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Sun Jan 29, 2012, 09:14 AM

Commentary: Newt Gingrich and the politics of racial resentment

There has been a lot of talk about whether Gingrich’s recent language, including his performance at last week's South Carolina debate and his earlier declaration that Barack Obama has been America's best "food-stamp president," amounts to a coded appeal to racist sensitivities. The answer is simple: yes.

In this, Gingrich joins a line of Republicans stretching back at least to Richard Nixon. From that president's trumpeting of "law and order" (i.e., “I will get these black demonstrators off the streets.”) to Ronald Reagan’s denunciation of “welfare queens” (i.e., “I will stop these lazy black women from living high on your tax dollars.”) to George H.W. Bush’s use of Willie Horton (i.e., “Elect me or this scary black man will get you..”) the GOP long ago mastered the craft of using nonracial language to say racial things.

Let’s be clear. To the degree Gingrich’s argument is that stubborn, intergenerational poverty is often fed by habits and ways of life inimical to the building of wealth, he is exactly right. But those habits and ways afflict the white hollows of Appalachia as much as the black heart of urban America, and when Gingrich defines poverty solely as blackness, he is not critiquing poverty, but race.

One of my students shared this parable: A rich white man sits with a poor white man and poor black man at a table laden with cookies. The rich white man snatches all the cookies but one, then turns to the poor white man and says, “Watch out for that darky. I think he wants to take your cookie.”

It works every time.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/01/29/136907/commentary-newt-gingrich-and-the.html#storylink=cpy

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