America the poor?

by Beacon Staff • October 12, 2005

I was disgusted and appalled when I heard that radio host Bill Bennett, the former secretary of education under Ronald Reagan, said the crime rate would drop if all black women had abortions. During the Sept. 28 edition of his show, Morning in America, Bennett took a call from a person who proposed that, due to Roe v. Wade, tax revenue has been lost because of abortions.

Bennett disagreed and said, "You could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down." He added, "That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime would go down."

According to Media Matters for America, Bennett's punditry show reaches 1.25 million people weekly and is broadcast on 115 different stations. That so many people throughout this country heard such a sick and despicable statement makes me want to vomit. Bennett's deeply disturbing lack of consideration for the black citizens of this nation is indicative of the racial and class crisis plaguing our country.

The photographs of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the media coverage of the so-called "looting" that occurred after the storm speak louder than words.

But, to have such a reprehensible comment, however hypothetical, made by a former member of the federal government so soon after the disaster, is quite telling. Bennett, not surprisingly, rejected the idea that he was out of line and refused to apologize. "As a philosopher, I was showing the limitation of one argument by showing the absurdity of another," he said.

Bennett's response is shallow and lacks any admission of wrongdoing. I do not necessarily believe Bennett is racist, but the fact that he immediately equated the eradication of black children with crime reduction is an inherently racist statement.

It does not matter that he agreed that the proposed act was "a morally reprehensible thing to do."

Bennett has shown a lack of regard for the feelings of our minority citizens, already battered and bruised from what they saw or experienced after Katrina. The advocacy group Color of Change took note of this on its Web site, referring to Katrina with a banner headline that read, "Bush doesn't care. But we do. We will never let this happen again. Never." The group is calling on black people and anyone else willing to help band together to ensure that the most vulnerable are never ignored and forgotten in the case of another crisis. "We are disgusted by the lack of response by the Bush administration, which would never have left rich white people to suffer and die. And we are also devastated to realize that as a black community, we did not have the capacity and political power to demand and receive immediate action to care for our suffering brothers and sisters," the Web site says.

The poor, sick, homeless and mentally ill of this nation face deplorable economic conditions and we have failed them.

The economy is short on funds when faced with the gargantuan issue of poverty, and the federal government's model only perpetuates the ideology of "fend for yourself-you're not our problem." The crux of our nation's poverty crisis isn't specifically about race, but rather the massive economic and healthcare inequality faced by more and more people who are hanging in the balance between impoverishment and scraping by.

It is a crime that Americans do not have universal health coverage and top-notch education when we are the world's sole "superpower." How can this be justified? It is time for the US to get its priorities straight and stop spending billions of dollars on violent invasions and start spending more of our tax dollars filling the massive gap of inequality in this nation.

If this country was going to go into debt over something, it should have been for what-according to the US Census Bureau-45.8 million people already suffer without: health insurance. Or for what I (and many of my fellow college students) am going into thousands of dollars of debt for: education.

If we are a country that defends our global actions because we are morally outraged at injustice-such as our military interventions in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq-then where is our moral outrage at the levels of poverty, lack of health care and inequality in this nation?

It is about time we found it because at this rate there will be nothing left to offer our children and grandchildren but a broken nation and broken hearts.

Miriam Clithero is a junior print journalism major and assistant lifestyle editor for The Beacon.

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