- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

Several weeks ago, Michael Fauntroy, a public policy professor at George Mason University, solicited suggestions for a catchy title for his upcoming book that tries to explain why most blacks don’t support, trust or vote for the Republican National Committee.

“I got tons of suggestions, many of them unprintable,” the 39-year-old Washingtonian said yesterday.

Yours truly offered an entry that was the same as another: “Lincoln’s Lost Legacy.”

“A lot of the titles played off President Abraham Lincoln,” said Mr. Fauntroy, whose tentative title is “Dismounting the Elephant: Republicans and the Black Vote.”

I asked Mr. Fauntroy what effect former Education Secretary William J. Bennett’s comments last week would have on publicized efforts by the GOP to win black voters in upcoming elections.

“Bennett’s comments pick at the scab between blacks and Republicans, and it does so in a gratuitous way,” said Mr. Fauntroy, a registered Democrat and nephew of former D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy.

Mr. Bennett created a firestorm last week during his talk show “Morning in America,” which is broadcast from the Arlington studios of the Christian-based Salem Radio Network.

In an argument against abortion, Mr. Bennett said, “If you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down,” according to an audio clip posted on the Web site of the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America (mediamatters.org).

Such an act would be “an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do,” he said, but “your crime rate would go down.”

“His comments come as no surprise,” Mr. Fauntroy said. “This is just one more brick added to the wall that separates the GOP from African-Americans.”

Mr. Fauntroy pointed to his research on conservative efforts to discredit Martin Luther King as a communist sympathizer, Reagan-era efforts to characterize black women as “welfare queens” and George Bush’s “Willie Horton” campaign ads.

“How does the GOP go to the black community now and say, ‘We’re with you,’ and do it with a straight face?” Mr. Fauntroy said. “Bennett’s comments, coupled with the federal response to [Hurricane] Katrina and the war in Iraq, can only make it more difficult for Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman to do his job.”

Mr. Fauntroy said that now is the time for black conservatives to “step up.”

“If they agree with Bennett, they should say so,” he said. “If they don’t, they should be heard.”

Still, “the response by those who are repulsed by this episode should be multifaceted,” he said.

Besides critics contacting the radio station and its advertisers to register their anger, Mr. Fauntroy said, “ultimately, there should be a continued dialogue on crime and violence in the black community to get to the root of why things are as they are and lead the country to a serious discussion on race, crime, culture and poverty.”

That’s exactly why the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University was formed last month.

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, former board of trustees chairman for the University of the District of Columbia, was named as the founding and executive director of the institute, which “will focus on the critical issues of race we face in the 21st century.”

“One of the main goals of the Houston Institute is to address the racial divide that continues to exist after [scholar and civil rights activist] W.E.B. DuBois reminded us of [‘the color line’] a century ago,” said Mr. Ogletree, author of “All Deliberate Speed: Reflections of the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education.”

“We will endeavor to create a greater understanding of the races in the hope that people will move away from biases and assumptions, and that we will be able to provide research and data that more clearly and accurately explains the progress and challenges of racial relations in this country,” Mr. Ogletree said. “We are committed to creating concrete solutions to these problems.

“The comments by Bill Bennett remind me of the words of others who advocated extermination of people, and it is chilling,” Mr. Ogletree said, adding that Mr. Bennett should be ashamed of himself and owes an apology to black children.

Forget formalities, say organizers of the Hip Hop Caucus, such as the Rev. Lennox Yearwood.

They plan to lead a protest of Mr. Bennett’s show at 8 a.m. tomorrow in front of Salem Radio Network at 1901 N. Moore St. in Arlington. They will demand that Mr. Bennett’s show be canceled.

“Bill Bennett cannot wrap his racism up in First Amendment protection,” Mr. Yearwood said. “Hate speech is illegal.”

Furious folks are responding in all manners to Mr. Bennett’s racial salvo.

To dismiss his comments would add mortal injury to a morally reprehensible insult.

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