I'm not sure it does, and inadvertently, it's James Joyner's defense that explains why. He writes:
Even aside from the genocide issue, that blacks (or the young, or the poor, or white males, for that matter) commit crimes at a statistically significant higher rate than the population as a whole is incontrovertible.
The emphasis is my own. Now, I find it at least somewhat amusing to read the phrase "aside from the genocide issue"--as if this is some minor thing we can just table for later. When Bennett assures that he doesn't actually want to kill all black people (because that would be very, very, wrong), it still has the subtext of "but the world would be better off if we could. Damn deontological ethics!"
But that's not where my real critique comes from. It's in Mr. Joyner's admission that Bennett's comments could equally be applied to killing all white males, young people, or poor people. Yet, I cannot imagine anyone ever even doing the "one step forward, one step back" tango Bennett did with regards to any of those groups. In other words, when we discuss "groups that commit a disproportionately high amount of crime," it always, immediately, and solely translates to "black people," even though many groups fit the description. Why is that so? What are the implications?
This is why the "statistically, he's in the clear" argument doesn't cut it for me. I'll just ignore for now the problems in general that exist with statistic-based arguments (you can get at least some of them here). If we made these statistical arguments uniformly and neutrally, it might not be so bad. But there is no attempt at equity here--other groups which could as easily fit inside Bennett's statistics are left out, and only blacks are put in. This creates a distorted social perception of black criminality--a conception which helps reaffirm and reify racist mentalities. It's like finding 30 drug dealers, half white and half black, releasing the white ones, charging the black ones under our (draconian) drug laws, and then defending it all by saying "well, they're guilty aren't they?" That's obviously a relevant consideration, but it isn't the only one, and reducing the argument to "well, they really do commit crimes (really are guilty)" excludes some very important issues critical to the debate. And unfortunately, nobody defending the remarks addresses it.
Ironically though, I am actually hearing a fair few people say that Bennett's remarks are equivalent to saying the same thing about poor people or white males--the argument that, as I note above, has never actually been made independent of defending folks like Bennett. I thus say "ironic" because the folks employing it act as if that argument is made all the time to moral silence, and we're somehow being hypocritical by only making the condemnation when the topic is race. But of course, this is exactly opposite of what happens: the only time the meta-argument is made is in this (racial) context, and the only time the particular cross-application to white males or young people occurs is when defenders assert the argument's racial neutrality by proclaiming that, in some fantasy-land, the argument is made all the time with a variety of multi-racial targets. It just isn't true.
I should note that the one defense, Brad DeLong's, partially gets out of this. He asserts that Bennett's overall point was a critique of ends-based analysis by pointing out that it leads to all manner of bad things. I don't think this entirely gets him off the hook (since it implies that the benefits of aborting all black babies via lowered crime rates outweighs the costs of, well, massive genocide), but it is a superior argument to the simplistic "it's true" claim. It just so happens that he's the only man making it--the blogosphere as a whole is not being quite as sophisticated.
Protein Wisdom also tries to address a version of my argument--but I don't think he quite gets it (to be fair, he posted before I wrote all of this, so we can't really blame him). I'm always pleased to be chatting with PW, since they are among the few conservatives with a real grasp of post-modernism. They write the following:
the idea that Bennett's words are still his beyond his intent to use them in a certain way--which simply echoes the old Judith Butler axiom that "actions continue to act after the intentional subject has announced its completion," which, while true, is nevertheless incidental, and becomes dangerous as an assertion when interpretation is released from the ground of appealing back to the speaker's intent. That is, what is at stake here is the role the subject plays in the "meaning" of the act vs. the role played by contingency in giving that act its (subsequent) meaning(s)--or, to put it more specifically, what William Bennett meant vs. what his words can be made to look like they might mean by those in whose interests it is to damage him. In short, they are taking ownership of his words, resignifying them, then using that resignification to taint Bennett with the charge of racism.
Let's start out by dealing with the question of whether Bennett is "racist." I do not think he is racist in the sense that he overtly dislikes blacks qua blacks--nor do I think that these comments undermine that (again though, his comparative weight between "no more blacks" and "less crime"--putting the latter as an outweighing positive--is troubling in that respect). So in this respect, I think it would be better to call Bennett's remarks "racially insensitive" rather than labeling himself racist. However, PW overstates it's case. The racial impact of Bennett's argument does not just kick in when the statement is distorted or taken out of context by those who wish to damage him. As my above argument shows, the racial impact flows even when Bennett is taken completely in context, because it portrays black criminality inequitably compared to other equivalent social groups; more specifically, that in doing so, it reifies the prevailing social attitude that blacks are different vis a vis these other groups even though they're not. So in this respect, this argument still is a morally wrong one to make in the racial context. The secondary question, on whether Bennett can be held morally liable for these problems, also goes against him. While I am willing to concede that Bennett did not intend a racist statement, intention cannot be the only factor at stake here. Bennett has to be mindful of the context his remarks are operating in--not just how partisans might distort them, but also how they might be damaging even in their "real" context. To not do so is negligent on his part and can be condemned (though obviously to a lesser degree than if he had been actively trying to cause the harm).
Finally, perhaps the most interesting response I've read is by Paul Butler, who argues that we as a society basically are "eliminating" the entire black population, we're just waiting a bit longer to do it.
When I was a student at Harvard Law School, my criminal law professor told us he knew of a sure way to reduce the crime rate. Every young man could be incarcerated. If that was too much, he said, another way would be to incarcerate every young black man. In a limited sense, our criminal justice system has selected Option # 2.
Even if marginally effective, mass incarceration and abortion are immoral if their only purpose is to lower crime. Mass incarceration is also an inefficient way of achieving this end. It is like amputating a leg to heal a broken toe.
Our criminal justice system is structured such that it incarcerates a huge portion of young black men. It is true that this is better than killing them off. But in a way, it's achieving the same goal--in order to reduce crime in our society, we're trying to remove as many black people as possible. And it's interesting that while killing blacks is seen as beyond the pale by nearly everyone, this alternative mechanism for removing blacks from American society provokes (at best) a severe partisan split.
Again, one can make the "but they actually are criminals" response, and again, it doesn't fly. Although young black men commit a disproportionate amount of crime, they are also arrested disproportionate to the amount crime they commit. We also punish "black" crime more harshly than white crime, both in terms of giving lengthier sentences to crimes associated with the black community (the crack/powder cocaine example serves here), and in giving harder sentences to the average black offender versus white offender convicted of the same crime. Again, the equity argument comes into play here--while there always will be some people getting heavier sentences and some people getting lighter sentences, and some people getting arrested and others not caught, the point and problem is that these effects aren't randomly distributed, but concentrated to the advantage of white people and disadvantage of black people. That's the problem being critiqued here.