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Bennett: Racial Epithet Yelled At Rep. John Lewis Is Proof That ‘Racism In America Is Dead’

By Matt Corley on March 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm

"Bennett: Racial Epithet Yelled At Rep. John Lewis Is Proof That ‘Racism In America Is Dead’"

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Conservative radio host Bill BennettOn Saturday, conservative anger over the imminent passage of health care reform manifested itself in a series of bigoted exchanges with Democratic members of Congress. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) was spit on by a protester, openly gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a “faggot” and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called the n-word. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) called the incidents “absolutely shocking.” “I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus,” said Clyburn.

Though leaders of the Republican Party have sought to distance themselves from the outbursts, some conservatives are dismissing the incidents as no big deal. National Review’s Jay Nordlinger posted a letter yesterday claiming that the incidents proved that “Racism in America is dead.” Nordlinger called the argument “thought-provoking”:

As everyone sweats out the final Obamacare tallies, I’m struck by a couple of other stories. In one case, someone reported hearing an anti-black epithet used at a political rally. In another case, dogged police finally arrested the perpetrator of an intolerable crime. The perp is a 16-year-old kid who made a potentially offensive comment on a Wal-Mart overhead speaker. That these things are even remotely newsworthy leads me to one conclusion: Racism in America is dead. We had slavery, then we had Jim Crow — and now we have the occasional public utterance of a bad word. Real racism has been reduced to de minimis levels, while charges of racism seem to increase. I’ll vote for the first politician with the brass to say that “racism” should be dropped from our national dialogue. We’re a good nation, among the least racist on earth . . .

On his radio show this morning, conservative talker Bill Bennett endorsed the letter writer’s thesis, saying “I think that’s right”:

BENNETT: I think that’s right. Is there occasional racism, of course. But this country’s been transformed on the issue of race. You talk to young people, they don’t even understand how people could have judged people by race. They just don’t even, it doesn’t even parse. So, you know, what some of the liberal Democrats want to suggest is that Republicans and conservatives are still, you know, they have one, one scenario for this. It’s Mississippi burning and, you know, they’re still there. But the country is not there. Mississippi isn’t Mississippi of Mississippi burning. Transformed society on this issue. And everybody who is honest would admit to that.

Listen here:

As President Obama argued in his “A More Perfect Union” speech, it is foolish to argue that “no progress has been made” in America regarding race. But “the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed.” In June 2009, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund released a report demonstrating that “the spate of racially-motivated hate crimes and violence against minorities and immigrants that occurred before and after Election Day makes clear that a final victory over prejudice and racial hostility remains elusive.”

Using FBI data, the Leadership Conference found that “in the nearly twenty years since the 1990 enactment of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA), the number of hate crimes reported has consistently ranged around 7,500 or more annually — that’s nearly one every hour of every day.” The FBI reports that there were 7,783 hate crime incidents in 2008, the most recent year for which they have released data.

Transcript:

BENNETT: Anyway, this is a country that should get more comfortable talking about race. We’re not cowardly as Clark Holder, not Clark, Eric Holder said. But of course this had to come up. Racism charges that some in the media have seized on based on the epithets that were supposedly hurled around over the weekend. Wrong. I think, I’m gratified of course that if there were any such things said, they were denounced by the GOP leadership and I think some of the Democrats were fishing for some more, hoping to embarrass Republicans by marching through the crowd. I think there was some of that, ‘let’s see if we can get some more crazies to yell at us.’ Very good that they were denounced by the leadership, but I would like to point out how pointless they were. Those who were targeted, from Barney Frank to John Lewis, if you oppose health care, there are over 100 other congressmen who are not gay or black who share their views, that’s how pointless judging people by race or sex is. Crude judgments about race is what the left does. The isolated idiots on our side who do this are not only wrong, but adopting the tactics of the left. Final word on this goes to an anonymous letter writer to Jay Nordlinger of National Review and I just love this letter. “As everyone sweats out the final Obamacare tallies, I’m struck by a couple of other stories. In one case, someone reported hearing an anti-black epithet used at a political rally. In another case, dogged police finally arrested the perpetrator of an intolerable crime. The perpetrator was a 16 year old kid who made a potentially offensive comment on a Wal-mart overhead speaker.” Something like ‘black people need to leave the store’ or something, he said. ‘That these things were even remotely newsworthy, this letter writer says, leads me to on conclusion, racism in America is essentially dead. We had slavery, we had Jim Crow. Now we have the occasional public utterance of a bad word. Rudeness. Real racism has been reduced to de minimus levels while charges of racism seem to increase. I’ll vote for the first politician with the brass to say that racism should be dropped from our national dialogue. We’re a good nation, among the least racist on Earth.’

I think that’s right. Is there occasional racism, of course. But this country’s been transformed on the issue of race. You talk to young people, they don’t even understand how people could have judged people by race. They just don’t even, it doesn’t even parse. So, you know, what some of the liberal Democrats want to suggest is that Republicans and conservatives are still, you know, they have one, one scenario for this. It’s Mississippi burning and, you know, they’re still there. But the country is not there. Mississippi isn’t Mississippi of Mississippi burning. Transformed society on this issue. And everyboy who is honest would admit to that.

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