Friday, September 30, 2005
Bill Bennett's Colorblind Society
During a speech to the Heritage Foundation in 1993, Mr. Bennett tried to lay claim to sharing the same principles as Dr. Martin Luther King.
“I think people should continue to read what he has to say on three issues -- race, education and the Western tradition, and the spiritual in life. On race, Dr. King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." A color-blind society.”
“If King's statement is true, it doesn't matter who says it. If it is true, it is true. Indeed, everyone should say it. Everyone of all races should say it.”
“But today the modern agenda is one that insists on counting by race, skin pigmentation, quotas, racial gerrymandering, set-asides, and race-norming. We are moving further from Dr. King's vision on this issue.” --- Bill Bennett, Heritage Foundation lecture, 1993.
Flash forward to September 2005.
Bennett told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: "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 impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down," he said.
When people were understandably outraged by Mr. Bennett’s comments, he had this to say in response:
"I don't think people have the right to be angry, if they look at the whole thing. But if they get a selective part of my comment, I can see why they would be angry. If somebody thought I was advocating that, they ought to be angry. I would be angry."
"But that's not what I advocate."
Asked if he owed people an apology, Bennett replied, "I don't think I do. I think people who misrepresented my view owe me an apology."
William J. Bennett is exactly the kind of "moderate" that Dr. King warned of in his letter from a Birmingham jail.
Dr. King wrote: “I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.”
Mr. Bennett is the type of person who believes that he’s supportive of the civil rights movement, and Dr. King, because he often quotes him in support of a color-blind society. But Bill Bennett only takes one thing Dr. King said and uses it to push a conservative agenda. That agenda wants to roll back the civil rights movement by making it impossible for government to address the issue of race. They have tried to make color-blindness the only acceptable response to racism, and most egregiously, they have co-opted Dr. King to push their agenda.
Dr. King never advocated color blindness as a solution to racism. Dr. King advocated action. He hoped for a color-blind society. He prayed for a color-blind society. But Dr. King never claimed that color-blindness was the solution to the problem of racism, but the result of a society without racism. Once racism is gone, then color-blindness will be the norm. By refusing to acknowledge that racism still exists, which is what modern advocates of color-blindness like Bill Bennett profess, they refuse to accept that there is still a problem. I believe Hurricane Katrina destroyed that illusion. Poverty and race are still inextricably linked, and the modern conservatives color-blindness is really just blindness.
Mr. Bennett’s ugly racism shows itself in his selective reading of Martin Luther King and his belief that if you removed blacks from the United States you would lower the crime rate. Mr. Bennett believes that people are upset because he advocates aborting black babies, but that is not what people are upset about. His myopic white male viewpoint has prevented him from recognizing that what he was saying is that blacks create crime. That my friends, is racism. Crime comes from many sources, poverty, education, opportunity, but certainly doesn’t come from the number of black people you have in your city. Being black doesn’t make you a criminal. A thought Mr. Bennett has refused to acknowledge that he even expressed.