*Over the last few weeks, Republican Party Presidential Nominee, Newt Gingrich, has found a way to make himself relevant again. Not to the Republican Party, because are trying a way to sink him. Newt has become relevant to the always dysfunctional (and uncomfortable) race discourse in this nation.
This time around Newt is trying to explain the class divide in America by constructing an hypothesis around who attracts wealth and who doesn’t, and why. Newt says Blacks and Latinos don’t understand how to attract wealth. He says Asians do. Newt suggests that it is somehow a racial work ethics problem and if blacks would just let go of welfare, their lives would change forever. Really?? This follows his analysis—if you can call it that—around how black men can find work by simply picking up a broom. Newt has a skewed perspective on race. Always have. And he has this thing about wealth being tied to black people.
Welfare is not a “black thang” or a “Latino thang.” Whites statistically have more people receiving welfare, but Blacks and Latinos have a greater percentage of recipients per their percentage in the population. That’s how he gets away with that. Newt knows that welfare resonates with the struggling middle class in this country. This time around, instead of attacking people on welfare—his tact to suggest how people can get off welfare while assailing President Obama as the “Welfare President.” Newt is quick with it, and he is slick with it. He has made an art of trying to intellectualize racism…for political advantage, of course.
In the 1990s, after the Republicans took over the House of Representatives for the first time in 50 years, Newt led the 1994 “takeover” with a people’s mandate to reduce government spending. Called the “Contract on America,” Newt led an anti-taxation, anti-affirmative action, anti-welfare platform that pushed then President Bill Clinton to the wall on welfare reform. It played Clinton’s two largest support bases, poor black and middle whites against each other. Congress passed the Welfare Reform Act of 1995 and Clinton, facing re-election, was forced to sign it. Gingrich won. Clinton lost. The “welfare to work” job training aspect of the legislation was largely a failure, producing less jobs than the Republicans give Obama credit for creating. It contributed to the explosion of homeless in the African American community, but it was by and large ignored. The fate of the poor continues to be ignored by Congress today. For those people who have become staunch poverty advocates and wonder why the poor are ignored? You only have to look as far as Newt Gingrich. He is the one who intellectualized racism by codifying race. Poor translated to almost exclusively black, as did welfare. “Urban” translated to wherever blacks lived, so money and resources where diverted away from the poor and urban areas.
What we know about African Americans is that they don’t have the same access to capital as even poor or middle class whites do, largely because of the stigmas and codes that have been put in place by the leader of the new school of racism, Newt Gingrich.
As a Presidential candidate, he is reintroducing that same codified rhetoric into the President’s race. His term for Obama as Welfare President is a code. Every time he says “Welfare President,” he is seeking to remind his base, and others, “Black President,” to keep that foremost in front of them in the upcoming election. We know Newt Gingrich…the intellectual racist. And we know what he is doing by continuing to stigmatize African Americans.
By intellectualizing racism, he is leaving his signature card with Americans that still have a race problem with Obama. We can’t let it work.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.