Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sweatin' Bill Bennett ...

Blasting a steady stream of condemnations, retorts and rhetorical ammo at former Education Secretary and "drug czar" (we despise this loose American usage of an anti-democratic term historically applied to oppressive Russian dictators) William Bennett does come off a bit like preaching to the choir. On the real: we've got a lot more to worry about than sweating Mr. Bennett. But, while we're on the subject, is it really surprising? Why not expect the self-labeled Godfather of Modern American "Virtues," later admitting to a gambling addiction, to continue his downward descent into public ignorance and hypocrisy.

Bennett claims he wants to engage in a "thought experiment," yet refuses to take the virtuous road through a humble apology that could take such an experiment to a next level discussion on race, perception and prejudice. We'd be open to that. Instead, he becomes the antithesis of hyper-conservative ideology: a victim. Plus, we know the whole history behind "thought experiments" and using intellectual dogma to serve nefarious agendas, from slavery to the Holocaust, from the Inquisition to Pol Pot. Words are powerful. There is a long, alarming history of certain population groups suffering at the whim of intellectuals who promote racially shady hypotheses based on screwy science.

This is a no-brainer. White conservatives simply can't excuse Bennett for catching a rash of foot-in-mouth disease. This is why they are always under suspicion from both Black left and right. It's a little deeper than that - he can't let this one go and admit verbal acid reflux. First: how do you go from discussing the relationship between Social Security and abortion (which was the initial argument) to suddenly putting Black folks in it. Out of all the suppositions to suppose in his Socratic argument, Bennett reaches Black, and even though he clearly realizes it's time to clean it up ("an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do"), he still insists on coming back to it, cutting his voice down and octave and slipping it in again quick and cool: "but ... your crime rate would go down."

It's understandable that conservatives would want this to go away. And we're not saying Bennett is racist. But, the particular mindset he espouses is enough to validate the racist claims of people who listen to him on the regular. We don't dispute that crime disproportionately impacts African American communities, especially African American males. We can't avoid that fact. But, we can only have a more honest and straightforward conversation about Black crime if we pay attention to the socio-economic factors, bias, profiling and oppression that contributes to certain conditions. Observes Tim Wise in this piece:

"Not only are blacks more likely to be arrested and imprisoned than their crime rates would justify, but whites are much less likely to wind up in prison despite their share of serious crime. More than half of all violent crimes are committed by non-Hispanic whites, but only a quarter of today's prison population is white, according to the Justice Department. Blacks, on the other hand, commit a little more than one-fourth of all violent crime (according to victim recollections), but comprise nearly half the jail and prison population."