A Mormon and a Black Man Lead GOP Pack

Are Romney and Cain destroying stereotypes by showing diversity within groups?

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Herman Cain and Mitt Romney (The Daily Caller/Associated Press)

In a piece for Slate reflecting on the news that every poll shows a Mormon (Mitt Romney) and a black man (Herman Cain) as front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination, William Saletan says the candidates and reactions to them communicate an important message: It's not that we are all alike, but rather that there are huge differences within the groups that Americans tend to stereotype.

He argues that the public criticism of Cain by the likes of Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Boyce Watkins and Harry Belafonte shows that all of these individuals think differently, and thereby "debunks the black monolith."

Similarly, he says the lesson of Romney's differences with Huntsman is that not all Mormons think alike, and suggests that these public examples can make us "more discriminating, not between races or religions, but within them."

Hopefully Saletan is right. But if it takes a presidential candidate from each marginalized group to communicate the message that not all who identify with a particular race or religion are the same, destroying stereotypes in this country is going to be a process that extends way beyond 2012.

Read more at Slate.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM