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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Newt Gingrich’s Controversial Comments About Poor (Black) Kids

By December 19, 2011

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When Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich first called child labor laws "stupid" and suggested that poor kids should be put to work in their schools, his remarks outraged the public. After all, the government created child labor laws because hundreds of youth were abused, maimed and killed when they worked long hours during the industrial revolution. But before long, the controversy over Gingrich's Dec. 1 remarks during an affair at the Nationwide Insurance headquarters turned racial. Everyone from the all-female panel of ABC's "The View" to "The Daily Show" to Forbes magazine took Gingrich's comments about poor children to mean poor black children. Here's what Gingrich said:

"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of 'I do this and you give me cash,' unless it's illegal."

Opponents of this argument questioned why the term "working poor" exists if no one in impoverished communities works for a living. As holes were poked in Gingrich's argument, he finally made reference to the high youth black unemployment rate, making it clear he wasn't just talking about poor communities in general but poor black communities.

Gingrich's comments show that he's completely out of touch. Has the former speaker of the House ever spent an extended amount of time in, say, South Los Angeles or Chicago's Southside and discovered the challenges that poor black people face? Is he familiar with research showing that job applicants are not only discriminated against by race but by the zip code in which they reside? This means that those who are both poor and black face fierce barriers to employment. Still, to argue that no one in these communities works unless it's illegal is a gross and irresponsible generalization. Many people in the black middle class today were raised in poor homes, but they clearly had the work ethic necessary to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

Both of my biological parents were poor children. My mother, raised in Tennessee, remembers not having indoor plumbing as a small child. Yet she and my father, raise in Nigeria, are both law-abiding, working members of the middle class. When Newt Gingrich made his racially insensitive remarks, he erased the experiences of people like my parents and countless other poor black children who went on to make something of their lives.


December 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm
(1) Don Rice says:

I really have to wonder why this ignorant, self-righteous so-and-so has been allowed back on the public stage. It seems people have short memories, and conveniently forget his utterly disgraceful exit from Congress several years ago.

And this current controversy is proof positive that the man is an unapologetic racist who knows absolutely nothing about anyone with skin darker than his own.

Thank you, Ms. Nittle, for adding some common sense to this debate!

December 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm
(2) Robert says:

This Thanksgiving I went home to Rhode Island. During my stay there, I mentioned to my mother that the republicans have undone pretty much ever protection that FDR put in place as part of the New Deal. And then I made the side comment… “except for Child Labor”.

Looks like Newt is really in the fore-front of his party.

He is an idiot. But His comments are an example of the systematic undermining of everything that the New Deal has helped to create. Unions have been effectively busted, esp in the private sector. The wall between Saving Banks and Investment Banks has been dismantled. There are no regulations on Wall Street that have any teeth. Social Security is under attack. The 40 hour work week is now 50 hours for most of us. Employer Sponsored Insurance* is disappearing.

All of the above has been arrange by private right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation… and unfortunately, Democrats have been almost as guilty as Republicans for the attacks on the middle class and poor. (Am I the only person who remember NAFTA was signed into law by Bill Clinton?)


* (people have forgotten that Employer Sponsored Health Insurance was create in the 40’s 50’s as an alternative to a Canadian/European like Government System… Private Employers wanted the system to keep employees dependant on them).

December 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm
(3) Justin says:

Newt was very aware of the tone of his comments. Using “Dog Whistle”politics. Words such has “Working” or “Urban” Are sometimes used as race code words for Black or African American. He also referred to the President as the “Food Stamp” President. These phrases are intended to speak to the Racist elements of the GOP. Therefore the “Dog Whistle”What miffs me is that Blacks in the Grand Ole Party will not sound off to object to this trash. J.C. Watts did not. Micheal Steele or even Herman Cain. Where is the up and coming GOP star and past NFL Player Len Swan….Not one word in protest! Then GOP Blacks wonder why they can only get 5 to 7 percent of the Black vote in any General Election.

December 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm
(4) Veronica says:

He’s a total j***a**.

December 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm
(5) Echo says:

Aaaaaaaarghh!!! Newt is a social imbecile, and just
proves the republican party to be overrun by racists
and bigots.

Doesn’t ANYone have a SPINE anymore?

There IS one upside, however; Obama is most
certainly going to be President for TWO terms!


January 28, 2012 at 4:06 am
(6) Jeremy says:

Newt and other politicians over simplify things and show they are severely out of touch with both society and reality.

It is not as simple as just going out and getting a job. If everyone who wanted a job could get one-voila problem solved. However, high unemployment, lack of training (or means to pay for it), etc., make it difficult to find the employment that will pull one out of poverty.

In an ideal world all who live in poverty, whether black or white, could get trained/retrained based on their gifts/talents and get decent paying jobs, but in the real world, this is not always possible.

March 13, 2012 at 11:21 am
(7) Bryan says:

It’s a shame that a white man is not allowed to suggest that work ethic and conditioning are key to raising a new generation of workers in America not dependent on entitlements, but if the same message were to be given by lets say Bill Cosby or Barack Obama it would not be put to the microscope. It’s a problem that only people of color are allowed to discuss these issues without being labeled a racist.

If we start listening to white people the way that we listen to people of our own color, and not picking apart their statements, looking for that one gaffe, then change can really start to take place. Sure Gingrich over simplified the issue and he may not have brought attention to the all the barriers faced by poor black youth’s but his core point was not inaccurate, and it should not be dismissed simply because he is white or a republican.

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