The politics of racism through the English language: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his idiocy

By George Ploss

Newt Gingrich never apologized. The former speaker of the house made a comment during a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women, that, bilingual education, referring to Spanish, was “the language of living in the ghetto.”

He was trying to make the point that in his words “The American people believe English should be the official language of the government … We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people will learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in the ghetto.”

So to note, according to Newt, the language of prosperity is English, the language of living in the ghetto is Spanish. It is also important to know that Newt Gingrich is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

After his comment received negative media coverage, Newt (such an apropos name by the way), put out a bilingual video on stating that he “made comments that produced a bad feeling within the Latino community…” and that “the words he chose to express himself were not the best.”

Despite an actual apology, which I think subtly he is either suggesting that he thinks he’s right or he doesn’t want to look weak to conservative voters, or both, he made something very clear. Newt Gingrich is a racist.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

I know, it’s hard to believe, he takes pictures with black people and he worked for the government, but he tried to rally support amongst his base using throwback language that was loaded with imperialistic discourse.

It’s obvious that English is the language of our country, and I believe in its proper usage for education and communication and that it should be the official language of the United States.

However, what’s really at the heart of the matter is people actually think that Spanish-speaking immigrants take away from our American identity and that English is the language of civilization.

The White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant dominant Western worldview is under attack by people who want to have street signs and ballots in English and Spanish. Speaking Spanish attacks the dominant structure of racial hegemony that exists today because it empowers and is spoken by mostly brown and black people. It’s an aspect of maintaining your ethnic identity which is viewed as esoteric, un-American and in some cases primitive.

“It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aero planes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes,” said George Orwell is his essay “Politics and the English Language” in 1946. Newt believes the “civilized” world speaks English.

People such as Newt use language as a form of oppression not by reiterating the proper way to use it, but by attaching a negative stigma to those citizens and non-citizens who speak it on an everyday basis. It makes them bad because they are different because they are not assimilating into our “melting pot” of tolerance.

The irony is that this country was founded by immigration.

As the leader(s) of the free world, I say that oh so sarcastically, shouldn’t we be promoting bilingual education the same way we promote globalization?

The politics of language is so powerful that it can be directly linked back to slavery and the atrocities that slave owners committed onto slaves when speaking in their native tongue.

Controlling language is a form of oppression because it attaches negative stigma to those who speak to a non-English language. I say that because I want it to be clear that racism through language is an American pastime and although I support everyone in this country learning proper English (as do most immigrants), the rhetoric that the Newt uses sheds light on his character as a man and as a representative of his political base. He never apologized because he believes he’s right.

Newt Gingrich is a racist and his comments confirmed his racism. I hope it mobilizes his base because overt racism would be such a relief. One Love.