Poor Herman Cain. The brother just can’t win. Every time he speaks truth he gets slammed, sometimes from the right and sometimes from the left. It once again proves how hard it is to navigate the rough seas of race in America.
First we have the famous Rick Perry racist rock incident. Perry, Governor of Texas and one-time leader in the GOP Presidential nomination contest, owned a ranch with the N word in its name. ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, among other journalists asked former Godfather Pizza CEO and Presidential contender Herman Cain his thoughts on the matter. Of course in this society we always assume we have the right to ask any black public figure his thoughts on any “black issue”. Cain could have played it cool and deflected somehow but instead he chose to tell the truth. It was a lousy name for the ranch. Herman avoided loaded terms like racist or bigoted and simply said it was highly “insensitive”. Seems to me we can all agree that naming a ranch “N****rhead” is highly insensitive to black folk. (Should upset the sensitivities of decent white folk as well.)
What did Herman get for telling the truth? He got the scorn of several right wing pundits:
You might have anticipated that Perry would face a firestorm for being associated with the property, but it’s Cain whose remarks are drawing the most criticism from the right. At RedState, Erick Erickson concluded, “It also seems to be a slander Herman Cain is picking up and running with as a way to get into second place.” Glenn Reynolds remarked that until now, Cain’s “big appeal is that he’s not just another black race-card-playing politician.” Over at the Daily Caller, Matt Lewis called Cain’s remarks “a cheap shot, and, perhaps a signal that Cain is willing to play the race card against a fellow Republican when it benefits him.”
How stating the obvious concerning an offensive name is “playing the race card” is beyond me. I guess, as a Republican, Herman should have known the best course of action would be to downplay it and given a second chance, that is exactly what he did.
But telling the truth can smack you from the liberal side of the fence also. In a radio interview with Neal Boortz, Herman said that Obama has “never been a part of the black experience in America. I can talk about that. I can talk about what it really meant to be ‘po’ before I was poor. He can’t.” Well, this caused MSNBC host Ed Schultz to have a conniption and he brought on “expert black” Michael Eric Dyson to share the fit with him. They spent the better part of three minutes griping about Cain’s comment but they missed a key point. To some extent Cain was absolutely right.
How many average American black men do you know who were born in Hawaii? How many average black men do you know who grew up partly in Indonesia? How many average black men do you know who spent virtually none of their childhood on mainland America? To say that such a person has had even remotely the same experience as the average black man in America is absurd. In fact, I have always felt that the “exotic” background of Obama made him more palatable in a racially charged country than he would have been if he’d had an American ancestry of slavery. Dyson talks about Obama’s autobiography and how he describes in it “embracing his blackness.” That implies he had a choice. I guarantee Herman Cain had no choice but to embrace his blackness.
The other hilarious aspect to Ed and Michael’s outrage is how they play into a false standard of blackness implied by Cain. Cain says he was “po” before he was “poor”, suggesting that he was once very poor. Ed and Michael go on to suggest that Obama was once poor. First of all, I beg to differ. Even if Obama’s mother had financial difficulty as a single mother, Obama was raised for much of his childhood by his comfortable grandparents. He attended private schools. So painting Obama as the product of poverty is a bit much. But beyond that, why is being poor the measure of the black experience? So a poor black man is more “black” than a comfortable black man? Believe me, a comfortable black man has as much trouble catching a cab in New York City as a poor one does.
But if we get beyond economics, Cain is right on the money. Growing up on the mainland of America in the 50’s and 60’s exposes the average black man to a very different experience than the one Obama had.
So bottom line, poor Herman just can’t win. The truth gets him kicked from both ends of the political spectrum. We’ll see how long he can stay at number one. Will he be the flavor of the month or in his words “Haagen-Dazs Black Walnut” because “it tastes good all the time”?
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia