A couple of weeks ago I made a [Facebook] comment on a friend’s post, equating Cain to Steppin Fetchit. I was told it was out of line to call him that. Every story I see about Cain proves that I was right in line.
A NYT piece, “Behind Cain’s Humor, a Question of Seriousness,” pretty delicately addresses one of the major issues I have with Cain’s approach to his burgeoning white constituency. While people may dismiss Mr. Cain’s candidacy, there’s more going on politically than meets the eye. Mr. Godfather Pizza is hardly part of the working class, but the down-home show he puts on in public, to be charitable, is offensive (my emphasis):
[W]hile his casual style of racially inflected humor works to ingratiate him with mostly white audiences at campaign rallies, it has angered some black critics, who believe he uses age-old stereotypes.
He has no qualms, for instance, about playing off black clichés: should he become president, his Secret Service codename should be “Cornbread,” he wrote in his memoir, “This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House.” Mr. Cain’s traveling aide, Nathan Naidu, already refers to him as Cornbread on the internal campaign schedule. (Why? Mr. Cain says he just loves cornbread.)
Those kinds of comments have drawn criticism from the likes of academics like Cornel West and entertainers like Harry Belafonte, who called Mr. Cain “a bad apple.”
Of particular concern, some say, is how he seems to make a parody of black vernacular and culture.
“It makes the hair on my neck stand up,” said Ulli K. Ryder, a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. “The larger issue that a lot of people have, and I certainly have, is that he uses a certain kind of minstrelsy to play to white audiences. Referencing negative stereotypes in order to get heard to a white audience in the 21st century is really a problem.”
I’m waiting for the fried chicken, watermelon references and a tap-dance performance by Mr. Cain. I need not remind my gentle readers that our country still has a serious problem with race, particularly when it comes to discussing it openly and honestly.
Take “shucky ducky.”
“It’s a nonsensical thing, down-home Southern black vernacular,” Ms. Ryder said. “It’s coded as a black vernacular and it’s uneducated black vernacular, so I find it really interesting that he would reference that, seeing as he is not that.”
Exactly — Cain’s “Non-threatening, down-home Negro” act is to make socially conservative white voters feel more comfortable voting for him, I get it – everyone does, but says little about it. The fact that in the 2011 GOP a black man has to pander in a way that harkens back to “the good old days” of slavery, sharecropping and Jim Crow is sad.
What’s even more appalling (or hilarious, based on your POV) is Cain doesn’t think the President is “authentically black” either, saying he’s “never been a part of the black experience in America.” However, in terms of appropriating a notion of “black culture” (as if it is monolithic), Obama isn’t off the hook either. When he puts on his faux pastor persona in front of black church groups and the Congressional Black Caucus, trying to speechify, it’s equally offensive.
Perhaps there is progress in the the GOP, since Georgia native Cain said the other day “I like my guns and Bible. Ain’t gonna give ’em up!” A black man in 2011 can own and use a gun. In related Cain news, it’s nice to see that he likes rubbing shoulders with stone-cold bigots:
It was great meeting with Sheriff Joe Arpaio today in Arizona!
Given his joke about the electrified fence on the Mexico border, this is no surprise. When Cain went on Piers Morgan’s show, he alluded to a weird, quasi-pro take on abortion rights (that won’t sit well with his target audience), and said this about homosexuality.
Morgan and Cain also had a spirited exchange about homosexuality in which Cain said, “I think it’s a sin because of my biblical beliefs,” and said he believed sexual orientation is a choice. Incredulous, Morgan asked, “You genuinely believe millions of Americans wake up in their late teens, normally, and go, ‘You know what? I quite fancy being a homosexual?’ You don’t believe that, do you?”
“Piers,” Cain responded, “you haven’t given me any evidence to consider otherwise.”
I’m pretty sure that this view is in alignment with some of The GOP Base, but Cain’s retro view isn’t held by most of America at this point. Bonus points for clinging to that ridiculous POV.
But back to race. I’ll never understand Herman Cain and his relationship to the GOP establishment; like former puppet Michael Steele, they don’t see (or don’t care) how rancid race-based politics in the Republican party has become. It’s been quite bold since the election of Barack Obama. My long view is that we do need more minorities (and LGBTs) in the GOP because without decent representation, there’s no incentive for the GOP to woo those demographics, which are currently beholden to the Democratic Party. That said, the Republican leadership has made its bed with the fundamentalists and nativist know-nothings, making Cain and other black Republicans curious cases that border on self-loathing.
[N]early half the voters who cast ballots at a historically black college in Columbia lack state-issued photo identification and could face problems voting in next year’s presidential election, according to the analysis of precinct-level data provided by the state Election Commission.
The U.S. Justice Department has been reviewing the law for months under the federal Voting Rights Act. South Carolina’s photo identification law requires people to show a South Carolina driver’s license or identification card, a military ID or passport when they vote. Without those forms of identification, they can still cast a provisional ballot or vote absentee.
The analysis shows that among the state’s 2,134 precincts there are 10 precincts where nearly all of the law’s affect falls on nonwhite voters who don’t have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a total of 1,977 voters.
…State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said numbers show how bad the law is.“This is electoral genocide,” Harpootlian said. “This is disenfranchising huge groups of people who don’t have the money to go get an ID card.”
The response from South Carolina Republicans? Take Wesley Donehue, Political Strategist for the South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus, who said “Nice! @jimdavenport_ap proves EXACTLY why we need Voter ID in SC.http://bit.ly/opHq0l.”
As South Carolina is a critical state in the GOP primary trail, surely Herman Cain needs to be asked about Voter ID and its impact on poor people of color, particularly since he brings up his own early life in poverty on the campaign trail. Will the mainstream media do more than laugh and dismiss the Cain Minstrel Show antics and challenge him on issues like this?