This post was published to elmsprogressivemedia at 3:25:01 PM 1/22/2012An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich From thePastors of Poor ChildrenMr. Gingrich,For this you still owe our children an apology:"Some of the things they could do is work in a library, work in the front office, some of themfrankly could be janitorial; what if they clean up the bathrooms, what if they mopped the floors,what if in the summer they repainted the school; what if in the process they were actuallylearning to work, learning to earn money; if they had their own money, they didnt have tobecome a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer. [If] they had the dignity of work and learned howto be around adults who actually wanted to mentor them and help them. This is not a casualcomment... It grows out of a lot of thinking over many years of trying to figure out how do webreak out people trapped in poverty who have no work habits." -- GingrichWe, the students and faculty of the Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute of theAME Church, representing over 34 congregations and their constituents throughout Delawareand southern Pennsylvania are outraged at your continued demeaning of poor children and theirfamilies.As a candidate vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, to suggest that poor childrencollectively lack a work ethic and drive for legal and productive work is entirely classist. Yournational platform is no place for such irresponsible remarks. Our children deserve better thanyour degrading rhetoric.In fact, they deserve an apology, and we -- their pastors and advocates -- demand one.Mr. Gingrich, what your remarks have demonstrated is a failure to acknowledge the resilience ofmany who work daily and yet are unable to escape poverty. For many, low wages, a pooreconomy, and sparse full time employment opportunities have landed many families into thecategory of what the U.S. Department of Labor & Labor Statistics call the working poor.Contrary to what your remarks propagate, a significant number of children in households belowthe American poverty line (and those one paycheck away from it) are in homes with workingfamily members; many of them are in our congregations weekly and are active citizens.Mr. Gingrich, not only did you get the "cause" of poverty wrong, but your "solution" is just asunsubstantiated and offensive. Mandating that poor children become the janitors of their ownfailing public schools to better their work ethic is not a well thought out, viable, or realisticsolution. Such a proposal is not only insulting, it is ridiculous.
Where would the currently employed janitors work (obviously this is a back handed assault onunion employees)? If poor children are to benefit from extracurricular employment, why not atleast provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opportunities to increasetheir competitiveness in the global marketplace? Why not invest in education reform instead ofcutting back early education/head start programs? Why not put forth solutions to theunemployment crisis in our nation, so that those who have the dignity, but not the work, can havean opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their children?But, no -- instead you fan the flames of prejudice to get votes. With a move right out of LeeAtwaters Southern Strategy play book (i.e., "Welfare Mothers" = Lazy Blacks), you havemanaged to stir the xenophobia and racist fears of your far right republican base with thestatement:"Ive been talking about the importance of work, particularly as it relates to people who are inareas where there is public housing, et cetera, where there are relatively few people that go towork." (Emphasis added)Mr. Gingrich, the poverty of many poor minority children is the byproduct of systemic injusticesthat bar them from participation in the American Dream because of their racial and sociallocation -- not laziness.We understand that you are of the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" camp, but the last timewe checked Mr. Gingrich, it is impossible to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, and evenmore difficult when you have no boots to begin with.Consequently, as pastors and leaders of the poor and their children, we are called to championthose without the boots of opportunity, fair play, and justice. For us not to mandate an apologyfor such biased, erroneous and offensive remarks would be as irresponsible as the remarksthemselves. Today, Mr. Gingrich, we extend to you the opportunity to recant your "war on poorchildren" rhetoric and the opportunity to apologize to our children for speaking such falsehoodsover their lives.Awaiting your response,Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial InstituteThe Rev. Dr. Janet J. Sturdivant, Dean of Ministerial InstituteThe Rev. Silvester S. Beaman, Chairman of Board of ExaminersSis. Joi Orr, M.Div, Organizer & Institute StudentFollow Joi Ruth Orr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joi_orr