Charles Herndon is a People's Board member from West Oak Lane.
As I watch the Republican primaries, I've paid special attention to the rise of Herman Cain. Cain's story should be about hope and success. As an African-American Republican, he should be speaking about what the "party of Lincoln" can do, will do or has done for today's African-American.
It wouldn't be easy, and I'm sure he's not naive. He has to be aware that speaking out about combating problems in the African-American community would cause him to sink like a stone in the primaries. But that doesn't justify what he's doing instead, which is allowing himself to be used by Tea Party-dominated Republicans as evidence that they're not racist. "See! We like Herman Cain, and he's black!"
My issue with Cain is not that he's saying things to get elected - all politicians do that. My issue is that in doing so, he's saying things that are offensive to many African-Americans. A few examples that I personally find troubling.
* "I left the Democratic plantation long ago." This implies that those African-Americans who still vote Democrat are somehow "slaves" and that we don't know any better. Well, I've voted for Democrats and I certainly don't consider myself a "slave." In fact, I find the suggestion beyond offensive.
* "Racism in this country today doesn't hold anybody back in a big way." Cain feels, because he made it as an African-American man, that racism is not an issue for others. A recent Pew Research Center study found that white families now have 20 times the median wealth of black families, as the Daily News reported a few weeks ago. I'm confident that the effects of racism have something to do with this.
* "Most of the people that are criticizing the Tea Parties . . . about having a racist element, they have never been to a Tea Party rally." This is a blatant attempt to win Tea Party favor, and that's fine, but to deny the obvious racial overtones at many of the Tea Party rallies will not win any votes from the people he calls "brainwashed." Signs at Tea Party rallies have included "Trade Obama back to Kenya" and "Obama: Half-Breed Muslin [sic]."
There is a derogatory term that was used to describe African-Americans who felt it was not prudent to get involved in the civil-rights movement, or who abandon their race for personal advantage. I will not use that term. But I will say that African-Americans have and will always have individual opinions on politics, and to say that we are "brainwashed" in any sense is not a way to get open-minded individuals to vote for you.