Sometimes I have a hard time understanding folks. Here's a case in point -- I find it hard to understand why good intelligent folks sometimes do not recognize the power of words.
Two good intelligent Center Left bloggers, Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias, have stated that, in essence, there is nothing wrong with what Bill Bennett said about aborting the pregnancies of all black women reducing the crime rate. DeLong simply misses the point - arguing that Bennett was not calling for such a measure. I don't think anyone sensible thought he was. Of course the real issue was the correlation of African Americans with criminal propensities. Yglesias wrote:
Not only is Bennett clearly not advocating a campaign of genocidal abortion against African-Americans, but the empirical claim [Bennett said "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"] here is unambiguously true. Similarly, if you aborted all the male fetuses, all those carried by poor women, or all those carried by Southern women, the crime rate would decline. Or, at least, in light of the fact that southern people, poor people, black people, and male people have a much greater propensity to commit crime than do non-southern, non-black, non-poor, or non-male people that would have to be our best guess.
. . . Contra Harry Reid, Bennett has nothing to apologize for. Or, rather, Bennett has a great deal to apologize for, but none of it pertains to this statement.
This is a puzzling statement to me. Let's assume that Bennett made his statement with the purest of hearts. Let's further assume that what Bennett meant was, given current social conditions for African-Americans, the crime statistics of today will persist, and that in no way did Bennett intend to suggest that African-Americans have a higher propensity to criminal behavior.
So here's my question -- how do Yglesias and DeLong expect African-Americans to react to Bennett's statement? Are they to automatically make the assumptions that I must believe Yglesias implies we should assume? Would Yglesias at least grant that Bennett's choice of examples was unfortunate, apt to cause consterntion and hurt among African-Americans? Would Yglesias at least concede that the statement was insensitive?
The timing of their tone deafness also is worth noting. We have spent a month discussing the racial component of the government response to Hurricane Katrina. And a racial divide has been revealed:
Half of those polled (50%) say they have felt angry because of what happened in areas hard hit by the hurricane. But overall opinion on this measure obscures a substantial racial divide in reactions to the disaster as many as 70% of African Americans say they have felt angry, compared with 46% of whites.
. . . In addition, blacks and whites draw very different lessons from the tragedy. Seven-in-ten blacks (71%) say the disaster shows that racial inequality remains a major problem in the country; a majority of whites (56%) say this was not a particularly important lesson of the disaster. More striking, there is widespread agreement among blacks that the government's response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the storm's victims had been white; fully two-thirds of African Americans express that view. Whites, by an even wider margin (77%-17%), feel this would not have made a difference in the government's response.
Do Yglesias and DeLong have a thought for why that is? Do they think African Americans might look askance at statements like this?
A Bush Cabinet officer predicted this week that New Orleans likely will never again be a majority black city, and several black officials are outraged. Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development, during a visit with hurricane victims in Houston, said New Orleans would not reach its pre-Katrina population of "500,000 people for a long time," and "it's not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."
The insensitivity demonstrated, even by good intelligent Center Left bloggers, to the issues of race, is, in my view, an exacerbation to the very real problems we face. The power of words, in our Brave New Anti-PC World, is dismissed. The hurt caused, the distrust fomented, is discounted.
I don't understand it.