When the smartest man in the NFL talks, people listen. Unless he talks about abortions targeting African Americans. In that case, listen to the crickets.
Benjamin Watson, who scored a 48 on the Wonderlic test during his rookie combine, went viral with his inspirational short-essay responses to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland following the deaths of African American males. But his comments on the bigotry of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and the inherent racism of the mission of the group she established receive the silent treatment from sports journalists.
“I do know that blacks kind of represent a large portion of the abortions,” the Baltimore Ravens tight end told TurningPointFriends.org, “and I do know that honestly the whole idea with Planned Parenthood and [founder Margaret] Sanger in the past was to exterminate blacks, and it’s kind of ironic that it’s working.”
ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, and almost every other major sports outlet ignored the 35-year-old veteran’s comments. Arthur Weinstein at SportingNews.com, in an otherwise balanced piece, called Watson’s words “incendiary” and whitewashed Sanger’s racism as “unfortunately common in American society in the early 20th century.”
Though people in the early 20th century perhaps generally exhibited less tolerance than Arthur Weinstein, they almost universally demonstrated more tolerance than Margaret Sanger. And Planned Parenthood’s founder lived until 1966—hardly the stone ages—and continued to spout bigotry and promote eugenics until the very end.
Margaret Sanger used the n-word in private correspondence, spoke at a Ku Klux Klan gathering in 1926, and boasted of starting a “negro programme” aimed to curtail the growth of the black population. “We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” she wrote Procter and Gamble heir Dr. Clarence Gamble in 1939, “and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
And Sporting News judges Ben Watson the one guilty of making “incendiary” comments?
Sanger regarded “the Aboriginal Australian” as the “lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development.” Before the New York state assembly, she testified in 1923: “The Jewish people and the Italian families, who are filling the insane asylums, who are filling our hospitals and filling our feeble-minded institutions, these are the ones the taxpayers have to pay for the upkeep of, and they are increasing the budget of the state, the enormous expense of the state is increasing because of the multiplication of the unfit in this country and in the state.”
But Hillary Clinton received the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood and the National Portrait Gallery includes her visage in an exhibit called “A Struggle for Justice,” so remembering all this serves as a terrible inconvenience.
Certainly Sanger’s “Plan for World Peace,” which I came across in the Library of Congress more than fifteen years ago while conducting research for Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas, resides further down the memory whole.
Therein, Sanger outlined a plan for a vast system of concentration camps in the United States. She called for the government to “apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” Sanger wanted to create a national database of drug addicts, criminals, poor people, illiterates, and other groups she considered dysgenic. Then, she wanted the government to present them with a choice: “sterilization” or “segregation.”
For those who opted for the latter, “[T]here would be farm lands and homesteads where these segregated persons would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives…. Having coralled this enormous part of our population and placed it on a basis of health not punishment, it is safe to say that about fifteen or twenty millions of our population would then be organized into soldiers of defense–defending the unborn against their own disabilities.”
One might say that like most progressives Margaret Sanger, penning this a year before Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, acted ahead of her time (and place)—in a really bad way—and not in “common” with it as the Sporting News contends. The muted and mouths agape reactions to Watson’s words demonstrate that people who imagine themselves seeing the future right never quite understand the past correctly.