Explaining Herman Cain
“I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way,” he told CNN recently. Had he contended too many African Americans use racism as an excuse for failure to succeed and even failure to try, Cain would have gotten no grief from me; I’ve made that argument often.
But what he said was that racism is no longer a factor. He surely warmed the hearts of his conservative fellow travelers who swear blacks have the same opportunity to succeed as whites if they’d only get off their lazy so-and-sos and do it.
It is a claim spectacularly at odds with reality, given that African-American unemployment runs twice that of whites, given that the Agriculture Department admits to systematically discriminating against black farmers, given documentation of a “justice” system engaged in the mass incarceration of young black men.
But what made the claim truly bizarre is that two days later, Cain branded himself a victim of racism. Specifically, he said some black people are “racist” because they disagree with his politics. So blacks aren’t held back by racism, but Cain is?
One of the least-discussed impacts of the black experience in America is its emotional toll. African Americans were psychologically maimed by this country, the expression of which can still be seen in the visceral self-loathing that afflicts too many.
Meaning the black child who equates doing well in school with “acting white.” Meaning the famous black man who bleaches his skin. Meaning the famous black woman who rationalizes her use of a certain soul-killing racial epithet. Meaning Herman Cain.
In his diminution of African-American struggle, he comes across as a man profoundly at odds with the skin he’s in. He seems embarrassed he’s black.
For what it’s worth, I suspect black folks aren’t real happy about it, either.