Commentary: Et Tu, Rick?

With his recent statements about African Americans and welfare, Rick Santorum joins fellow GOP candidates in playing the race card.

Posted: 01/06/2012 07:00 AM EST

Another Republican presidential candidate has developed a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease. This time the culprit is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who drew fire from the African-American community when he said, “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”


Santorum’s comments were condemned by the NAACP’s CEO, Benjamin Todd Jealous, who called Santorum’s remarks “outrageous.” According to the NAACP, the senator’s  remarks erroneously imply that all the people on welfare are Black, when the majority of the people on federal assistance programs are white. In Iowa, Whites are 84% of the population on welfare according to statistics. Santorum claims that he was misunderstood. He says the word he used was “blah” instead of the word “Black.” But after listening to the videotape several times I find that extremely hard to believe.


The major reason I don’t believe Santorum misspoke is because this isn’t the first time he’s said some really insensible things. He has long history of making insensitive and, at times, outright false statements about African-Americans and poor people in general. 


For example, in a statement on Fox News defending Newt Gingrich’s position on food stamps, Santorum claimed that under the Bush Administration, “poverty among African-Americans and among single unmarried women, poverty was at the lowest rate ever in the history of this country.” The truth is, under Bush’s watch, poverty rose by 21.1%. So what is Santorum’s plan to help “poor, low skilled, unmarried women” i.e. poor Black women get out of poverty? On page 36 of his book It Takes a Family, they certainly don’t include helping them get a college education. According to Santorum, “the notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.


If you ask me, what’s really wrong is how easily people like Santorum and Gingrich can make statements that insult minorities and poor people alike and still be considered viable candidates by a major political party.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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