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African-American Congressman: Listen to Newt on Racial Empathy

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich leaves a closed-door meeting with Donald Trump in Washington on March 21, 2016. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

A member of the Congressional Black Caucus said people who aren’t African-American should listen to Newt Gingrich’s take on race relations in trying to understand the Black Lives Matter protests.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told CBS this morning “we are at a very critical moment in this country’s history, and with what is going on with people — everybody’s upset and concerned, but I think we need to try to do what Newt Gingrich said he’s been trying to do.”

“That is, he said as a white man, he tries to put himself in — and he said it’s very difficult — in the place of African-Americans, and African-American men like me. I’m 65 years old, I know what it feels like to, every time you get in your car, to worry about being arrested by the police. Even now as a congressman,” Cummings said.

“But at the same time, on the other hand, people seem to think that when one asks for accountability, transparency and good policing, does that mean that they are not very sympathetic and very concerned and upset when police officers die and are ambushed the way these officers were — or any harm that comes to them,” he added.

“And I think it’s a matter of mutual respect. And you know, one of the things — as I was leaving to come to this interview this morning, one of the guys in my neighborhood, I live in the inner city of Baltimore. And a guy said, Mr. Cummings, tell me something, when that boy, Dylann Roof, down there in South Carolina killed those people at the church, they went in and got him a burger at Burger King, but yet, still, the men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, died.”

Gingrich told Newsmax TV that “clearly, a lot of people who are involved in Black Lives Matter are just citizens who are trying to say to the country how worried they are, because that’s the other story.”

“Just before the shootings of the Dallas policemen, you had two examples of … innocent people being killed by the police.”

The former House speaker went on to stress that “both problems have to be addressed — it’s not one or the other.”

Gingrich further emphasized that it’s hard for “normal, white” Americans to understand the “level of discrimination” faced by blacks. He gave as an example former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) being pulled over for what turned out to be no offense.

“I know Harvard, Yale, Princeton graduates making $500,000 a year who are black, who tell their children: ‘If you get involved in any kind of situation involving the police, be very careful. Do not in any way stand up to them. Do not in any way antagonize them — because you are at risk,'” Gingrich said. “I don’t know of any white parents who say that because it wouldn’t even occur to us that it’s a threat.”

Cummings said “we have to look at both sides of this and try to put ourselves in the place of the other, and I think that — people just assume that you’re going to go to one corner or go to another and then you start talking past each other.”

“…There’s absolutely nothing wrong with peaceful demonstrations, but I am not going to sit here and beat up on the Black Lives Matter young people, because all they want is what our Constitution has guaranteed them. And they simply want respect of the police. And, by the way, there are a lot of great police, and I — so I want to be — make that clear.”

The congressmen advised that police department look at their de-escalation training and recruitment practices. “I talk to police officers every day and they tell you that there are people on the force that they know shouldn’t be on the force… going back to what Newt Gingrich said, there are a lot of people who have biases and don’t even know they have biases on our forces.”