Tuesday, January 26, 2010

South Carolina Lt. Governor Compares Poor People to Stray Animals

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is in hot water, after comparing people on government assistance to "feeding stray animals." After receiving an e-mail about the article from a friend in South Carolina (Elliot Millner), I was taken aback, wondering just how far things are going to go before we realize that we still have a race problem in America.

The comments were made during a town hall meeting Friday. Bauer stated that poor parents of children on free or reduced lunch should be required to attend parent-teacher conferences or their children should not be fed. He also made some shocking comments about controlling the reproductive habits of the poor, since he apparently seems to feel that "they don't know any better." Given that Bauer is from the same state as South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson (the one who disgraced the presidency by yelling, "You lie!" during an address by President Barack Obama), I am starting to wonder what breed of politician exists within the fine state of South Carolina.

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed," Bauer said, according to the Greenville News. "You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

Bauer, who is running for governor of South Carolina, stated that the government can't keep giving money away without expecting something in return. He also claims that poor people should lose their benefits if they fail drug tests and that parents should be required to be active in their children's lives.

"There's no way that I was trying to tie animals to people, but what I was trying to talk about is the dependency culture, and just like when you feed an animal, you create a dependency," he said.

South Carolina's Democratic Party chairwoman, Carol Fowler, had a lot to say about Bauer's comments:

"I don't think it should be the lieutenant governor talking at town hall meetings," said Fowler. "None of those parents are listening to that. I guess they'll hear about it when their child's lunch gets cut."

When it comes to South Carolina Lieutenant Andre Bauer, the bottom line is this: 1) Bauer's comments were undeniably and inexcusably sick. I am not sure how a politician can sleep at night, after arguing that the children of his adversaries should go without food. Any politician who believes in cutting the food supply of a child because of the behavior of their parents has no business being in anyone's elected office. While we can all agree that parents should be involved with their children, there is no one standing at Andre Bauer's doorstep comparing him and his kids to animals who should have their "behavior curtailed" by the government.

2) Lt. Gov. Bauer's comments about managing the breeding decisions of the poor were incredibly dangerous. Lt. Governor Bauer's references to the breeding habits of the poor as being similar to that of stray animals implies that he fails to see the humanity in his fellow Americans. Also, his arguments about curtailing the breeding habits of the poor sound dangerously close to advocating genocide. He seems to believe that having wealth implies that you are more human than the person next to you, which might make Bauer the least human of us all.

3) Andre Bauer's words are a reminder of larger problems in our society when it comes to race. No, Lt. Gov Bauer didn't mention black people in his comments, and there are many poor whites in South Carolina. But as a black man who grew up on free and reduced lunch, I can't help but feel that he was talking about me and my mother, who spent a short time on welfare. At the very least, African Americans are disproportionately represented in the category of Americans that Bauer is comparing to stray animals. Adding Bauer's comments to those of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Vice President Joe Biden, Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and Former President Bill Clinton, the resounding theme is that America has a terrible racial problem that it is refusing to acknowledge. It is for that reason we've created the National Conversation on Race.

4) Comments like Bauer's reflect a lack of personal responsibility on the part of the middle and upper class:
For some reason, we feel that poor people have a monopoly on bad parenting. While there are many poor parents who neglect their children, I've seen scores of children from wealthy families being neglected as well. I've also seen divorces, illegitimate children and all kinds of arguably immoral behavior being committed by the middle- and- upper-class across America. The idea that Bauer seems to feel that the behavior of America's poor should be regulated by the government shows that he somehow believes that the rich should not be subject to the same restrictions. While he might argue that reliance on government assistance is a legitimate reason for government-sponsored behavior modification, the truth is that many of America's wealthy bankers and businessmen are highly dependent upon government assistance and corporate welfare as well. In fact, as a politician, Bauer himself gets most of his income from the government.

Lt. Governor Andre Bauer needs to be removed from office for his comments. His words remind us of Nazi Germany, where many felt that the breeding of Jews should be controlled. He is an embarrassment to the state of South Carolina and a disgrace to our nation. I want to see him gone.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition

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