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The religion of race

Let's go ahead and call a spade a spade. You know what crime Bill Bennett stands accused of in the court of public opinion? I'll tell you: heresy.

For many people these days, the whole issue of race is, simply put, a religion, and that's exactly why I hesitated to weigh in on the whole Bennett brouhaha at all.

Many of this religion's adherents are secular folks. Were you to ask them, they would very likely deny having any religious beliefs whatsoever. But that's untrue. They're as devout in their secular religion as any evangelical Christian you're likely to meet.

Moreover, many of these secular religionists are fundamentalists. They cling to certain beliefs about race as an article of faith. They cannot abide having the basic tenets of said faith even questioned. Facts and data that appear to conflict with said tenets of faith are summarily dismissed, and the person who pointed out said facts are anathematized. To me, that's fundamentalism.

And while our society has matured to a point where we can tolerate criticisms of conventional Western religions, woe betide those who blaspheme against the gods of race, for the gods in this pantheon are zero-tolerance deities.

For my part, my training as a scientist has convinced me that the whole concept of "race" in general is little more than a persistent illusion, with little or no basis in genetics for such an arbitrary classification. Consequently, I do not believe that belonging to a certain race predisposes one to (for example) commit more crimes than someone who belongs to a different racial group.

So in that sense, I'm on the side of Bennett's critics. Nevertheless, I find it disturbing that we are still incapable of having a frank, honest dialog about such topics. I find it disturbing that any comment involving race, even a hypothetical debating point, must be made with all the proper obeisance and genuflections toward the race gods, or else the commenter risks being subject to the Secular Inquisition.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Washington Post's Richard Cohen weighs in with similar themes, and wonders why his political party is no longer the party of Free Speech.

[Democrats] abandoned their party's tradition -- I would say "obligation" -- of defending unpopular speech by piling on William Bennett, the former education secretary, best-selling author and now, inevitably, talk show host.

Responding to a caller who argued that if abortion were outlawed the Social Security trust fund would benefit -- more people, more contributions, was the apparent (idiotic) reasoning -- Bennett said, sure, he understood what the fellow was saying. It was similar to the theory that the low crime rate of recent years was the consequence of high abortion rates: the fewer African American males born, the fewer crimes committed. (Young black males commit a disproportionate share of crime.) This theory has been around for some time. Bennett was not referring to anything new.

But he did add something very important: If implemented, the idea would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do."

He should have saved his breath. Prominent Democrats -- Harry Reid in the Senate, John Conyers and Rahm Emanuel in the House and, of course, Pelosi -- jumped all over him. Conyers wanted Bennett suspended from his radio show. Emanuel said Bennett's comments "reflect a spirit of hate and division." Pelosi said Bennett was out of the mainstream, and Reid simply asked for an apology.

Actually, it is Reid and the others who should apologize to Bennett. They were condemning and attempting to silence a public intellectual for a reference to a theory. It was not a proposal and not a recommendation -- nothing more than a possible explanation. But the Democrats preferred to pander to an audience that either had heard Bennett's remarks out of context, or merely thought that any time conservatives talk about race, they are being racist. The Democrats' obligation as politicians, as public officials, to see that we all hear the widest and richest diversity of views was suspended in favor of partisan cheap shots. (The spineless White House also refused to defend Bennett.) Because I came of age in the McCarthy era, I have always thought of the Democratic Party as more protective of free speech and unpopular thought than the Republican Party. The GOP was the party of Joe McCarthy, William Jenner and other witch-hunters. Now, though, it is the Democrats who use the pieties of race, ethnicity and gender to stifle debate and smother thought, pretty much what anti-intellectual intellectuals did to Larry Summers, the president of Harvard University, when he had the effrontery to ask some unorthodox questions about gender and mathematical aptitude. He was quickly instructed on how to think.

Well said.


"For my part, my training as a scientist has convinced me that the whole concept of "race" in general is little more than a persistent illusion, with little or no basis in genetics for such an arbitrary classification."

As per my comments, elsewhere, you already know what I think about this artificial construct…uh, race (and I am trained in science).

“They were condemning and attempting to silence a public intellectual for a reference to a theory.”

This is literally what happened although a whole lot of people wish to ignore. (Could it be that people simply don’t pay attention?) Regardless, I still don’t think much of William Bennett. I think he was referencing text in the book, Freakonomics, not necessarily agreeing with it. Anyway, I’m not going to be the one to hold this man up as a model of virtue but when people (it this case, his critics) have it wrong, they have it wrong! Besides, there is more than enough fodder on this guy to jump all over his statement. The man really is an ass

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