By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
ABOVE PHOTO: Newt Gingrich
(Cheryl Casey / Shutterstock.com)
With GOP presidential contender Herman Cain’s presidential candidacy effectively dead, now’s a good time to turn a hard glare on the suddenly surging GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s racial skeletons. His closet is stuffed with them. The first reminder of that was his off-the-cuff crack at Harvard that ghetto children are lazy and chronic thieves and should be dumped into menial jobs early on to break their alleged ghetto slothful habits. This racially loaded slur was vintage Gingrich. More than any other major party office contender he has never shied away from spewing some of the most bigoted, racially charged, digs on and off the campaign trail. The crack about ghetto kids having “no habits of working” was a near verbatim repeat of Gingrich’s jab at poor blacks nearly two decades ago.
Then he chided a group of black journalists that blacks were poor because of their “habits.” Gingrich didn’t stop there. The habits that he said held blacks back were that they were too religious, and too lawsuit happy (meaning mounting legal challenges to discrimination), rather than acquiring the good old habits of business and professional skills to lift them out of poverty. In his ill famed ‘Contract with America’ he touted as Congressional House Speaker in the 1990s, he moved to encode his obsession with the presumed “habits” of social and personal dysfunctionality that supposedly pervades all black communities when he proposed lopping off all welfare benefits for poor teen mothers and taking some of that money saved and dumping their kids into orphanages.
This harsh throwback to 19th century poor houses and workhouses was mocked, laughed at and sneered at the time by critics but a part of the proposal wove its way into law when then President Bill Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Act. The law contained rigid time frame limits and top heavy work requirement provisions for welfare recipients.
Private citizen Gingrich was out of the news for the decade after his House tenure ended. But that didn’t mean he had toned down, let alone, altered his thinking, about minorities and how society should deal with them. With the 2012 presidential election close at hand, a politically reenergized Gingrich was back on the media’s radar scope, and he didn’t miss a beat. He trotted out his obsession with alleged ghetto pathology and lambasted bilingual education as “the language of living in the ghetto.” Gingrich claimed this posed a grave danger to the nation and would undermine the American way of life.
The quip didn’t get much attention in the wake of the presidential duel between Obama and GOP Presidential contender John McCain. But Gingrich didn’t go away and neither did his compulsion to ram race into any public issue he could. In 2009, his race bait target was then Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Gingrich mocked Sotomayor’s comment about being a “wise Latina” and said that if a white man had made a similar remark he’d be summarily drummed out of the nomination. Gingrich branded her a Latina racist and called for her to be dumped.
But Gingrich at that point was still a bad joke in most political circles and whatever he had to say could be easily shrugged or laughed off as irrelevant. However, things changed in 2010. Gingrich announced that he was tossing his hat back into the presidential ring, and though he was still stuck at the tail end of the pack of GOP hopefuls he had a national platform. He wasted little time in putting his race baiting act back on full display. He dredged up the old slur of President Obama as an alien in the White House with the odd ball charge that he engaged in Kenyan anti-colonial behavior. This drew howls of protest that Gingrich was pandering to the bizarre Birther sentiment. Gingrich in reality was just being Gingrich, and as in the past simply took another opening to race bait in the public arena.
In a Meet the Press interview last May he did double duty on racial bigotry. He slammed Obama with racist code name calling, branding him the “food stamp president.” He double downed on racist coding by huffing that Obama’s policies would turn the country into Detroit. Gingrich may have preferred to lambaste blacks again for the alleged “bad habits” of the ghetto — sloth, poverty, and dependence on government handouts — but Detroit is universally recognized as the poster city for urban decay, the mere mention of the city was enough to make the point about alleged black dysfunctionality.
While blacks are a favorite target of his, Gingrich has spread his bigotry around. He’s gone after Muslims, railing at the notion of putting a mosque near the twin towers, and endorsed racially profiling them under the guise of fighting terrorism, and likened gay activists to fascists. Gingrich gets an occasional mild rebuke in the press, and quiet cheers from his supporters, whose numbers have climbed with the crash and burn of Bachman, Perry, and Cain, and the fear and loathing of Romney by ultra conservatives. This insures that Gingrich’s blatant bigotry will continue to get headline coverage. If Gingrich forbid should make it to or near the White House, race baiting would be back on the nation’s table. Before that happens, turn the glare on Gingrich’s bigotry.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of ‘How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge’. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com