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Following are the words of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), ardent Obama supporter and a Democrat not afraid to play the race card when it buys ink or air time. Here, she attacks GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich as a racist.
“Let me say that the code words are, as far as I’m concerned words that generate and signify race. You recall, Martin, that comments made by someone other than the president when he was a candidate in 2008, caused him to make a significant speech on race to say “Race is a factor in the United States, but I work and will represent all people.” Here we have Newt Gingrich, taking the opposite road, if you will. It’s I will use race to divide.
“I will call the president the food stamp president, obviously not knowing that food stamps are utilized by our soldiers, utilized by Caucasians in a higher percentage than both African-Americans and Latinos. Food stamps are for people in need. Food stamps are for children.
“But, these code words are dividing us – telling us that a janitor who makes $37,000 a year would be in a better position to give his job up so that the children of the poor in New York, I think he used the example, the school district predominantly Latino and African-American can pick up a broom and work. So, we know that those children and children from other places as well, should have an opportunity to be an astronaut, mathematician, a scientist – and absolutely, we’re not against work. These children want work. They’re fighting for summer jobs. But, that is a code word to, if you will, portray poor children and poor school districts that they have seen no one work legitimately; that they don’t have a work ethic and these janitors are overpaid unionized workers who don’t have family and not making $37,000 a year.
“I think Mr. Newt Gingrich should be ashamed of himself and we should not want to win at any cost. Let’s bring the country together. Let’s not destroy Mr. Obama. Let’s talk about helping the American people.”[i]
Of course, there is always more than one way to look at words, actions, and intentions. The filter used by Congresswoman Jackson Lee is incorrect, an obstacle to lasting solutions and still another useless racial trigger. She points out that “food stamps are…utilized by Caucasians in a higher percentage than both African-Americans and Latinos…” This is true on its face, but represents a very selective manipulation of statistics – one that serves nobody. It would be more productive for Jackson Lee to base her words and actions on reality, rather than racial defensiveness. The general population of the United States, according to the U.S. Census, is broken down in part, as follows: White non Hispanic, 63.7%; Black, 12.6%; Latino, 16.3%.[ii] In terms of reliance on Food Stamps however, a 2005 study revealed that among rural recipients, 53% were white non Hispanic and 27% black. Among urban recipients, 34% were white non Hispanic and 35% black.[iii] This means two things: First, as a percentage of food stamp recipients, whites comprise the majority of rural recipients and only one percent less than blacks as urban recipients. In this respect, Jackson Lee is 100% correct. Unfortunately, this would suggest the need to apportion the bulk of our dedicated financial and other resources at programs that would assist white food stamp recipients in becoming less reliant on government assistance – a very wasteful approach, when the same statistics are properly interpreted.
The second thing these statistics tell us then, is this: As they relate to their percentage of representation in the overall population, whites are underrepresented as Food Stamp recipients, by nearly 11% (rural), or 30% (urban), while blacks – based on their participation in the overall population – are over represented as food stamp recipients by 214% and 278%, respectively. Ignoring, or defensively manipulating these statistics for political correctness, or racial defensiveness does not help blacks out of this difficult problem.
Additionally, Rep. Jackson Lee ignores the fact that Gingrich’s own daughter worked as a janitor during her teens – making his comments very unlikely to have been racially motivated. Nobody wins with this type of rhetoric – a style of choice for Democrats since Obama became President.
[i] Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), (Jan 20, 2012), interview with MSNBC’s Martin Bashir, GOP wants new Congressional session to be a referendum on Obama, retrieved January 21, 2012 from http://video.msnbc.msn.com/msnbc-live-with-bashir/46075255#46075255
[ii] U.S. Census Bureau State and County Quick Facts, U.S. Census Bureau web-site, retrieved January 22, 2012 from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html
[iii] Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, (2005), referenced in article by Noel Sheppard, (May 15, 2011), NewsBusters web-site, David Gregory Accuses Gingrich of Racism for Calling Obama a ‘Food Stamp President’, retrieved January 22, 2012 from http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2011/05/15/david-gregory-accuses-gingrich-being-racist-calling-obama-food-stamp-
- Obama’s Food Stamp Presidency (commentarymagazine.com)
- Food Stamp Republicans (cato-at-liberty.org)
- Conservatives Should Not Call All People on Food Stamps Moochers (thelonestarwatchdog.com)