Monday, October 17, 2011

Will Herman Cain Be the First Black American President?

Barack Obama is the first African-American President, his father is from Africa and his mother is from America, that much is undisputed. But one recalls the January 2007 pronouncement by Debra J. Dickerson in Salon:

"Obama isn’t black."

"Black," in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can’t be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won’t bother to make the distinction. They’re both "black" as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term.
Against that backdrop, Dick Gregory's Sunday interview with Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain included this exchange:

MR. GREGORY: This is the cover of Newsweek magazine that'll hit stands this week. It is "Yes we Cain!: The Unlikely Rise of the Anti-Obama," talking about you. You've actually talked a bit about race, though, and you've created a contrast between yourself and your experience as an African-American, a term you don't like, by the way.

MR. CAIN: I prefer black American.

MR. GREGORY: Why? Why is that?

MR. CAIN: Because my roots go back through slavery in this country. Yes, they came from Africa, but the roots of my heritage are in the United States of America. So I consider myself a black American.

MR. GREGORY: So you draw some distinction between yourself and your experiences as a black man in America and the experience of President Obama.

MR. CAIN: Absolutely. I came from very humble beginnings. My mother was a maid, my father was a barber and janitor and a chauffeur. We, we had to, we had to learn--do things the old-fashioned way. We had to work for it. I--my parents never saw themselves as a victim, so I didn't learn how to be a victim. I didn't have anything given to me. I had to work very hard in order to be able to go to school and work my way through school. So, plus, my business experience, I have run small businesses. I have actually made pizzas, made hamburgers. I've actually had to do the inventory, clean the parking lot of a business. I've also had to ... (unintelligible) ... businesses.

MR. GREGORY: You're talking about business experience. You actually said President Obama's outside the mainstream. So you're making a different, more of a social cultural background distinction between you and the president.

MR. CAIN: More experiential. Look at his experiences vs. my experiences. It was more at a contrast of experiential differences than anything else.
Now back in 2007 the New York Times followed up the Salon hit piece by schooling Barack on how Obama Can’t Take Black Vote for Granted. Herman Cain is Republican, so he won't need that lesson. Cain says he might get a third of the black vote against Obama, not a lot but certainly more than any recent Republican Presidential candidate. Maybe enough to win the 2012 election.

No comments: