Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate who remains a congressman from Wisconsin, went on a conservative radio program Wednesday morning to launch an attack on the work ethic and “culture” of what he called “inner city” men. He was immediately hit with criticism charging that his comments were intended as as a derogatory stereotype of African-Americans.
“My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about ‘inner city’ poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated,” said California House Rep. Barbara Lee. “Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.'”
The Paul Ryan remarks that provoked the criticism came on Wednesday morning’s edition of the radio program Morning in America, hosted by prominent conservative and former Reagan administration education secretary William Bennett.
“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work,” said Ryan on Bennett’s radio broadcast. “And so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”
Paul Ryan’s comment came in response to Bennett’s question, “A boy has to see a man working, doesn’t he?”
In the conversation with Bennett, Ryan cited as support for his comments, the work of Charles Murray of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and author of the book The Bell Curve, which argues that blacks suffer disproportionately from poverty not because of a history of laws, policies and popular beliefs that have restricted the rights and opportunities of African-Americans — but because they are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than white people.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Murray’s ideology as “white nationalist.”
The Paul Ryan comments came about a week after the congressman gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he opposed the free school lunch program for underprivileged children, saying that it produced kids with “a full stomach and an empty soul.”
In response to the comments about the laziness of “inner city” men made by Paul Ryan, Democratic strategist Zerlina Maxwell called the remarks “sickening.”
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) March 12, 2014
Author Will Bunch described interviewing an “inner city” man who is a single father making ends meet by mowing lawns because his main employer, McDonald’s does not give him enough hours.
“Paul Ryan should meet him!” said Bunch.
Just interviewed single dad fast-food worker from “inner city” – mows lawns when McD’s won’t give him enuf hours. Paul Ryan should meet him!
— Will Bunch (@Will_Bunch) March 12, 2014
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore