Gingrich’s Black & White World

Newt Gingrich wants voters to understand one thing — should he be elected president, assuming he wins the GOP nomination — he will be the paycheck president and not the food stamp president.

Obama, he says, is the best food stamp president in American history.

“I want to be the best paycheck president,” he says.

African-Americans ought to be demanding paychecks not food stamps, Newt says.

Uh.

Hold on one second.

Did he really say that?

Sure enough.

YouTube Preview Image

And he continues to say it over and over and over again.

Despite the fact that the majority of people on food stamps are white.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who Newt clearly disdains, says that Gingrich uses a subtle form of racism in his rhetoric.

Speaking to CNN, Carter said, “I think he has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well, and that Gingrich knows quite well, that appeals to some people in Georgia – particularly the right wing.”

I know of what Carter speaks.

Gingrich is a graduate of Baker High School in Columbus, Ga. My hometown. He graduated in the years prior to integration, which didn’t take place until I was in my second year of high school. So in other words, Gingrich graduated from a predominately white public school. Gingrich’s world is black and white in more ways than just his ideology.

Newt Gingrich would have you believe that African Americans depend on food stamps.

Newt Gingrich would have you believe that the bulk of poor people are African Americans.

Newt Gingrich would have you believe that the bulk of the uneducated in this nation are African American.

Newt Gingrich would have you believe that the the majority of African Americans are unemployed, and that they are unemployed because they are lazy.

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich claimed. “They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash unless it is illegal.”

I’m sure Gingrich and his supporters will be quick to deny that this is what he’s saying but listen, he and I grew up in the same town in the same era and I can tell you that anyone who grew up in Columbus, Georgia in the 1960s and 1970s got an earful of this sort of racist rhetoric.

That doesn’t make every white person from the hood racist. I certainly believe most of us learned better. And as Oprah likes to say, when you know better, you do better.

But beyond the coded language that Carter claims Gingrich is employing, is this notion of Gingrich’s that there is somehow something to be ashamed of if you’ve ever had to draw unemployment or rely on food stamps.

I’ve done both and I’m not ashamed of it.

Food stamps and WIC helped put food on our table when Tim was in grad school and I was staying home caring for children.

Unemployment helped carry the family when Tim lost a teaching job and we were forced to move our young family of six into my in-laws’ home. And unemployment carried my in-laws during the lapses in logging.

My father-in-law remains one of the hardest working man I know.

And for the record, I work pretty tirelessly myself.

Without food stamps, and some federally-funded school loans, Tim would never have been able to complete his education. He would never have made a better life for our family. Without those unemployment benefits, millions of seasonal workers all over this nation would abandon jobs that need to be done. Agriculture. Logging. Fishing.

Being unemployed or reliant on food stamps is not something to be ashamed of. It’s a season in a person’s life. Maybe not every person’s life and if it’s not yours, be thankful, not arrogant. And if Newt Gingrich wants to talk about welfare let’s talk about the corporate welfare programs that he does support.

My kinfolk, all of them poor as church mice, had a way of talking about others. If a person did a good thing, they always said that person’s  behavior was Christian.

As in, “That was a very Christian thing of you to do.”

I don’t think Newt Gingrich is acting very Christian when he uses his coded language to criticize people he considers beneath him.

People like me, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • DannySmyth

    Please post specific examples of Newt’s racism. Charges of “coded” language are not what I expect from you. Get specific. What EXACTY has Newt said that is racist?

    Why wouldn’t people of all races want more than food stamps? To suggest someone should have opportunities to work for pay is NOT racist. That charge is beneath you. How ironic you conclude with the line about a “Christian thing to do.” Your charge against Newt without substantive evidence is not a Christian thing to do.

    You are a better thinker and person to fall back on “I just know because I know.”

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Danny:

      So glad you asked… and while we are on the subject, let’s not overlook Gingrich’s fear-based semantics — whenever he refers to the Obama Administration he uses the word “radical” whenever he refers to politics in Washington, he uses the word “elitist” and whenever he uses the word media he refers to the word liberal or leftist. Newt is not doing this by accident. It’s all part of the “us” and “them” mentality that builds a false fight. There is no “us” and “them” to this battle. We are all on the same ship. Whether it sinks or not is up to each of us, individually.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/18/al-sharpton-newt-gingrich-racism_n_1212928.html

      http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/newsroom/press/catholic-leaders-challenge-gingrich-and-santorum-on-divisive-rhetoric-around-race-and-poverty/

      http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/newt-gingrich-and-the-art-of-racial-politics/

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Danny:

      So glad you asked… and while we are on the subject, let’s not overlook Gingrich’s fear-based semantics — whenever he refers to the Obama Administration he uses the word “radical” whenever he refers to politics in Washington, he uses the word “elitist” and whenever he uses the word media he refers to the word liberal or leftist. Newt is not doing this by accident. It’s all part of the “us” and “them” mentality that builds a false fight. There is no “us” and “them” to this battle. We are all on the same ship. Whether it sinks or not is up to each of us, individually.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/18/al-sharpton-newt-gingrich-racism_n_1212928.html

      http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/newsroom/press/catholic-leaders-challenge-gingrich-and-santorum-on-divisive-rhetoric-around-race-and-poverty/

      http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/newt-gingrich-and-the-art-of-racial-politics/

      • Anonymous

        Thank you, Karen. As an African-American, it’s sometimes hard to get people to see what has historically been done and continues to be promulgated without being charged as being over-sensitive, playing the race card, the victim, etc. Sometimes, I just feel as having the conversation is pointless when some (not necessarily Danny) don’t know what it’s like and fail to be empathetic or acknowledge another’s reality.

      • DannySmythe

        Karen,

        Again, what EXACTLY did Newt say that is racist? Pointing me to opinions from Al Sharpton and the NY Times do not suffice. I’m asking you for your insight. You made the charge, you should back it up with evidence, not opinion. If I said Obama was a racist and pointed you to a Glen Beck opinion piece as my evidence, would that persuade you?

        These are hot charges coming from anyone, much less a Christian leader. Don’t give me an open letter from Catholics or a post from Huffington. Give me a Matthew 18 style honest and open comment from you.

        Again, EXACTLY what did Newt say that is racist?

        • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

          Danny:

          The term “Whites Only” above a water fountain is not in itself a racist slur. There is, however, an implicit racial message in such a sign.

          Gingrich’s semantics are full of such signs, commonly recognized by any of us who grew up in the part of the world where WHITES ONLY was above the fountain, on the doors of the restaurants, and at the church and the movie house.

          It appears, however, that you will not be satisfied until I demonstrate the explicit racism in Gingrich’s rhetoric. We both know that on most occasions he is too intelligent and thoughtful a person to make such explicit references. He’s far too wise to use the N-word.

          I don’t know if he’s a racist or not, and did not make that statement in my post. Thus, your argument is with my reasoning that there is an implied racist message of who is to blame for the unnecessary and harmful social welfare expenses of the US government.

          Do you think Gingrich would refer to Obama as the Food Stamp president if Obama looked like Bill Clinton? Gingrich knows that attaching the term Food Stamp president to a black man will stir all sorts of images for voters in the South that it would not stir for voters in the Northwest.

          That you fail to see such an implied message means that you and I will have to agree to disagree.

          My broader point is that as voters we must elevate our critical thinking and political awareness levels as a means of elevating the public policy discourse in our nation. The GOP debate of this past week was a pathetic display of personal attack, implicit and explicit fear-mongering and false promises that have become so common to American politics that it renders thoughtful, deliberative and substantive discussion of public policy courses literally impossible. Such circumstances would be of little importance if the prize was a beauty contest, but what is at stake is the monetary, fiscal and social justice direction our country will take in the next few months and years that owing to our current national condition in these areas can only be considered near crises. The American public will not get a different approach to campaign behavior and rhetoric until voters collectively rise up and demand better of our candidates.

          Gingrich’s implicit message is that minorities are to blame for US social welfare programs, and more specifically are the fault of Obama, the Food Stamp president.

          But stay tuned for more, I’ve invited an African American to share her views on this topic. I’ll post her thoughts on this matter in a week or so.

          • DannySmythe

            Thanks for the reply. You did write in your post that you agree with Carter who does clearly link Newt to racism.

            And nowhere, at anytime, does Newt come close to saying something even close to “whites only.” If he did or does let us all know.

            You are a gifted, insightful Christian. Don’t be so quick to judge. Read again your last sentence.

            Thank you again for your reply.

          • Ron1953

            So saying Obama is the food stamps President is necessarily implied racism?

            Who is calling who names here?

            You need to back away and take a deep one.

          • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

            To be clear I link Gingrich to racism, too. And thanks for the compliment. I work hard to think through these matters. As do many who visit this site.

          • A.Lee

            During Bill Clinton’s presidency, approximately 25 million Americans were receiving food stamps from the federal government. During George Bush’s presidency, the number went up to approximately 25.5 million. The number under Obama’s presidency has nearly doubled to approximately 49 million. Those are the facts Mr. Gingrich is highlighting. It is not a race issue, it is a dependency issue.

          • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

            Yes, and in 2008 we had an economic crisis caused in no small part by decades of abuses under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It would not have mattered who was in office we were going to see this sort of rise in need. Why no mention of the corporate welfare programs approved by Bush?

          • A.Lee

            I didn’t mention corporate welfare under Bush because I was responding to your post which made no mention of it. If you can tell me which specific programs you are speaking of I would be glad to weigh in on them. From the sharp turn in direction it seems that you are presuming me to be an idealogue and defender of former President Bush. Be careful making judgements with no factual basis.
            That is, what I believe Danny was trying to address.

          • http://www.utmgr.org/blog_index.html Shaffer

            “Do you think Gingrich would refer to Obama as the Food Stamp president if Obama looked like Bill Clinton? Gingrich knows that attaching the term Food Stamp president to a black man will stir all sorts of images for voters in the South that it would not stir for voters in the Northwest”

            You are judging his motives based on coming from the same home town as Newt. That’s not a very strong argument to make. You are assuming his rhetoric about Obama as the food stamp president is about attracting the right wing, rather than him desiring that capitalism work for the poor as well. Granted you are right that he stereotyped blacks as the primary recipients of food stamps. Gingrich may be a really good debater, but every so often he sets off a grenade with his mouth.

            For as long as I can remember, Newt every so often makes a major verbal gaff. Lets go back to the time in the 1990′s when he referenced “boys town” as a model for social policy in dealing with impoverished, at-risk kids. Although it was quite a public goof, his solution was to promote private, non-profit solutions to helping the poor.

            Yet Gingrich has always been about solving problems in a conservative way that benefits everyone, including the poor. There are many of us, including myself, that have seen government solutions cripple the poor, rather than help it. I have served the urban poor for 20 years of my life reaching out to impoverished, high risk youth in the inner-city. I will look to vote for someone that is pro-growth and free market and who makes it the main priority to create jobs, especially in the inner-city. The last four years I’ve heard alot of talk, but no action until this year. I am willing to listen to Gingrich, but will resist judging his motive for calling Obama the food stamp president being to win votes among the right wing in the south unless he lobs other verbal grenades that coincide with that attitude.

  • AFRoger

    For some while in what has passed for a campaign this year, I’ve been struggling to fill in the blanks. What blanks? The blanks that would describe the world and the worldview that the candidates inhabit. Mostly, I find I’m wearing out the paper with the constant erasures. I can’t put down anything that sticks. That “values voters” have gone for Gingrich kinda leaves me speechless. As one said, “everybody has baggage.” Well, sure. But not everyone is vying to be a leader or to lead by example.

