Blacks to Herman Cain: You're on Your Own
The former candidate isn't an embarrassment to the race, just himself. My, how far we've come.
I've found no one who pays much serious attention to his comments and behavior, certainly no one who has felt embarrassed by them. Cain is on his own to say what he wants and act as he pleases. He does not burden an entire race. He may be straight out of central casting for black exploitation, but that does not bother most of us.
"He's just stupid," a black, politically savvy grandfather in Chattanooga, Tenn., told me. "He knew he had all that baggage in his background before he ran. He is not qualified to be president."
No embarrassment there.
I attribute the change to a general maturing of the African-American community. We all settle down and take life in stride as we grow older. But probably, more significant was the advent of hip-hop and rap, the music and culture beaten into the rest of us by youngsters of the inner cities. Their steady, loud, pounding sounds and harsh words, along with a huge popularity, literally forced the rest of us to take notice and to accept the inescapable barrage of profanity and racist, sexist ranting and raving -- in fact, to look beyond the trappings and see the serious side.
In an op-ed in the New York Times titled, "Amos 'n' Andy in Nikes," with a subhead, "Gangster rappers vs. the rest of us," I noted that E. Franklin Frazier's observation that the black bourgeoisie represented the "manners and morals" of the black community had been undermined by rappers.
Nevertheless, the hard-core softening blows of rap inured us for the coming antics of the Herman Cains of the world. When late-night television hosts and other comedians lampoon him, we know they're after Cain, not us. Most of us knew he was never a viable candidate for the Republican nomination; it seemed everybody but right-wingers was aware of that.
And what did Herman Cain get out of it? A lot of attention to grease his outsize ego, a lot of money from speaking engagements and book sales, and bragging rights to say that not only did he run for president, but for a brief moment, he was actually the leader in his race. But now he'll have to assess, with his family, whether the ride was worth it. The rest of us are not embarrassed one way or the other. Free at last?
Paul Delaney is a frequent contributor to The Root.