Herman Cain’s odd views on race

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WASHINGTON — In the 21st century, the black Republican is a rare creature, even when you count those of moderate views such as Colin Powell. Rarer still is the tea-partying, tax-cutting, Obama-dissing black conservative like Herman Cain, who is currently occupying the anybody-but-Mitt chair in the GOP presidential parlor game.

There are sound reasons for the scarcity of black tea-partiers. A fight-the-federal-government philosophy doesn’t appeal to the vast majority of black Americans, who have depended on federal intervention to save them from the tyranny of state law  and the violence of local custom — especially in the Deep South. Furthermore, even a handful of tea-party protestors holding up overtly racist signs — President Obama dressed as a witch-doctor, for example — would be enough to persuade most black voters that the group isn’t serving any tea they’d like to drink.

Still, Cain’s politics have obscured a fundamental truth: His upbringing, his resourcefulness and his self-reliance are common among the black middle-class. His corporate success may be unusual, but the values that propelled him are not.

In his new campaign autobiography, “This Is HermanCain! My Journey to the White House,” the businessman-turned-talk-radio-host noted that his mother, Lenora, worked as a maid while his father, Luther, chauffeured one of Atlanta’s richest businessmen, Robert Woodruff, CEO of Coca-Cola. His dad worked additional jobs, Cain said, in order to buy a house.

Cain’s parents valued education and church attendance. They emphasized self-respect. They expected him to hew the line of respectful and orderly behavior.

Cain has drawn some criticism for the revelation that he avoided the civil rights protests that marked his adolescent and college years; in his autobiography, he suggests that was due to his father’s admonition to “stay out of trouble.”

But that’s hardly surprising in the context of the times, given a movement whose success was hardly pre-ordained.

We rightly honor the heroes, such as Julian Bond and John Lewis, who put their lives on the line to dramatize the ugliness of Jim Crow and force political change. But countless black men and women of Cain’s day chose the safer route, including many black professionals and businessmen who didn’t want to risk their relative comfort by confronting white authority.

In short, there is nothing about Cain’s early years that is rare. I know countless black Americans who were reared in much the same way.

My parents, like Cain’s, taught me to excel at academics, to work hard and to respect authority. They taught me to love my country. And they went out of their way to ensure that the overt racism I encountered didn’t leave me angry or bitter.

That’s important as a counter to Cain’s tiresome echoing and reinforcement of hoary old stereotypes. Apparently, it’s not enough that he absolve rightwing conservatives of racism. He has gone further — trading in ugly prejudices that disparage black Americans.

He has, for example, called black Americans “brainwashed” for their failure to support Republican candidates. He has cozied up to birthers who insist that Obama was not born in this country. And, worse still, he has engaged in some offensive stereotypes about those who are less successful than he.

“People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve,” Cain recently told CNN’s Candy Crowley.

That’s one of the dumbest things I ever heard. Many notable black critics — Bill Cosby comes to mind — have decried the poor choices and bad habits that have exacerbated black poverty. But it takes either spectacular cynicism or sheer idiocy to say the average black high school dropout stopped going to school so he could “use racism as an excuse” for his unemployment.

Quiet as it’s kept, black Americans are more optimistic about the future than white Americans, according to polls. They see racism receding, testimony to the powerful symbolic effect of Obama’s election.

By suggesting otherwise, Cain has not only disrespected the views and beliefs of mainstream black Americans, but he has also offended voters whose support he might have hoped to win. Let’s hope he doesn’t represent the future of black Republicanism.

 

 

Comments

  1. Rafael Daniel says:

    Yes, yes, and yes.

  2. Annette Lee says:

    Excellent post Mrs. Tucker. When you said today that Cain was an ordained minister, I almost fell out of my chair. I address the ‘christian conservative in my book (see website). For Cain to make the comments he has made and act the way he does against black people is incredibly hateful….all for the sake of an election. All I can say is one day he will wish he hadn’t said all the mean and hateful things he has said. He knows better; yet he refused to do better!

  3. Charles says:

    Enjoyed your commentary this morning on MSNBC.

    Great haircut too!

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Johannathan A.Snipes Senior says:

    I am 70 year old Black Man.You may have found in your travels in life and have seen several people
    like Herman Cain .Who reap all of the Rewards without fighting for them .He makes no sense on many
    of the statements he makes.HE BLAMES HIS REASON FOR NOT MARCHING IN CIVAL MARCHES
    ON HIS PARENTS OR SERVING INTHE MILITARY BECAUSE OF HIS PARENTS.HE WANTS ALL OF THE BENEFIT PERSONS DIED FOR AND HIS NOT PARTCIPATING IN THEM ON HIS PARENTS.
    LETS NOT BE CONFUSED AND BEWILDERED BY THIS MAN.THERE IS AN OLD ADAGE WITH
    NAMES THAT I WILL NOT USE.STRAIGHT UP PERSONS KNOW THESE WORDS.

  5. janice says:

    Heard you this a.m. on MSNBC and went to your website to read the article. Always enjoy your insight. Keep up keeping us informed.

  6. edgysf says:

    “Quiet as it’s kept, black Americans are more optimistic about the future than white Americans, according to polls. They see racism receding, testimony to the powerful symbolic effect of Obama’s election.”

    I’m 42, and saw a beautiful sight while on vacation at a nice resort: a white woman tightly hugged a black woman goodbye. Racism is gently receding among our collective conscience, and I do attribute it to having the Obamas in the White House. We undervalue this tremendous benefit of the Obama presidency, but history will not. I think his election sparked the Arab Spring, which in turn sparked Occupy.

    My thoughts lately, however, run from Cain & Obama to another powerful black figure: Clarence Thomas. Did he lie in his confirmation hearings, about sexually harassing Anita Hill? If so, that means a liar was sworn in to uphold law in America. SCOTUS decided the 2000 election, which brought Bush, and his Gilded Age, into office. And SCOTUS also voted in favor of Citizens United, which granted corporations personhood.

    What are your thoughts about Clarence Thomas? It seems to me that his vote is owned by the top 1%. And his is a VERY VALUABLE vote to OWN. Mr. Thomas, it seems, paved the way for Mr. Cain.

    • Andrew S says:

      You are so right about Judge Thomas. He is the same as Ward Connelly and Armstrong Williams and other black republicans who look pass our opppression.

      I dont think all Black Rebulicans and are brains washed. But I do think they have been poked with red hot pokers. How else could you explain their behavior concerning their own kind.

  7. Andrew S says:

    In 1985 I was the first African American who was ever hired by Szbarros Pizza. The manager hired me in secret because the racist district manager was telling her entire staff not to hire blacks. This distirct manager told all her mangers that the Szbarros Corporation does not hire blacks and never will. Time had come when the manager in my area really needed someone badly; and he knew I had experience from another pizza place in town. He said he would hire me while the DM was on vacation and not to answer the phone.

    To make a long story short… My manager quit when she returned. I had been working there for 3 months without her knowledge, so she could not just fire me for cause. She promoted 3 other people to manager who also quit shortly after their promotions. Two of those managers ran off with company money that was due to be deposited. She actually made me the manager just so she could fire me. She thought that because the next to months were a company record that I could never match. Which would make it easy for her to fire me for losing moeny for 2 months straight. Instead of losing money. I broke the company record by $3,900.00. Now she is really pissed, because I emabarassed her by doing a great job. The corporate office was really impressed. My reward was to be demoted to a mall 2 hours away from my house in a mall that was closing. It would take me an entire tank of gas to get there. And at $4.75 per hour. I was unable to continue working for them. She refused to raise my pay by one thin penny, and I was fired because I could not afford to make it to work. The company took my recipes and left me hanging in limbo.

    Yes a black man developed recipes that made Szbarros Resturant Chain some of the best tasting pizza in the country.

    So where does herman Cain into to this story?

