The news about Ron Paul’s racism reminds me how many American politicians — if they have been around since the 1980s or 1990s — have such racial skeletons in their political closets. Even when they don’t reach the level of explicit racism of some of Ron Paul’s old newsletters.
Back then, poverty, crime and welfare — when paired with reference to “cities,” the “underclass” or single mothers — were all racial code regularly used to motivate Whites to oppose government support for the poor and bolster the policy of mass incarceration. With the fall in crime rates and the dismantling of welfare — and the rise of Latino immigration as a substitute boogeyman — the tone has changed and these issues have lost some of their racial salience.
Paul’s newsletter, in reaction to the Los Angeles riots of 1992, joked, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks,” according to the Weekly Standard.
I fear there will be welfare riots in the big cities. Massive unemployment. The destruction of wealth. The erosion of personal liberties. Vicious economic controls. The exaltation of envy.
And so on: From welfare riots to government repression (see “jack-booted government thugs“), via “the exaltation of envy” (which I guess refers to poor people coming after the middle class).
Racism is one thing, but the political racism of that period — that directed against Blacks — focused on crime, violence and welfare, so much that these issues became racial issues. Ruth Sidel argued that, in the post-Cold War 1990s, poor single mothers — especially Black single mothers — shouldered much of the load of the American right’s apocalyptic tendencies.
Now, as Newt Gingrich has joined the congregation of people attempting to share the righteous limelight exposing Paul’s racism, it reminded me of a quote from Gingrich I’ve been using for years in my Family and Stratification courses, from 1995:
No civilization can survive for long with 12-year-olds having babies, 15-year-olds killing one another, 17-year-olds dying AIDS, and 18-year-olds getting diplomas they can’t read.
That was part of a series of columns published in various places, as adapted excerpts from his book To Renew America. (Here it is in the Gainesville Sun, August 6, 1995.)
In the same column, Gingrich wrote that, “our civilization is decaying, with an underclass of poverty and violence growing in our midst.” He didn’t say, “Poor Blacks pose an existential threat to White America,” but he might as well have.