"You could abort every black baby in this country, and the crime rate would go down."
-- William Bennett,
radio talk show host and
former U.S. education secretary
A protest demonstration is scheduled for today at the Salem Radio Network in Arlington, where William Bennett works. And a boycott of the sponsors of his show is being organized. In drumming up support for these actions, one e-mailer called Bennett a racist and eugenicist and declared, "That's how Hitler got started."
There is a problem here. But it's not Bennett, whose comments illuminated a moral inconsistency in black America that is far more harmful than anything he said. Forget about Bennett's absurd crime cure -- a proposal he acknowledged would be morally wrong -- and just look at the most recent analysis of abortion data, released in July by the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
African American women, who make up only 13 percent of the U.S. female population, accounted for 32 percent of the 1,293,000 abortions performed in the United States in 2002.
That's 413,760 abortions performed on black women in one year -- or 1,133 a day. (In the District, half of all pregnancies ended in abortion, a higher percentage than in any state.) No outcry over that because those were just disposable fetuses, right?
That is, until Bennett spoke of aborting "black babies," and suddenly those fetuses become precious pre-born black people who must be saved from the evil Dr. Bill.
It's just a different twist to the same old story. If the Ku Klux Klan were killing blacks the way blacks kill blacks, we'd be up in arms. If whites in blackface were filling the airways with degrading lyrics and minstrel shows, we'd at least shoot the TV and radio. But as along as it's just us acting a fool, who cares?
This is the consequence of our corrosive moral inconsistency: a dependence on the opposition of whites to give meaning and value to black life.
Robert Woodson Sr., president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, puts it bluntly. "There are black people who share the beliefs of white supremacists and who, by their actions, concede that white people hold the keys to everything we are and can become," he said in a telephone interview. "The feeling is, 'Unless they change, we can't change.' "
As I noted in this space Monday, even our immune system is compromised by the stress of such a frenzied, mothlike attraction to white slights. Worst of all, we know better and still can't seem to stop ourselves.
"Our health is our responsibility," said Jackson L. Davis III, a urologist and coordinator of men's health initiatives at the D.C. Department of Health. He spoke at a recent health conference for black men at Howard University. And he meant all aspects of our health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
"At health fairs, when I ask our young people what are their top health concerns, they say, 'To go to school or a party and not get shot,' " Davis said.
No one at the conference jumped up to blame the white man.
Atiba Coppock, an educational psychologist based in the District, called on black men to assume their responsibilities as husbands and fathers and suggested new ways to build character in our black boys. "Traditional African education focused on integrity, and we need to refocus on that," Coppock said. "The goal was to build a person who was going to be godlike; in other words, your whole focus is to be the best person you can be spiritually, and that impacts those around you and the community in which you live."
Jules P. Harrell, a professor and acting chairman of Howard's Department of Psychology, said African Americans need to "cultivate a new sense of body," one rooted in health and self-respect and not in popular culture, such as rap music videos.
To that end, we might welcome the controversy about abortion and black babies and the long-overdue focus it brings to the black womb -- home to hope unbound as well as unspeakable tragedy. Who is responsible for the protection and care of this amazing uterine environment, where the most wonderful fetal programming can occur just by having a loving husband kiss his pregnant wife?
Bennett? Sorry, he ain't in it.