Were Gingrich’s Food Stamp Comments Racially Insensitive?

The NAACP has already slammed Newt Gingrich’s comments as going “right to the heart of real racism – that African Americans are lazy and don’t want to work and depend entirely on handouts.” But Gingrich maintains that his words are being distorted by the media. See for yourself; here’s what the candidate said while stumping in New Hampshire yesterday:

“And so I’m prepared if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps,” Gingrich said earlier today in Plymouth, N.H.

First, it needs to be pointed out that the majority of Americans on food stamps are white, though black people do participate disproportionately in the program. Gingrich seems to be arguing this is because it’s culturally acceptable to receive government benefits in the African American community. Many would counter that a growing cultural acceptance of food stamps can be found among all low-income groups, regardless of race.

But wherever you stand, it’s more than a little presumptuous for Gingrich to say he’s going to go explain to the black community why they “should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps” at the NAACP conference. It’s not just tone-deaf, it’s astoundingly condescending.

Probably the most irritating part of Gingrich’s comments is the fact that he’s so concerned with Americans collecting food stamps (a problem that shouldn’t be diminished), but has no qualms about Midwestern farmers taking in ethanol subsidies. How can he steadfastly defend one government benefit, while decrying another? It’s hypocrisy at its worst, and Gingrich shouldn’t be given a pass on it.