    Mostly, I come up with only one thing. Most candidates seem to see the world and our country as a zero sums game. There’s not enough to go around, so if I’m not doing better, somebody must be ripping me off. If I had a chance to ask them all one question, it would be this: How do you intend to pay for future wars (blood, money, time served)? ‘Cause if we can’t be honest about that, what can we be honest about?

    We have a long road ahead. We can listen to our better angels. Or the other ones…

  • Anonymous

    Well, last night he actually said he’d go into “every ethnic group”, so blacks are no longer being singled out–at least in his speeches. Probably his campaign told him how his rhetoric was damaging him with African-Americans.

    • DannySmythe

      Or it could be that he means it. Maybe not, maybe he is a fraud. But I happen to believe that food stamps and other hand outs are bad, AS A LIFESTYLE, no matter your color or heritage. A call to responsibility does not equate with racism.

      • Karen Spears Zacharias

        Danny:

        The term “Whites Only” above a water fountain is not in itself a racist slur. There is, however, an implicit racial message in such a sign.

        Newt’s semantics are full of such signs, commonly recognized by any of us who grew up in the part of the world where WHITES ONLY was above the fountain, on the doors of the restaurants, and at the church and the movie house.

        It appears, however, that you will not be satisfied until I demonstrate the explicit racism in Newt’s rhetoric. We both know that on most occasions he is too intelligent and thoughtful a person to make such explicit references. He’s far too wise to use the N-word.

        I don’t know if he’s a racist or not, and did not make that statement in my post. Thus, your argument is with my reasoning that there is an implied message of who is to blame for the unnecessary and harmful social welfare expenses of the US government.

        Do you think Gingrich would refer to Obama as the Food Stamp president if Obama looked like Bill Clinton? Gingrich knows that attaching the term Food Stamp president to a black man will stir all sorts of images for voters in the South that it would not stir for voters in the Northwest.

        That you fail to see such an implied message means that you and I will have to agree to disagree.

        My broader point is that as voters we must elevate our critical thinking and political awareness levels as a means of elevating the public policy discourse in our nation. The GOP debate of this past week was an abysmal display of personal attack, implicit fear-mongering and false promises that have become so common to American politics that it renders thoughtful, deliberative and substantive discussion of public policy courses literally impossible. Such circumstances would be of little importance if the prize was a beauty contest, but what is at stake is the monetary, fiscal and social justice direction our country will take in the next few months and years that owing to our current national condition in these areas can only be considered near crises. The American public will not get a different approach to campaign behavior and rhetoric until voters collectively rise up and demand better of our candidates.

        Gingrich’s implicit message is that minorities are to blame for US social welfare programs, and more specifically are the fault of Obama, the Food Stamp president.

        But stay tuned for more, I’ve invited an African American to share her views on this topic. I’ll post her thoughts on this matter in a week or so.

  • cathy

    Good on you Karen!!!

  • Dana Ames

    Thanks, Karen.

    My husband and I both relied on food stamps and unemployment when we were in college and when we first got married. It was the ’70s, and the economy was difficult then, too, and the petroleum crisis just made things worse. We worked at whatever we could get, but both our jobs were seasonal and we needed just a little help over that hump. From previous jobs, we had paid into the unemployment fund and paid our taxes, and we were getting some of the benefits of what we had supported with our payroll deductions.

    It seems that as a country we have lost a sense of the common good for all citizens. Gingrich is simply the loudest of the angry Republicans who are exploiting people’s feelings about losing other kinds of entitlement-demanding that everyone else’s benefits get cut, but not theirs. I won’t vote for any one of them.

    Dana

  • Eleazarpoole

    Did anyone, including Karen, watch the embedded video and listen to what Gingrich said? It is not racist. He said that if the NAACP asked him to speak at their convention he’d talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.

    I grew up in the south. I know coded language. And I know it’s convenient to toss out the racist charge. But, as a black man, let me say I prefer paychecks to food stamps!!

    Just because you disagree with him that does not make him a racist.

  • Beavis

    This is an absolutely ignorant article!!!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X