Most observers took President Obama’s comment that the killing of Trayvon Martin hit him particularly hard because “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” as a very normal human reaction.
However, at least one person — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich — found it “disgraceful” and “appalling” that Obama was “trying to turn” the death of the African American teenager “into a racial issue.”
“Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him?” Gingrich asked during an appearance Friday on The Sean Hannity Radio Show.
“That’s just nonsense dividing this country up,” he continued. “When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”
Gingrich amplified his position at a campaign event in Louisiana later in the day, saying, “Every young American is endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we have to, as a movement, the conservative movement, as a party, the Republican Party, has to be concerned about the quality of life and the sanctity of life of every American of every background. This is very, very important. And I think we have to recognize that all too often there are neighborhoods in which young people don’t have a chance to pursue happiness, they don’t have a decent future.”
With these remarks, Gingrich appeared to be attempting to tie Trayvon’s death to the theory of black poverty that he introduced last fall when he suggested that children from poor neighborhoods should be paid to work as school janitors in order to develop a work ethic.
“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works,” Gingrich explained during a December appearance in Iowa. “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.”
It is not yet clear whether Gingrich genuinely regards the gated community where Trayvon was killed as one of those “poor neighborhoods” in which young people have no chance to pursue happiness or if he was merely seizing on the incident to pursue one of his favorite themes.
Photo by Gage Skidmore from Flickr