Herman Cain: Why His Candidacy is an Insult to Black America

Allow me to share a secret that is often said in black and brown communities. Parents often tell their children that in order to be successful and rise up in America, they must aspire to be better than white people. And when I say better I mean better in every way. Better in intellectual ability, better in style of dress, better in mannerisms, simply better. This edict is told across socioeconomic lines, from the barrios of Los Angeles, to the projects in the Bronx, to the shacks in Alabama. It is a clarion call for black and brown people to strive harder and push themselves further than their white counterparts. Then and only then, it is believed will they ever be able to be on equal footing. This being the case, Herman Cain is an insult to every black and brown parent who has told their children to be better.

During President Obama's rise to the presidency there was a feeling amongst many people, regardless of race, that there was something intrinsically good about his candidacy. Here was a man who had superior intellect, amazing rhetorical genius, a pedigree that allowed him to be one with the brothers in the hood, while at the same time comfortable in a room full of the smartest and most successful minds in the world. Here was a man who clearly listened to his mother and family, who I am sure instilled in him the edict of being better than those around him, regardless of race.

When I look and hear Herman Cain speak I ask myself, where has this country come in the past three years. While I admittedly know very little about Cain's academic pedigree, there is nothing in his presentation that says to me that he is worthy of the highest office in the land. Some of his statements would be laughable if not for the fact that he sincerely believes what he is saying. Not to know the President of Uzbekistan is one thing, but to refer to the country as "Ooze becky becky becky stan stan" is not only disrespectful to that country, but also disrespectful to the office of the Presidency. To not know that China has had nuclear weapons since the 1960's and make the statement that they are now beginning to aquire the means to make said weapons shows a wanton disregard for basic world history. It is as if he revels in his stupidity and lack of knowledge and clear unpreparedness to be on the world stage.

Why does he continue to rise in the polls? I sincerely believe that the Republican party, comprised predominantly by white people have some deep issues that they need answered. Some people say that Cain's rise is a "flavor of the month" move by the GOP who aren't enthralled with any candidate on the ballot. Let's not be so superficial. I believe that the rise of Cain speaks to two angles of the Republican party. There is a clear anti-intellectual movement amongst the base, indicative by the rise of Sarah Palin and now Cain. I believe that there is also a huge racial component when it comes to Cain. Republicans have for too long wanted to court a viable black candidate. By courting a viable black candidate they could then begin to sing the song of inclusion, even though the main musician would be but one face in an overwhelmingly white crowd. Cain plays well to both of those visions.

What Repblicans need to begin to realize is that Cain's candidacy inevitably hurts race relations in the United States. To many people, regardless of racial background, his candidacy is a mockery and a display of minstrelsy in the highest order. Among black circles Cain is referred to as "Uncle Ruckus" the character from Boondocks, not only because he has a striking resemblance to him, but because like the character from the cartoon series, Cain's views are at best comical and at worst are antithetical to the success of people who have long been disenfranchised in this country. Watching his rise (one that continues even though he has been accused of sexual harrassment) tells black and brown people that what our parents told us growing up isn't true. If you flip flop on the truth and show no real gravitas or intellectual capacity to debate and voice your thoughts then maybe some good old conservative person will support you. If you show that you can appeal to the senses of a conservative party that has alienated racial minorities for the past thirty years, then they will say that racism is a thing of the past, essentially ignoring how their own policies have continued to institutionalize it.

I had a visceral reaction to watching Cain sing at the National Press Club in Washington DC this week. At first I wasn't sure what it was that made me bristle and literally get nauseus. It then dawned on me. Watching Cain sing harkens back to the days when blacks, men in particular, had to literally perform for their survival. Minstrel shows were prevalent in the early 1900's and were often the only way that black actors could make a living to support themselves. Replace the venue, time and occassion and I ask you what is the difference between a minstrel show and Cain's candidacy. I guess the curse of Cain is inevitably a curse on all of us.


Anonymous said…
No facts at all in your article. Idiot.
No facts? So did Cain not say ooze becky becky stan stan? Did he not say he didn't know who the president of Uzbekistan is? Did he not say that China was now beginning to acquire nuclear weapons when they have had them since the 1960's. I urge you to tell me what "facts" don't I have. Furthermore this is written as an op-ed piece. Please give me some facts I forgot.

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