Commentary Magazine


The NY Times’ Invidious Racial Stereotypes

New York Times editorialists, not exactly known for their racial sensitivity, have an especially offensive editorial this morning. The subject of the editorial is Newt Gingrich’s answer to Monday night’s debate question in which Gingrich defended the dignity and work ethic of minorities.

The editors say that “racial resentment” is behind the following statement of Gingrich’s: “The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.” After disputing the word “put” but conceding that Gingrich’s numbers about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were correct, the editors say this: “Non-Hispanic whites also far outnumber blacks receiving SNAP benefits.” That’s right–and this is more than just an example of what our own Max Boot likes to call the Times’ “self-refuting” editorials; it’s an admission that when someone says “food stamps” the Times hears “African-Americans.”

Yesterday, James Taranto noted the significance of the standing ovation Gingrich’s comments on equality received from the audience at the debate:

The people who stood and cheered as the former speaker forcefully defended the freedom of “every American of every background” were mostly white members of today’s Republican Party in the state that started the Civil War and later produced “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman and Strom Thurmond. That it was Martin Luther King Day was lagniappe.

Next to the election of a black president, we’d say that Gingrich’s standing O was the most compelling dramatization of racial progress so far this century. Which isn’t to say that racism has been completely eradicated. It lives on in the minds of liberals who see Bull Connor when they look at Ozzie Nelson.

I agree this does not mean race is no longer an issue on which the country can progress further. Indeed, when someone like Joe Biden can become vice president so soon after he blamed minorities for D.C.’s failing school system, disparaged Indian-Americans as 7-Eleven monopolists, and pronounced Barack Obama to be “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean,” we still have some work to do.

And that work perhaps begins with introducing the Times’ liberal editors to some minorities. After all, the most segregated cities in the country are also in overwhelmingly liberal areas. A trip to the seemingly more tolerant South might help; Biden could meet South Carolina’s Indian-American governor, Nikki Haley, or Louisiana’s Indian-American governor, Bobby Jindal, which would probably help Biden think beyond stereotypes. I’m not sure what would help the Times editors move beyond their offensive stereotypes of black Americans, but a conversation with Newt Gingrich might be a good place for them to start.