(from World News Curator)
This is one of the most difficult topics that I have ever sat down to write about, but I think that it is really important. In modern America, as in most other western democracies, there are some truths which are simply unspeakable. They are ignored, covered up, denied and lied about – all for the very best of reasons, but yet they still exist. Often these facts related to race – an issue which is arguably playing an increasingly large role in the run up to the November election as both side accuse each other of racism or of playing into racial politics. I personally value truth, perhaps above all else, and so I do not think that any truth should be unspeakable, even the ugliest of truths.
The reason I am writing this is because of the media response to Rick Santorum’s recent race gaffe while campaigning for the Iowa causus. Think Progress and CBS report on this story saying that Santorum “singled out blacks as being recipients of assistance through federal benefit programs, telling a mostly-white audience he doesn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.“”
Both report then go on to say that “of the people on food stamps in Iowa, only nine percent are black and 84 percent are white.”. Think progress also points out that “Nationally, 39 percent of welfare recipients are white, 37 percent are black, and 17 percent are Hispanic. So Santorum’s decision to single out black welfare recipients plays right into insulting — and inaccurate — stereotypes of the kind of people some voters might expect to want a “handout.” ”
These statistics are perfectly true, but highly misleading. The percentage of food stamp recipients of each race is not evidence of anything unless it is given in conjunction with the percentage of the population for each race. According to the 2011 census just 3.1% of the population of Iowa is black (including mixed race), and just 13.1% of the national population identified themselves as being black. This means that 3% of the population makes up 9% of food stamp recipient in Iowa, and 13% of the population makes up 37% of recipients nationally. So according to the figures, black people are indeed massively over-represented in the numbers of people claiming food stamps.
Now, I want to be clear about two things before I continue: firstly there may well be good reasons why black people are over-represented in these figures, just as there may well be good reasons why they are over-represented in the prison population. For the purpose of this article I can’t even begin to address the question of the extent to which black crime and black benefit culture are the result of racism against blacks making it more difficult to find work, or the extent to which black people should take responsibility for their own actions and circumstances. Secondly, although I am happy for people to raise this issue and wish it were possible to discuss it openly without everyone running a mile or yelling racist, I do not like the way that Santorum did it.
But I say again that truth is important to me. Truth will set you free, as they say. I do not think that it is helpful to simple exclude certain facts from the public debate, or to lie about them because you wish they weren’t true. That does not help anyone – not the tax payer (black or white), or the poor black families caught in the benefit trap.
No truth should be unspeakable, but yet some truths seem to have become so out of fear of offending people. I don’t think that this is right, I think that these are important issue which need to be addressed for the benefit of everyone – black or white.