The attacks on Herman Cain that I’ve encountered in recent weeks have gone from dumb to outrageous. I’m not speaking of any substantive complaint, for example, that his 9/9/9 flat tax plan may be simplistic or that Cain took two opposing positions on abortion in the same interview. A longtime businessman, he is admittedly a political novice, who has been stumbling as he advances into the limelight. And even his smiley countenance and charming demeanor cannot make up in the long run for uninterrupted gaffes and evidence of knowing exceedingly little about international relations. I say this as a fan but as someone who sees Herman’s frailties.
What are maddening however are the assaults on Cain that have come from black celebrities. Harry Belafonte and Morgan Freeman, who are leftwing activists, have questioned whether this Republican candidate is really black. In contrast to the half-black Obama, who grew up in a white family in Hawaii, Cain, who looks like an African black and grew up in a poor family in segregated Georgia, is somehow making false racial claims. Despite the fact that he went to a black college, Morehouse, and preaches in a black Baptist church, Cain is dissembling when he describes himself as black.
In a sense his critics are correct. Cain is not black, if one defines that classification ideologically and associates it, like Freeman, Belafonte, and the Congressional Black Caucus, with the politically correct Left. Similarly Michele Bachmann is not a woman; indeed like Sarah Palin, the media are free to insult her gender identity because she’s not for abortion and gay rights, attitudes that determine who is or is not a woman. From a recent TV special I learned that it’s only by insulting a woman with the appropriate leftist social positions, like Nancy Pelosi, that one is liable to the charge of “sexism.” One is apparently free to go after women, blacks, or any other group that we’re supposed to reach out to politically if they fail to think like Freeman or former House Speaker Pelosi. The double standard is that blatant.
The invocation of race or gender is used by the social Left to appeal to the misled consciences of an electorate that is conditioned to feel guilty. We are urged to overcome the legacy of prejudice that weighs down on our souls by voting for members of historically disadvantaged groups. But we’re certainly not encouraged to vote for any random member of these groups, but only for those who are truly what they’re supposed to be and who demonstrate this identity by being politically correct. Otherwise they are race- or gender-traitors whom it is our duty to shun.
Perhaps the dumbest attack on Cain that I’ve seen is by Hispanic Republican syndicated columnist Mary Sanchez, who is tired of Cain’s “sunny pep talk.” This cheeriness has led him into saying “that he refuses to consider himself as a victim of racism.” His focus on career “has blinded him to the way in which it [racism] did harm others—and the ways that impact is still entrenched today.” Sanchez is particularly bothered that Cain’s autobiographical narrative does not indicate activism during the civil rights revolution and that instead of demonstrating, he followed his father’s advice to “stay out of trouble.” His father, contrary to the widespread belief that he was a poor chauffeur, according to Sanchez, went around greasing the skids for young Herman. Indeed “his father’s connections landed him a non-manual labor job in a laboratory during college.”
Apparently Cain didn’t measure up to the courageous activism of Michelle Obama’s father, a Chicago ward politician, or his street-organizing son-in-law, both of whom reaped the rewards of the civil rights revolution without endangering themselves. In what way was Cain, whose parents barely made it above above the poverty line and went to a black college on a scholarship to study mathematics, a less exemplary black than the affirmative action couple now in the White House? Unlike Obama, Cain was not lucky enough to have been picked as a poster boy for liberal university administrators or, like Michelle, to have a senior thesis on white racism written at Princeton singled out by the media. Unlike Obama he spent his college years doing differential calculus.
Does Sanchez really believe that Cain’s supposedly well-connected father was wrong to exhort his bright son to study rather than demonstrate? Which is more useful to our society and its black minority, spawning more street demonstrators (there was no dearth of them even in the 1960s) or producing more educated mathematicians and resourceful entrepreneurs? The black community needs more people like Herman Cain. It is sinking under the weight of lifetime political activists. If it continues to wail with Sanchez about the “entrenched impact” of racism, (God save us from this mixed metaphor!) it will not be doing itself a favor.