Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Win Situations

Juan Williams asked Newt Gingrich in Monday night's debate whether his comment that poor children should be given maintenance jobs in their schools to teach them a work ethic wasn't insensitive to black people. Coming from a man who was justifiably shocked when NPR fired him some months ago for acknowledging his personal unease when Muslims board the same plane he's traveling on, this seemed like a strange question:
Gingrich's response speaks for itself. If Williams thinks it's offensive to suggest that one of the dysfunctions that afflicts communities mired in generational poverty is that they've lost the skills needed to succeed in the workforce then he's delusional.

Meanwhile, Joy Ann Reid a guest on an MSNBC show the other day thought it was offensive for Mitt Romney to give a distressed woman money to pay her electric bill, ostensibly because the recipient of Romney's kindness was black.
In case you haven't the time to watch the video here's the transcript of what Ms. Reid said:
As an African-American woman, it galls me. I don’t even like to watch it. I felt like it plays into every sort of patronizing stereotype of black people. Oh, here’s this little lady, let me give her 50 bucks. I mean, this is the guy who offered a bet of $10,000 on stage, you know, to another candidate, but, you know, here, let me lay off 50 bucks on this woman. And I think it plays into that conservative meme that you don’t need actual programs that the government puts in place to help people in need, we’ll just give them charity. The church will take care of them, I’ll give them 50 bucks.
Apparently we must conclude that at least some black people think it just as patronizing for a white man to give a needy black woman a little help as it is racially insensitive to encourage poor blacks to learn work skills. If Romney had ignored the woman people like Reid would probably have accused him of being hard-hearted, especially toward blacks, but when he helps the woman he's accused him of being condescending.

Of course, it doesn't seem to occur to Ms. Reid that if it's patronizing for a white person to help poor people then all those government programs she admires, programs in which billions of dollars are transferred from white wage earners to black poor people, are surely patronizing to blacks. Perhaps she thinks it's okay if the money is taken from the white man in taxes by the government and then given to the poor, but not okay if it's freely given to the poor in an act of personal compassion.

What exactly is the logic, if any, behind the thinking of either Williams or Reid? Or is logic not even relevant to those who are desperately trying to reinforce the belief that anything whites do or say about blacks is suspicious, whether it appears that way or not?

It's ironic that in trying to show that Gingrich and Romney have ignoble motives lurking in their hearts these commentators actually give the impression that they themselves are petty, cynical, and irrational. Wouldn't it be better if we stopped probing and dissecting people's hearts and simply judge them on the basis of the truth of what they say and the virtue of what they do?