I’ve talked about the difference between racism and assumption of privilege before, but every now and again somebody managed to do both at the same time, like Newt Gingrich. And every now and again, people like Gingrich get called out on it.
At a town hall event meant to appeal to Latino voters at a Mexican restaurant in Manchester, an African-American man confronted Gingrich about recent comments he made that have drawn the ire of the NACCP and other civil rights leader. Gingrich controversially said last week, “I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
Now, that was bad enough, but the reality is Gingrich’s assumption that the majority of SNAP recipients are African-American males is also completely and totally wrong. The largest plurality are white children, as a matter of fact. And only 8% of people on SNAP received additional federal welfare benefits, while 4% recieved additional state benefits. That’s it.
Today, someone called Newt on it, a black small business owner who took offense at Gingrich assuming all black people take food stamps.
LAMOTHE: My question to you is, do think blacks represent an American problem. And if you don’t think that, when you start using blacks in general as a stepping stone or a punching bag–
GINGRICH: I didn’t say that. I just want to say that frankly this makes me very irritated. The Democratic National Committee took totally out of context half of the sentence, OK? I mean clearly somebody who’s served with Colin Powell, who has served with Condoleezza Rice, I have a fairly good sense of the fact that African Americans have many contributions to America.
And yes, Newt went there with “How dare you! Some of my best friends are black!” Which never, ever works. Just because you have a black co-worker at your lobbyist job doesn’t mean you can’t be a bigoted prick making idiotically false assumptions about minorities. It becomes a hundred times worse when those false assumptions form the basis of your Presidential campaign.
Since Gingrich prides himself on running a “fact-based” campaign as he mentioned in Saturday’s debate, it’s all the more awful that Gingrich is happily playing the race card. The logical conclusion is that he’s running on taking away the safety net from all people by attacking black people, so that white people won’t miss it, which is the real thrust of all this lovely bigotry.
It works like this: Republicans want to eliminate as many social programs and services as they can in order to give more money to the wealthy. In order to do this, they need to get the people to vote against their self-interests. In order to do THAT, they need to stigmatize social programs and pretend that they’re only used by a particular “bad” minority group, signalling that the candidate will work to only take those social programs away from those groups and not the “good” majority.
The joke is of course on them..and all of us by extension. The most effective political marketing movement in the last 30 years has been making the middle-class vote against their own self-interests. Wages have stagnated for a generation, and Republicans (and more than a few Democrats) have led the charge in convincing the country that the means to help rectify the massive income and wealth inequality in this country need to be completely eliminated in order to “fix” the problem. It’s like saying the best therapy for chronic heart disease is to stop spending money on that expensive medicine and doctor’s visits and hospital stays, and getting rid of all three because really, those are costing you more money than it’s worth.
And so it goes, the GOP scapegoat plan. On social programs it’s blacks. On immigration it’s Latinos. On marriage and civil rights it’s gays. It’s been working for years. Now they don’t even hide it anymore in the Age of Austerity. We’re fighting over the scraps from the lord’s table.
Newt’s just doing his part.