Some folks say I have mellowed with age. If that means I
tend to wade through all the smoke to find the source of the fire, then
they are right.
By that definition, Newt Gingrich seems to have
mellowed as well, particularly when he doesn't have to pander to a
political base to win a seat in government.
Tuesday evening on CNN
I heard words come out of Gingrich's mouth that startled me. And
evidently I was not alone in my surprise.
A panel on AC 360
"Race and Justice in America" town hall meeting was discussing the
aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon
Martin. Mark Garagos, former attorney for Michael Jackson, said racial
inequities are prevalent in our judicial system.
"It starts not
when you get to court, it starts when you get arrested," Garagos said.
"Where are, who are the people who are being profiled by police? Who are
the people being pulled over by police? Race infects everything in the
criminal justice system."
That wasn't news. Black people have
always known that. And those white people who bother to look closer at
the evidence know it, too.
Then Cooper called on Gingrich, who
wasn't sitting with the panel on stage but appeared on camera. "Do you
believe, Speaker Gingrich, that what Mark Geragos is saying is true,
that race infects everything in the criminal justice system?" Cooper
What happened next not only shocked me, but also the audience in the studio and Cooper himself.
think race has an enormous impact on decision after decision," Gingrich
said, with nary a gun pointed at his head. "I think you almost have to
be blind to America to not realize that we still have very, very deep
elements that go all the way back to slavery and segregation and then go
all the way back to fundamental differences in neighborhoods and in
Cooper's face never cracked. My jaw, on the other hand, had dropped to my chest.
I think it would be very healthy for the country and for the Congress
to re-evaluate both the criminal justice part up through the court,"
Gingrich said, "but also to re-evaluate the whole way we've dealt with
prison and the way in which we have basically created graduate schools
for criminality, and locking people up in ways that are increasing their
inability to function in society."
Cooper, try as he might, couldn't hold back.
"I think a lot of people are, like, wow, who are you?" Cooper said to Gingrich. The audience applauded.
I'd like to know who he is, too.
this the same Gingrich who, while vying for the Republican presidential
nomination last year, suggested poor inner-city kids serve as school
janitors to build their work ethic?
Isn't he the same man who
told black people we should demand a paycheck instead of food stamps
from President Barack Obama, making it appear that most of us receive
that government assistance? According to U.S. Census Bureau, however,
blacks represent about 28 percent of the households that receive food
stamps, while 59 percent are white.
Who, indeed, is he? And when did he mellow?
went on to say something has to be done about the sharp rise in gang
membership, as well, up some 40 percent since 2009. Gang members in
Chicago outnumber police officers 10 to 1, he said. We as a country have
to address that as well.
But wait, there's more.
One panelist had complained that stand-your-ground laws had, in a sense, taken "our humanity away, our civility away."
agreed. "I think the word civility is a great word," he said. "And it
was really important to bring into this conversation. How do we restore
civility at every level, from schools to malls to walking late at night,
to seeing each other as genuine neighbors?"
He wasn't talking
about the Zimmerman and Martin case. He was talking about lessening the
chances of there being another Zimmerman and Martin. Gingrich was saying
we all need to find a way to get along.
It took my breath away.
someone as conservative as Gingrich can recognize this country still
has a lot of work to do to mend our broken race relations, then I'm not
understanding why we are moving so slowly to make the repairs.
would have expected those words from Sen. John McCain who recently
gained a black daughter-in-law, and who refused to use tired old racist
tactics against Obama during his fight for the presidency.
those words would be reasonable flowing from the tongue of Speaker of
the House John Boehner who recently gained a black son-in-law. Dinner
table conversations have been known to change minds.
Both men now
have a vested interest in changing the racial climate of not only the
criminal justice system, but also how ordinary citizens who carry guns
perceive black people, especially black youth, who are not criminals.
But Gingrich? Who knew?
do think this is a profound moment," Gingrich concluded on the show.
"Whether we can grow it into one that brings us together, or it just
becomes another excuse to yell at each other, I don't think we know
I chastised Gingrich for his inane comments about poor black people, so I've got to give him kudos for these reasoned thoughts.
Who knows? Maybe both of us are mellowing.
Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.