again be a good place for the rich and middle class to live". Mr. Bill and the likes remain puzzled about what to do with the masses of black folks. Once blacks put the hoes down and told Mr. Charlie, Mr. Bill and Mr. Crow that they could now kiss their collective a$$es, Mr. Bill, Mr. Charlie and Mr. Crow have been at a great loss at figuring out what to do with black folks. Blacks folks were so together for a moment in the 60's, 70's, and 80's that Mr. Bill nem finally started to think blacks were something to reckon with. Then came the "Great White Racist Hope" better known as Ronald Reagan who said I know what to do with them. Follow me and I will show you. Let give them a big dose of unemployment. After a while, in desperation to eat and feed their children, they will either steal or starve. On a twist of fate and faith, mostly the later, black folks moved in with one another and survived starvation and self destruction. Mr. Bill, Mr. Crow and Mr. Charlie then said "Damn, black folks a a little smarter than we thought." How about we give them some of those good paying illegal jobs where you can work from your house or any street corner and possibly feel rich for a moment before they get hooked or locked up. Even some good white boys will take those jobs. Then as they self- destruct we can make our argument to the world they aint no good." I'm only blaming a few people not all whit e people. And I'm certainly blaming us for falling for it. I welcome all comments. Cheers. I'm rushing. Sorry for any errors.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-05T16:51:12-06:00
ID
70865
Comment

Donna writes: And you know he did go on a blind date with Janis Joplin. For what it's worth. Gosh, how I wish he had a nickname that rhymed with "Bobby McGee" right about now... Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T17:31:05-06:00
ID
70866
Comment

Ray Carter ñ î How about we give them some of those good paying illegal jobs where you can work from your house or any street corner and possibly feel rich for a moment before they get hooked or locked up.î I really wish you would elaborate on this

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-10-05T23:26:25-06:00
ID
70867
Comment

KRhodes, I struggled between trying to write a scholarly piece or just being blatantly raw. Because I was rushing to go some place, I probably failed at both. I also struggled with the temptation to say this and the fear or concern of being called a conspiracy theorist with dubious or no evidence to support it. If there were ever a kryptonite (made up word) for black folks it is drugs. Add drugs with the loss of industry and factory jobs, poor schools, and a feeling of no escape in the urban cities around the country, then, you get gangs and all the criminal activities associated with the production, marketing, consumptiion, and safeguarding of drugs as a viable and impressive way of sustaining life and creating the apperarance of success. How did drugs saturate, drench, fill, fit, imbue, soak and wet our neighborhoods so permissively and fast without the help or complicity of the powerful and mighty, I can't definitely answer that question. However, I bet we couldn't get that many books into our neighborhoods even if we collectively tried to. At this point in our development, I really have a hard time believing that any high level govermental officials would involved themselves in a scheme or conspiracy to overwhelm the black community in such a way as to use drugs as the source. But it's not hard for me to believe that lots of people turned a deaf ear and blind eye, including the government at it highest level. I hope I didn't dance too much around answering your question.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-06T08:29:19-06:00
ID
70868
Comment

There's a lot of facts to back you upon on your theory, Ray -- especially about how the drugs got into certain communities in the first place, and stayed there. As I understand it, there were beliefs among some, during the riotous 60s, that heroin, for instance, would have a calming effect. And there is no question about who the War on Drugs primarily targets.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-06T09:19:07-06:00
ID
70869
Comment

I certainly meant to use the words "initially and stayed". How about his for hope and truth to counter Mr. Bennett's comments? "You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hope springing high, Still I rise. Yo may shhot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise. Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise into a daybreak that's wondrously clear, I rise, Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise, I rise, I rise, I rise." Maya Angelou

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-06T10:01:13-06:00
ID
70870
Comment

Sorry for typos in this great poem. "shhot" should have been shoot.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-06T10:04:34-06:00
ID
70871
Comment

Since it looks like I'm going to have to play ball by myself, wouldn't it have made more sense for Mr. Bill to say, "I do know that if you aborted all male babies the crime rate would go down?" Most people in jails are clearly males and if you started killing all future males the human race would eventually die and we wouldn't have anymore crime. But Mr. Bill couldn't say that. Those drugs had him too messed up.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-06T10:33:04-06:00
ID
70872
Comment

Ray: drugs are kryptonite for poor white people as well. Witness crystal meth, the new-and-improved crack for the trailer park set. (that's a bad joke... it's infiltrated all levels of income, but seems to inflict the most devastation, like any other disaster, on the poorest in society.) And of course, our federal government continues to focus its drug war on that scourge of the masses, marijuana, instead of going after the drugs that really tear society apart. Sorry, went off a little there, but the drug war is the one issue that sets my blood to boiling more than any other. And it is, in fact, a race issue as well (because of disproportionate effects on the black community)... but frankly, it affects everyone in a very negative way.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-06T12:56:35-06:00
ID
70873
Comment

Ray Carter ñ î If there were ever a kryptonite (made up word) for black folks it is drugs. Add drugs with the loss of industry and factory jobs, poor schools, and a feeling of no escape in the urban cities around the country, then, you get gangs and all the criminal activities associated with the production, marketing, consumptiion, and safeguarding of drugs as a viable and impressive way of sustaining life and creating the apperarance of success. How did drugs saturate, drench, fill, fit, imbue, soak and wet our neighborhoods so permissively and fast without the help or complicity of the powerful and mighty, I can't definitely answer that question. However, I bet we couldn't get that many books into our neighborhoods even if we collectively tried to.î Excellent points and well said!

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-10-06T13:00:51-06:00
ID
70874
Comment

the drug war is the one issue that sets my blood to boiling more than any other. And it is, in fact, a race issue as well (because of disproportionate effects on the black community)... but frankly, it affects everyone in a very negative way. Very important point, Scott. One thing that frustrates me no end is that so many people cannot understand that injustices can be about race, and they can be about class; they can be racist, and be bad for everyone. It's not an either-or choice. The drug war is a good example. Another, which is related to that, is the zero-tolerance campaign against children. What you learn when you do the research is that policies can start out racist and then spread to people, or kids, of all races -- often to cover up the disparate impacts of the original policies. That's why, frankly, we've ended up with so many idiot zero-tolerance examples of "good" white kids with excellent grades getting expelled for school for a year because they took a sip of alcohol -- because the school doesn't want to be accused of being "prejudiced" against certain kids that they want to boot. Meantime, the policies are bad for everyone. Same goes for youth curfews. Blanket drug-testing policies, and on and on. In fact, here's one primary source I can point you to online. Russ Skiba is a professor at Indiana University whom I worked with during my Packard fellowship on these issues (we discussed writing a book together, but life got in the way). Anyway, he released a study in 2000 that shows how draconian discipline policies are bad for all kids, and worse for kids of color: http://www.unl.edu/srs/pdfs/coldisIND.pdf This is why I get so frustrated at the "it's class, not race" excuse. So many people are ignorant about these issues, not understanding that a lot of class issues grew from racism. It is entirely possible, and common, to be classist and racist at the same time -- and the fact that the classism exists, too, does not somehow make the racism part OK. In fact, it often enables it. The drug war is an excellent example of these dynamics at work. Of course, there is another primary factor at play in the drug war, though -- the desire of the radical right not to have a repeat of the 1960s counter-culture movement, which they believe was enabled (somehow) by drug use. I can actually connect the dots on this one, too -- but, again, not with Web links. Enough, blogging now. Must go be on vacation.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-06T13:51:30-06:00
ID
70875
Comment

Go, Girls, Go! Call a racist a racist. [verbatim] The Links, Inc. Calls on The White House, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to Condemn Bennettís Racist Comments and Cancel His Radio Program Washington, D.C.-- One of the nationís oldest and premier African-American womenís organization, The Links, Incorporated, calls on the U.S. Senate and House to pass resolutions condemning racist comments made by former Secretary of Education, William Bennett, who on his radio show linked reducing the crime rate to aborting unborn black babies, ìÖyou could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.î Dr. Gladys Gary Vaughn, National President of The Links, Inc., condemned Bennettís outrageous comments, stating that, ìBill Bennettís hypodermal contemplation crosses all lines of reasoned discourse. The Links, Inc. respectfully urges Congress to pass resolutions condemning his remarks and the FCC to require the Salem Radio Network to cancel his show, Morning In America. We also call on the White House to denounce the immoral, antifamily and racist remarks. There are no circumstances in which his words would be appropriateî Bobby Rush (D-IL-1st) introduced House Resolution 473 and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a resolution each calling on the House and Senate, respectively, to strongly condemn the reprehensible and racist remarks made by William Bennett. # # # Established in 1946, The Links, Inc., is one of the nationís oldest and largest volunteer service organization of women are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-Americans and other persons of African decent. The Links, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization of accomplished, dedicated women who contributed more than 500,000 documented hours of community service annually and has a membership of over 10,000 professional women of color in 275 chapters located in 42 states, the District of Columbia and three countries: Germany, South Africa and the Bahamas. http://www.linksinc.org

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-07T12:22:38-06:00
ID
70876
Comment

Read what the B-Boys have to say about Bill Bennett's comments on their forum. My favoriate exchange: Knowl: I'm NOT the type of black person who'll pull the race card everytime any issue or problem involves black people." ntropy: "no worries, i think you have the right to implicate racism when the person says something as straightforwardly racist as, 'we could abort all the black babies in the country and the crime rate would go down'" Doh! Well said.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-08T08:06:47-06:00
ID
70877
Comment

I wonder what Bill Cosby would do?

Author
Brad
Date
2005-10-14T10:17:02-06:00
ID
70878
Comment

Why don't you ask him? Here are links to both the speech that, lifted out of context, have made him the darling of racists ... and here is a follow-up conversation he had with Tavis Smiley about the reaction, especially among white folks, to what he said, and how many didn't understand his points ... because the media left out about 50 percent of them. Cosby's speech Cosby interview with Tavis Smiley

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-14T11:28:09-06:00

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