Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Is Bill Bennett a Racist?

I was out of the country last week when the Bill Bennett controversity erupted. Since returning on Monday evening I've been trying to get a handle on what he actually said. What I found confusing is the fact that some liberal pundits were claiming Bennett's comments had been taken out of context.

Yesterday evening I came across this post that clarified everything. What Bennett said was even worse than I could have imagined. His understanding of the roots of crime in the black community can most charitably be described as ignorant and uninformed.

Thirty years ago I gained some understanding of crime in black communities when I worked with the anti-poverty program in the poorest neighborhoods of Baton Rouge. Once I was mugged and left bleeding in the street. A black co-worker from the anti-poverty agency came to my apartment the next morning to commiserate. My response: "We need to do something about the CONDITIONS that cause young people to commit these crimes."

I find Bennett's suggestion that fewer black babies would reduce crime to be totally offensive. He was clearly guilty of naive stereotyping.

Of course Bill Bennett is not the only media pundit making stupid statements about poverty in the black community. A few weeks ago, George Will, speaking on a Sunday morning talk show, suggested that the solution to poverty involved black girls not marrying until they were twenty.

Thirty years ago I learned that middle-class white people living outside poor black neighborhoods mostly didn't have a clue about the conditions that caused poverty in these communities. Unfortunately, as Bill Bennett's statement reveals, this has not changed.

Is Bill Bennett a bigot? I'm inclined to believe he's quilty of unconscious racism.


Etan Thomas, power forward for the Washington Wizards, wants to take the conservative wing nuts on a yellow school bus trip to poverty. Here is the link for details of his proposal. Bill Bennett would be an obvious candidate for this consciousness-raising experience.