A Student-Teacher Discussion About William Bennett's Racist Comments

Hi All,

I worked this thru with some students, suggesting that the key is to understand that , yes, this is gutter racism, but why? These are some notes I made....on a sabbatical and not supposed to be doing this....more writing, less students...the cry of academia...

Sure he is a racist. But it is important to specify HOW and WHY.

Criminals come disproportionately from certain groups. On one level, that's all he is saying. People classified as "black" are convicted of _certain kinds of crime_ in higher proportion than their proportion in the population. The same thing is true of other groups.

Working-class people commit certain kinds of crime in higher proportion than their proportion in the population too. So you could say:: "Abort all the babies of working-class people, and the crime rate would go down."

If Bennett were concerned about "white-collar crime," he could have said: "Abort all the _white_ babies, and the crime rate for white-collar crime would go down."

(Of course,  there is no "crime rate." There are rates -- ratios -- for each type of crime, but not for "crime" in general. What he probably means is "violent crime". This is an important issue too.)

So what Bennett is saying is: Get rid of all the black people, and crime rates would go down.

So what is wrong -- incorrect -- about that statement? A lot!

Bennett's statement is an incorrect extrapolation from statistics, because it assumes that the statistical crime rates indicate the _causes_ of crime. And that's not true.

The causes of crime are social -- societal. Crime is caused by capitalism, relationships of exploitation / production. Wealth causes poverty, degradation, misery -- and crime.

So somebody -- not Bennett, because Bennett is an elitist, racist apologist for capitalism -- but SOMEbody could have said: "Get rid of poverty", or "capitalism", "and the crime rate will go down."

Wonder why Bennett did not say that!?

Back to what he _did_ say. If you "abort every black baby" -- then who is going to do all this work -- all the work the black working class (and "middle class" and others, but he is not talking about them).is now doing?

Without a change in production / exploitation relations -- i.e. without a change in capitalism -- some other group would do that work. And the crime rate would be very high _for them_.

Rates of violent crime -- murder, for example -- are highest in the South of the US. They are highest for _whites_ there. Why didn't Bennett say: "Abort every baby born in the South, and crime rates would go down"?

Probably Bennett realizes, somehow, that crime is not caused by the "genes" of Southern people, but by social conditions there, and related to the fact that people are poorer in the South than in other areas. Crime rates have _always_ been highest in the South.

So this is why Bennett's statement is racist. It is true that rates of certain kinds of crime are higher for people marked as "black" in the US; higher for working-class people generally; higher in the South. And, that for other kinds of crime (white-collar crime), they are higher for white people.


1. singled out black people. That's racist.

2. did not point out that you could say the same for other groups (whites, Southerners, workers of any "ethnicity"). That's racist.
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