Just a few days ago I wrote a blog post exclaiming how I thought that regardless of Herman Cain’s views or side of the aisle, I thought he was good for the political process and a symbol for Black progress that showed that we could make it even in the most hostile of fields on hard work. I thought he was fairly uninformed, backwards and ultimately unimportant in this election, but symbolically relevant to the Black struggle.
Boy, was I wrong.
In light of a recent rash of what I consider to be some of the stupidest statements I’ve ever heard that have been uttered by Cain, I have to recant any semblance of endorsement or adulation for the man. I’m not in the least proud of him, even in some sense of Black solidarity, and I wish that he hadn’t ever even considered going to my Alma mater. He’s compared himself to Moses and implied that God endorsed his campaign and told him to run, all the while making perhaps the most idiotic statements about foreign policy possible (it’s probably not a good idea to seriously offend a key counter-terrorism ally that we provide hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to). He’s argued that poor people and the people involved in Occupy Wall St movements have nobody to blame but themselves and should be mad at themselves for their plight. And what I think is most egregious and ludicrous is that he has minimized the role of Civil Rights in his and other black folks’ progress in the US. I’m starting to think that his campaign will actually be more damaging to Blacks as a whole than any campaign from a white candidate. Crazy, it was all good just a week ago for me.
I’m not one to question Cain’s or anyone’s Blackness. I figure that we are judged enough from the outside about how “Black” we are. I for one think that Lawrence O’Donnell’s criticismof Cain for not actively participating in the Civil Rights (and implicitly bashing ALL blacks who didn’t) was insensitive and wrong. We can’t be a part of every cause and to expect a teenage Herman Cain to recognize the gravitas of the Civil Rights Student Movement and act as an activist who could have endangered his own safety and future by participating is intellectually reckless. But his lack of compassion for the elements of struggle that clearly defined his life and his use of race as a weapon to endear whites rather than challenge them to think a different way puts him in a category far different from that of people like Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, who I can somewhat respect as (different) voices from a similar struggle. His words ring more true to me to those of Uncle Ruckus than of a guy running for President, and it seems at this point that he is almost a joke candidate running on a squarely “anti-black Black guy” ticket. And sadly, with our national love for this false notion of color-blindness and strange sense of symmetry in selecting candidates, he could very easily end up on the Republican 2012 ticket. These are harsh words, but I’m seeing his campaign as more and more of a Minstrel Show…a source of entertainment for the Conservative base and its openly racist fringe elements. Among his true supporters, he is at best a tool to challenge Obama, bring in Black voters, and possibly serve as a placeholder for the next great white hope. The saddest thing about this is that I’m pretty sure Cain knows all of this and tailors his campaign more and more to take advantage of it. I can’t respect that.
Cain is trying to make us believe that he is some sort of 2012 Booker T. Washington candidate. And I call bullshit. Washington, despite what I think were heavy-handed and unnecessary supplicative moves to shore up power and money from rich whites, had a plan for Blacks. He recognized the problems and the struggle and tried his best to solve them. He acknowledged that Black folks’ problems were a heartache that was not of their own doing, but tried to instill a code solely based on personal accountability and progress to move ourselves along without asking for help from whites that may never come. I think he was about half right, and his sentiments actually weren’t too uncommon (you’ll find much more of Washington than DuBois in Malcolm X and company’s “by any means” mantras and in Garveyism). Cain is not this. At times he has ranged from denying injustice and inequality exist to placing both the burden and the blame of injustice squarely on the shoulders of the disadvantaged. He has no plan to help people of lower means aside from telling them to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, even if they have no shoes. He seems to hate the disadvantaged, or at the very least doesn’t care about them, and as such he necessarily hates or ignores most of his history and culture. Don’t let him sell some sense of self-hate disguised as color-obliviousness. I fell for that, but he knows what he’s doing.