At the most recent debate, Gingrich’s comments on the poor black work ethic were brought up. If you missed that, he 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.
How lovely, no? Anyways, when questioned about whether he thought this was downright insulting to poor black Americans, he respond that he absolutely did not.
What’s his suggestion? Well, because they have no role models that actually go to work, their parents must just sit around watching their big-screen TVs and and get welfare checks to fund their drug and drinking problem, the children should go to work! As janitors! In their own schools!
Yes, that makes perfect sense, put children to work for money. It will show them from a young age what a job actually entails, put money in their pockets legally, and give them a sense of pride in their school. Child labor laws? Who needs them? In Newts words, ‘…for the price of one janitor in New York, we can hire 37 kids!’
Wonderful idea Newt, really top-notch. Afterall, black people should demand jobs, not food stamps.
Annnnnnnd…then reality hits.
The idea of the “welfare queen” was created by Ronald Reagan (also known as Emperor Reagan to the conservative party). Does it exist? Maybe. Is it the majority? No.
It is an uncomfortable thought that hard work and walking the straight and narrow in life will no longer pull you up the socio-economic ladder in this country. It is easier to assume that people on food stamps and getting welfare checks are simply bums that are too lazy to work. Not that they already have a job, or two, or three, and still can’t make ends meet or can’t find work.
The truth of the matter is that most poor people work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. If not, all of my students’ parents would be at home all the time, instead of at home for a few hours a day in between their jobs. At the age of 16, my students are not excited to get their drivers license like most kids in this country, they are excited to be able to get a job and contribute to their family’s income, or have income of their own (though most start working at much younger ages).
To say that poor kids have no one to look up to that works except for drug dealers and gang bangers just illustrates how out of touch the conservative movement, and specifically Gingrich, is with reality.
What do my students see? They see their parents work a few jobs very hard, come home tired, with worn health, make a minimal amount of money, with very little left over in the end. Most do not turn to selling drugs or other illegal activities, but some do…they see easy money, and go for it, and it’s unfortunate. But that’s the anomaly, not the norm. The idea that it is the norm is rooted in racial prejudice, fear, and ignorance that festers with the words of people like Newt Gingrich.
Just by virtue of being born poor, you should not have your childhood taken away by being forced to work as a janitor in your own school. School should be a place where students can learn to aspire for bigger and brighter things, more than working class job in the ghetto they grew up in. We have child labor laws for a reason.