That Thing about Newt
Newt is presidential history. My “relationship” with Newt should be history, too. One self-appointed librarian of the academic multiracial movement has posted the following comments—made by academic self-appointed experts—on a blog:
“A couple of not-very-thoughtful activists (Charles Byrd and Susan Graham) have been co-opted by the Gingrichian right (to be fair, one must point out that most multiracialists are on the left).”
“But the mixed-race activists didn’t care—they went on to argue (unsuccessfully) for their cause and even struck alliances with Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, whose ten steps for better race relations in the U.S. included adding a multiracial category to the census and doing away with affirmative action.”
“Newt Gingrich endorsed adding a multiracial category not only as a step toward overcoming racial division but also as an effort to get rid of race categories altogether. Gingrich’s push toward ultimate color blindness has gained many allies in the 1980s and 1990s who have wanted to deracialize American law and culture…”
“The demand that multiracial children be recognized as partly white did not come from blacks. Nor is it surprising that Susan Graham, a major advocate for the multiracial category on the United States Census found an ally in Newt Gingrich, who opined that such a category might ‘be an important step toward transcending racial division.’ The enthusiasm for such alternative classifications leads skeptics to believe that this system of reclassification and the rhetoric of transcendence will make it easy to ignore the reality and the structure of racism.”
Wow. I’ve made mistakes at least once or twice, but I never was misguided. I’m much too stubborn to be misled. When I started Project RACE in 1990 near Atlanta, Georgia, Newt Gingrich was my Congressman. I never voted for him, but he got me as his constituent by virtue of the fact that he won that election. From our first Project RACE meeting, we decided on the “bubble up” theory, which meant we would start in our own backyards—our schools, hospitals, etc, and bubble up to the counties, then the states, then the federal government. We knew that it would be naïve to think anyone could waltz into the United States Census Bureau and demand they change racial classifications.
With the help of an array of wonderful advisors who literally taught me how to be an advocate and how to transverse the political system, we got to the point where we were going to Washington. Who the heck do you call when you need support in Washington? Yes, you call your Congressional Representative. So I called Newt Gingrich’s District office and asked for an appointment. I was told that it might be “awhile.” It was two years. When we finally met and I was able to hand my growing support list to Congressman Gingrich, he liked the idea of multiracial people not having to choose only one racial category. He pledged to help all he could in Washington. That’s it. Newt did not “co-opt” me, we never talked about affirmative action, and I know that he would rather have no racial categories at all, but from where I stand, that sounds pretty good; it would put a lot of Washington demographers out of work and they would have layoffs at the Census Bureau, and I could retire and write my book. The way I see it, it’s all good with the exception of medical race-based data.
Sometimes it’s funny how the academics make things up. One said I had a photo of Newt Gingrich and myself in my living room. Huh? It never existed. Another one is the current darling of the academic group and the only thing he ever did was write one letter in 1993—not that it changed anything. He’s just not that powerful, he merely thinks he is.
Meanwhile, Congressman Gingrich became Speaker of the House of Representatives, and if you don’t know how powerful that position is, you need to go back to school. You should also know that constituent is the magic word. The rest is a long story about what it is to be an advocate, an activist, and someone who continues to change things for the better and even after 22 years does not just play a librarian on the Internet.