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Sentencing Disparity


Isn’t it fascinating when people just come out and say what’s on their minds when it comes to race? What’s even more instructive is the response–or non-response–to what is expressed.

Several weeks ago when Kanye West said “President Bush doesn’t care about black people”, although his voice was indeed quivering, it was a pretty straight-forward comment. Mr. West didn’t make an accusation. He made an observation. And in this context ‘care’ seemed to be used as a verb.

But for those feigning shock and horror at the notion of a racist president, a quick review of the Bush response to Katrina’s most vulnerable citizens is edifying-if not sobering.

And just a cursory perusal of the policies and conduct of this administration will help demonstrate how West’s observation was just a reflection of what many people of color-not to mention many whites–experience to be true. That this administration’s ‘elite friendly’ policies are in stark contrast to the slashing-frenzy of programs that benefit those ‘not so fortunate.’

For those who have difficulty equating Bush’s behavior and policies with a lack of respect for black people, remember when the NAACP invited the president to speak at the 95th annual convention last year? He refused.

Some say it was because it coincided with a weekend marathon of Bonanza reruns, but that’s just hearsay. Some say he got nervous at the thought of being in an enclosed building with so many Black folks. With good reason–he has a lot to answer to.

For instance, the World Conference Against Racism in Durban South Africa in August 2001: The Bush administration-at the last minute–refused to participate. Yes, that was the “World” Conference Against Racism–not to be confused with the White Privilege Conference in Pella Iowa. Yes, just weeks before 9/ll many Black and Brown people around the globe noticed that the world’s ‘super power’ declined an international dialog on race.

So what policies could Mr. West be referring to in his remark? Perhaps he was alluding to the administration’s full frontal attack on affirmative action or maybe it was the recent proposals to cut $6.7 billion from school lunch programs for poor children, or the $ 225 billion cut proposal from medicaid?

If that isn’t enough to convince you Mr. Bush doesn’t care about black people, how about the $417 million cut to eliminate the minority business development agency? Pretty clear?

In immediate response to Mr. West’s ‘outburst’, instead of taking the opportunity to engage the nation in a long-over due discussion on race and institutional racism (and yes, it is difficult to keep a straight face at the suggestion) Laura Bush publicly declared Kanye West’s words ‘disgusting’.

And before you can say howdy, there was an internet rumor–falsely reporting–that West lost his Pepsi endorsement for offending our nation’s president-who currently has a ‘disapproval’ rating of 60%–down from last weeks 62%. Although his ‘disapproval’ rating reflects other issues as well, it seems there are more people who agree with Mr. West than the White House ever imagined.

Several Weeks later, William Bennett, the former Secretary of Education and former head of Drug Policy spewed some pretty hateful rhetoric on the airwaves stating that “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” This, however, was not falsely reported.

What’s interesting is that very often when white folks finally expose how they ‘really’ think and feel about race, you can hear the click of the jaw-drop followed by the words “what I meant to say was…” or once it’s too late, decrying: “…it was taken out of context”!

And no surprise, Bennett claims his words were indeed ‘taken out of context’ and that he himself is the victim of libel because he was really only trying to make a larger ‘point’.

Unfortunately the ‘larger point’ he made was not the one he intended. As one pundit wrote in the World Net Daily “Bennett’s hypothetical comment does two ugly things at once: His premise scapegoats blacks, while his theoretical remedy suggests a rationale for committing new crimes against them. At best, he ventured into this area glibly and foolishly. Big mistake.”

And so you see. When white folks get caught making racist statements–even condemned by other whites as wrong–their words are characterized as ‘mistakes’, as in ‘you shouldn’t have said that’. When in reality, William Bennett probably expressed what many other elites in Washington think and feel but just have enough control not to say it publicly.

And keep in mind. This isn’t a Howard Stern-like shock jockey espousing disposable drivel that will be forgotten before it’s uttered.

As a former political appointee of Bush Sr., Bennett was responsible for designing policies and providing resources to state and local people who do treatment, prevention and law enforcement as it relates to drug control.

And this begs the question. Could there possibly be a connection between the disproportionate number of black men imprisoned on drug charges and the policies set by the kind of man who believes the crime rate would go down if all black babies were aborted? Need we ask?

It seems that one of the facades blown away in the path of Katrina is the masquerade of equity and fairness on the part of those in government who help to promote, uphold and reinforce institutional racism.

After Bennett’s insulting, degrading and demonizing remarks against black people, the president issued a ‘strong’ statement in response. “The president believes the comments were not appropriate.”

Wow! Did he really say that? Hmm, it’s ‘almost’ as if white people can get away with murder when it comes to racism. I wonder if Laura Bush finds that ‘disgusting’.

Molly Secours is a writer/filmmaker/speaker and frequent co-host on “Behind the Headlines” on WFSK 88.1 FM. She can be reached at: [email protected] or www.mollysecours.com

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