Anybody who tries to pigeonhole Newt Gingrich politically is bound to be disappointed. The man's political style is all his own and without compare in modern politics. Sometimes this has served him well; other times, not so much.
But in the wake of the killings of five police officers in Dallas on Thursday night, Gingrich just provided perhaps one of the most unexpected Republican commentaries on race and policing -- as well as systemic racism in America today.
"It is more dangerous to be black in America. It's both more dangerous because of the crime, which is the Chicago story," Gingrich said Friday in a Facebook Live event with CNN analyst Van Jones. "But it is more dangerous in that [you are] substantially more likely to be in a situation where police don't respect you and where you could easily get killed. And I think sometimes, for whites, it's difficult to appreciate how real that is. It's an everyday danger."
Gingrich added, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years to get a sense of this. If you are a normal white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America, and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.”
These are sentiments you might expect to hear from the political left -- or even the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded on the idea that black people face additional peril in their encounters with police and that something must be done to change that.
This is not a premise that is readily accepted by members of Gingrich's political party -- or even by white Americans more generally. Washington Post/ABC News and Public Religion Research Institute data show about half of white Americans generally believe blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system.
Similarly, a Post-ABC poll in December 2014 showed 8 in 10 white Republican believed police treat black and white people equally. And a Reason-Rupe poll around the same time put that number for Republicans as a whole at 62 percent.
Gingrich's comments come the same day the man who might choose Gingrich as his running mate, Donald Trump, offered another interesting statement on race and police, labeling the deaths of two black men at the hands of police in Minnesota and Louisiana this week as "senseless." Those killings are the ones that spurred the demonstration in Dallas where the officers were killed Thursday night.
Trump's comments drew a fair amount of questioning from some supporters who felt calling the deaths "senseless" pre-judged the officers' actions. Many of these same people likely wouldn't agree with Gingrich's assessment about race and policing in America either.
My argument is the policies that have driven us apart, the policies that have trapped African-Americans in all too large numbers in poverty and in hopelessness [are] the ideological policies that say, "Black Lives Matter."
Well, baloney! All American lives matter, of all backgrounds. And we ought to challenge the Hillary Clintons and the Bernie Sanderses to say that American lives matter -- all American lives.
We’re in the eighth year of a president who could have brought us together, a president who could have worked in the African-American community to make people feel better about themselves, a president who could have offered visionary changes in the policies that have failed for the last 50 years. And he didn’t do any of that.”