Matt Lauer: [Newt Gingrich] made some controversial comments lately about the poor and jobs. I'll play them for you and get your reaction.
Gingrich on tape: "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."
ML: Maureen Dowd in the Times on Sunday has he not heard of the working poor? The problem isn't that these kids aren't working, it's that they don't have time with their parents who often toil day and night at more than one job and earn next to nothing. Do you think Newt Gingrich mischaracterized what's happening?
Donald Trump: No, it may not be politically correct but it's the truth. one of the reasons he's surging is because he says it like it is. i like Maureen Dowd very much but in terms of what newt said, that's the way it is. he's looking at the inner city where Obama has done nothing, he has done nothing for the inner cities and he wants to do something to get them going.
ML: But the children in those inner city areas really have no role models who work?
DT: Well, I think you have a role model in president Obama. let Obama be the role model.
ML: In their own families, though?
DT: It hasn't turned out to be much of a role model. no, they don't have in many cases role models, matt, it's very sad. they do not have role models. so i know it's not a popular statement, but it happens to be true.
From an interview of Donald Trump by Matt Lauer on the Today Show.
In defending his fellow neanderthal, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump asserted and then repeated the extravagantly racist charge that there are no role models for "urban" kids. Now, exactly what he meant by that may be difficult to ascertain. Largely because Trump a) has always been about self-promotion and, b) is absurdly stupid.
There are many, many reasons why Trump and Gingrich are wrong here. And for most of those reasons, they will not garner the vote or respect of most mainstream Republicans, let alone moderates. In that sense, they and their words are irrelevant. In other ways, in the very fact that they are not active nor directly affecting poor and minority communities, and that they lie - they are ripped of power. And please feel free to rip into those in the comments section. But I wanted to focus on two larger lessons to be garnered here. Two ways in which the establishment and mainstream America disrespect poor, Latino, and especially African American people.
First, there is the myth of the monolith . One possible explanation for Trump's disgusting diatribe is that he may be referring to the lack of a singular, national leader. A Moses or MLK. Though I'm sure Trump and his associates would prefer such a leader to toe the line and keep the rabble and chattel in their place. Considered in this light, he is correct. Not right, but technically correct.
There is no ONE leader. There never was one leader. Sometimes, as in the early-mid sixties, there's a large consensus that one voice carries the weight for#. But even then, it's horribly condescending to assume that an entire people group consisting of tens of millions of people can possibly be on the same page - or worse, corralled like cattle.
Trump's not alone in this assertion, though. Even otherwise respectable media pundits - the mainstream news outlets - constantly assume that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton speak for all black Americans.
But nobody ever asks who all the white people follow.
And they shouldn't.
Because it's a ####ing ridiculous concept.
The second take-away from this too-close encounter of the stupid kind is that White folks have learned through generations of White Supremacist indoctrination (note: whether or not we're aware that we do this, and whether or not we're attempting to be malicious, we do tend to do this) to open our** mouths and judge entire people groups we know next-to-nothing about.
We do this time and again. And whether or not we say this stuff out-loud, the majority of White Americans have some pretty questionable and ignorant ideas about other race and ethnic groups.
Haitians? Yeah, why don't they have their sh+t together?
Blacks are always being pulled over because they keep doing illegal and/or questionable stuff.
Mexicans are rapists.
Muslims hate Americans and want to blow us up.
These are some of the more blatant lies that White Americans may believe about non-Whites. But then there's the more subtle, systematic lies. The ones where we ignore the fact that Black males are imprisoned roughly 18 times more for carrying small amounts of marijuana than white counterparts - even though marijuana usage is the same across the board. Or the almost innate and unconscious need we have to hold our possessions closer when we see a black male approaching. Or the gross segregation of Chicago and Detroit...
What Trump either doesn't know or won't admit is that he and his land baron brethren are largely responsible for the continued poverty of underrepresented minorities. So if he wants to start pointing fingers of blame, he can start with himself.
Relatedly, poverty is violence. So when entire people groups are marginalized and explicitly denied access to jobs, adequate health care, political power, economic power - when the options seem to largely focus on using violence as a way of escaping the bludgeoning violence that is directed at them, then it seems obvious that a disproportionate amount of poor and disenfranchised youth will choose a method of violence•. Although it is not impossible to escape the jaws of violence when you are living and dealing and surrounded by violence, it takes extraordinary measures to not succumb. Those who live in despairing poverty and have yet to give up ARE leaders, ARE heroes, ARE worthy of commendation.
What Gingrich, Trump, and hosts of less-racist white folks may not realize is that the black and Latino communities have plenty of strong leaders. I'm privileged to know a few of them, some of whom were instrumental in my development. Men and women ion my life like Eddie, Myrna, Shirley, Tito, Phil, Amy, Juanita, Darnell, Gerald, Marque, Antoine, Felicia. Strong, beautiful parents and educators and youth workers and community leaders. People that I look up to because they are so good at what they do, and who they are. And they are fearless.
These courageous men and women don't need false accolades from the likes of Trump. But it would be nice if wealthier white folks would stop judging the rest of us based on their own false criteria.
*I include myself as a member of the White working class through my father and a member of a broader Latino identity through my maternal grandmother as well as my community background.
#Though any blanket study of history shows that not all black people agreed on even simple tactics at the same time. King and the non-violent method were widely derided amongst African Americans even at the height of their popularity both from the by-any-means-necessary militants and by a much more typical keep-your-head-down (the approach that even Herman Cain acknowledged he followed).
**See what I did there? Although I come from, acknowledge, and am deeply grateful for my working class and mixed family background, I also recognize my White privilege and proper college education. And, also, penis.
•This trajectory towards violence is not inescapable, of course, but the odds are stacked against it. But don't get confused, the cause is poverty, the effect is violence.