    Serveral years later I found out that he was the Black CEO of God Fathers Pizza. I was delighted that he actually accepted my phone call when I contacted him to offer my service to God Father Pizza. I thought i was going to get a sympathetic ear to my situation with Szbarros and maybe offer me a job based on my ability. As I tried to explain to Mr cain about my history with Szbarros, he was very curt and rude with me. Saying that the he knew the Szbarros personally and they would never fire someone based on race. He was basically calling me a lyre, saying they would never do anything like that. I mention that there are no black men or women working for that company before nore since I was hired to work for them. He was very dismissive of me and slammed the phone down in my ear. I called him back and asked him to send someone he knew of good character to try and get a job with the Szbarro Corp, and he again said that it could not be true and said that he could not offer me a job for defaming the Szbarros name. I was floored that another black man would denie the racist in this country existing in such a manner.

    Well the proof in the pudding would be the complaints I made with the Departments of Labor with several states including New Jersey in 2000 or 2002 (not sure of the exact date). I had told them I was the first black man ever hired at Szbarros and that was back in the Mid1980s. Since then I had never seen another. They were more then glad to hire Illegal mexicans though. Not only ws I a victim of the racisim of a rich white lady but denied my day in court because I could not get one of my white coworkers to testify in court for me. In my opinion Mr Cain is not only in complete denial about racism in America; but also may be a self loathing man of color.

    Given all of this I would vote for an ONION before I would vote for Herman Cain. And onions make me sick to my stomach.

    I wish him long life and health but as a leader of this country he is a mistake… and a joke!

  8. Marie Mauldin says:

    Cynthia for President!

  9. Chip Henderson says:

    Ms. Tucker,
    What deserves more attention is conservative Whites’ are response to Mr. Cain: what do they really experience in him that makes him more attractive than Mr. Perry or Dr. Gingrich? Truthful answers to these kinds of questions will provide a better sense of what is the “real deal” with Mr. Cain and conservative Republicans.

  10. Adrian Vance says:

    “Brainwashing” is not an insult. You have to have a brain to wash and it is clear that Negros, the proper anthropological label, were first herded into the Democratic party under threat of bodily harm. That “Democrats have been for the little guy” has not been seen in history. They ruined Negro families with welfare programs that excluded men, they supported abortion agencies with 40% of all black babies when they are only 12% of the population. They have excluded blacks from military service, schools and jobs and unions. Negros are natural conservatives given their anti-homosexual traditions, church membership and “make-do” highly creative abilities. The fastest growing segment of the Republican party is the black percentage as they enter the middle class. Welcome home.

    The Two Minute Conservative at http://adrianvance.blogspot.com has political analysis, science and humor. Now in the top 3% on Kindle.

  11. CYNTHIA sCIRBONA says:

    Thank you for posting these comments on Herman Cain. This man is rude and by having an attitude such as the one he has, he will never be president of this great country. He should take a long hard look of himself before opening his mouth.

  12. As always, enjoyed your appearance on MSNBC. Thought I’d send along the link to my unique take on the Herman Cain candidacy: http://tarotpolitico.blogspot.com/2011/10/could-cain-be-republican-nominee.html

  13. D. Shipman says:

    Very well put, Mrs. Tucker. I can respect a black person being a Republican. We can disagree on politically and that’s fine. Herman Cain, Allen West, and Allen Keys are the worst representations of black republicans. They all have attained a certain level of success and that’s good. But when you put down others in your own race for not being sucessful, or attaining what they have, is ridiculous. I commend them for their success and what not. But instead of kicking your people that comes behind you down, they should reach back and try to help the next generation. In order to be “accepted” by the republican party, they are willing to be the poster children for the republican party’s view of black people. They just let them say what they (the republican party) can’t say without being labled racist. This goes to show, for all the people who thought that we blacks only voted for President Obama because he was black, is not the case. No way in the world would I and I know many other blacks can vote for this man. We are not brainwashed Mr. Cain, but were are here. The republican party and you Sir choose to ignore us altogether. Mr. Cain was in D.C. the same time that the dedication to MLK was going on and he didn’t even bother coming by there. What’s his excuse this time? Look at his places where he gives speeches or what not, do you see something missing in the pictures?

