Witch Hunt for the Welfare Queen

During his presidency, Ronald Reagan often used the term “Welfare Queen” to dramatize the misallocation and abuse of government funds by the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.  The “Welfare Queen” stemmed from an expose that reported a woman in the south side of Chicago who conned social programs out of $8,00 by using 2 identities.  By the time Reagan retold the story, it had somehow morphed into a tale of wide-spread abuse of funds that resulted in Welfare Queens collecting upwards of $150,000 by using “eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards” and 4 deceased husbands.  It was Reagan’s iconic and discriminatory representation of African Americans on welfare during the late 70’s and early 80’s. The lazy and poor, too unmotivated to do anything for themselves, taking the hard earned money of the majority.   Meanwhile, a disproportionate number of mental health clinics got shut down and the number of impoverished people without public housing increased in the nation’s Blackest communities.

You lucky I’m skipping Iran Contra and your well-timed mandatory minimum sentencing.


Fast forward 31 years and…

Rick Santorum discusses entitlement reform at a campaign stop in Iowa on January 2nd, 2012:

“I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

Newt Gingrich in South Carolina on January 5th:

“I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

Santorum denies that he said “Black people” and claims that he said “Blah”, not “Black”.

Rick Santorum’s Census form

Gingrich stood his ground during the most recent GOP debate (on Martin Luther King Day) and stated that he did not think his comments were racist.

We already know that the 2012 GOP candidates are overwhelmingly discriminatory, racially insensitive and/or oblivious.  Mitt Romney’s entire religious sect didn’t accept Black people until he was 32 years old.  Ron Paul believes that the Jim Crow laws are “ancient history” and that they would have phased out eventually if the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 hadn’t passed.  He also said he wouldn’t have voted for the Civil Rights Act, because of his libertarian political principles conflicting with its property rights elements. Not to mention his newsletters released from the early 90’s  that printed quotes like,

Racial violence will fill our cities…mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white “haves”

Rick Perry may have read one of those newsletters while hunting at Niggerhead. 

This slighted and narrow view of African Americans has maintained popularity in the Republican Party for decades, and it has maintained popularity with racists in America for hundreds of years.  Somehow, after all that we’ve gone through, after all that we’ve survived, after all that we’ve achieved in spite of the threats on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; Black people are still stigmatized as lazy.  In the eternal words of the Scarecrow from The Wiz

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Havard University published a study entitled “The Welfare Queen Experiment” in which Black and White participants watched newsclips about a lazy welfare recipient named Rhonda.  Separate test groups watched news stories that showed a photo of either a black Rhonda or white Rhonda for a few seconds. Each group was also given a survey to measure attitudes toward race, gender and welfare.  White participants showed a 10% increase in anti-black sentiments when Rhonda was Black and surprisingly, an increase of 12% when Rhonda was White.  This suggests that the Welfare Queen archetype and the distorted view of Black Americans on welfare is well entrenched in the White American psyche.

Left: Welfare recipient. Right: A leech on society’s “job-creators”

The majority of welfare recipients are non-urban and White.  The majority of food stamp recipients have jobs or are children, so comparing paychecks to food stamps makes no sense. When Reagan sought to cut funding to social programs, he did so under the guise of “small government” while his budget balled the fuck out.  Rick Santorum said “Black people”.

They say stereotypes always come from truth, but evidence to the contrary is compounding at every turn.  These relentless attacks against our people cannot be tolerated by anyone of any race.  They are divisive and toxic to the nation as a whole.   And these ignorant remarks are nothing compared to the legislation and policies that feed off of them.  Increase your political engagement, blow the whistle on any racism or bigotry in your government (down to the local police) and continue to demolish stereotypes at every opportunity.

We are real Queens and Kings.  Keep racists out of office in 2012, and we can win.

I am O.K.Kai, and I approve this message

3 Responses to “Witch Hunt for the Welfare Queen”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] let’s see this for what it really is. As my co-blogger OK Kai pointed out a few hours ago, the GOP, and Conservative (White) America as a whole, seems to be bent on vilifying poor Black […]

  2. […] have shown that the “Welfare Queen” story incites racial animosity. O.K. Kai (of the 40 Acres And A Cubicle blog) comments: “The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Havard University published a study […]

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