Earlier this month, former Speaker Newt Gingrich made the offensive claim that his policies should appeal to African-Americans because he will “talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps” — as if receiving federal food assistance was a universal component of the black experience in the United States. When confronted with these remarks at last night’s GOP debate, however, Gingrich was utterly dismissive of the mere suggestion that they might be insulting:
JUAN WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic, and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?
GINGRICH: No, I don’t see that.
It’s deeply disturbing that a man who claims he should be president of the United States cannot understand why his remarks are offensive. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans are not on food stamps. Indeed, the majority of people who receive food stamps are white. Most recipients are also either children or seniors who are of retirement age. In 2010, working women represented only 28 percent of recipients, and working-age men represented only 17 percent.
Gingrich’s suggestion that food stamps are somehow a preeminent black issue flies in the face of reality. Worse, it lumps all African-Americans together as federal aid recipients when the overwhelming majority of working-age black men and women are self-supporting taxpayers. Thousands of them are professionals such as doctors or lawyers. One of them is the President of the United States.
Sadly, Gingrich’s snide answer earned an enthusiastic response from the largely white, Republican audience at the debate. The only thing more disturbing than the fact that Gingrich cannot understand why his comments are so deeply offensive is the fact that his ignorance is shared by others.