  14. Curtis says:

    Firstly, I’d like to say, as being a loyal viewer of MSNBC’s political programming I’ve seen and heard you address various political issues being dealt with in their programs. No doubt you are a thoughtful and informed contributer as part of current political dialogs. However, I’d like to offer up for consideration that we as black Americans, not continue to allow such dialog to wrap us up and deliever us and our votes to any party or candidate that will not and does not address the historical truths of our current existance and the politics that got us here. Currently, neither Mr. Cain nor President Obama has chosen to do so. Yes, we know such would be considered by most blacks and whites as not politically smart when it comes to maximising ones votes and public appeal. To the point of demonstrating acts of courage, neither has a proven track record. However, history clearly shows nothing has ever been gainned in our social/political quest without leaders who demonstrate that courage. Thus, pandering is what politicians do better.
    Just as each of us is framed by our individual experiences, in many ways given our age, those tend to be vary similar as black Americans. Cain reflects the fears of Jim Crow though via family associations with a rich white, minding his manors was a quintesential value as I’d suspect it was for Mr. Obama who grew up in a white family in Hawaii and being accepted by his Harvard peers. My point is, though both are identifiable, neither truly reflects the soulfully felt experiences of most black Americans. Thus, the only thing we should be dialoging regarding their desires to lead this country is which is willing to muster the courage to fund meaningfully our plans to rebuild our communities as others have funding nation building abroad. Who is willing to address class-war-far for what started as race-war-far that still regards them and us as second class citizens. Both parties are trying to avoid being viewed as race insensitive, so the GOP reach out to Cain to be its black face and the DEMs drafted Obama.

  15. Dwayne Murphy says:

    Cynthia, your article hits the nail on the head. As a 42 year old Black man, I don’t think we have the right to blame others for our choices. However, we still have to face the reality that on some levels the deck is stacked. This is what is being protested by the 99% on Wall Street and around the country. Mr. Cain allows the “extreme” right wing of the party to invert their narrative by propping him up as someone who espouses their values, while at the same time being able to say “See, we’re not racist!!!!” I’m not a fan of the race card in any way, but his outright denial that racist doesn’t exist in this Country is at best misguided….and at worst totally tone deaf.

  16. Black Independent Voter says:

    Interesting article on Mr. Cain, however I think you are missing a few key points. I agree with you that race still is a factor in American life and I do not agree with Mr. Cain’s dismissive attitude on this topic. However, a good deal of the circumstances that afflict African-American’s is self inflicted. Illegal drug use, poor academic performance, alcoholism, and unwed pregnancy that are destroying the Black population are largely the result of poor parenting and bad choices by our people. Nobody forces our people to engage in illegal drug use and trafficking, nor are we being forced to give birth to children out of wedlock (In my Oakland, CA 80% of Black children are born out of wedlock), or abuse alcohol. Education must be a priority in our community and not just a slogan for the politicians and neglectful parents. Why is it that Asian immigrant children who attend the same inner city shools as Blacks excel in all academic matters surpassing all other ethnic groups? It is because their parents take an active interest in their childrens school performance and reward academic performance over other endeavors (such as sports, partying, singing, dancing, etc..) I agree with Cain that education is a crucial factor for success in our Nation.

    The problem is further exacerbated, by the fact that our traditonal civil rights organizations have refused to address these problems in an honest forthright manner. Instead of trying to change the dysfunctional value system that so many of our youth hold, they have sought to redifne the situation as Blacks being victims solely of forces out of our control. In fact there is a lot that we can do to improve our lot. Instead of telling and demanding our children not abuse drugs, the civil rights organizations have encouraged legalizing drugs and reducing penalties, arguing that it is the only way to keep Blacks out of jail. What happen to encouraging and challenging our youth to not abuse drugs and alcohol. The negative impact of Black unwed pregnancy is dismissed by questionable arguments that children can be just as easily raised by single parents or in many cases grandparents.

    It is too easy to dismiss Cain as his supporters as either ignorant or evil doers of injustice. I am sure some (maybe many) of Cain’s supporters are motivated by racism, however there is a lot that we can do to stop inflicting wounds to ourselves.

  17. Jannie Cooper says:

    Cynthia, miss the TV appearance but enjoyed the article. You are always on point with your analysis. Keep up the good work!!

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