This morning I turned on my television to watch Soledad O'Brien's morning show, Starting Point, on CNN. Former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, South Carolina's Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and CNN/TV One's Roland Martin were part of a panel discussing the GOP debates in South Carolina.
During the discussion, O'Brien asked the panel about their thoughts on presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's statement about meeting with the NAACP to discuss helping blacks get jobs instead of food stamps. O'Brien played a clip of Gingrich's comments and asked the panel about Gingrich's use of "racially coded" language.
What ensued was sheer and utter foolishness (read: buffoonery) from Cain and Scott, both of whom essentially said that Gingrich's comments were not racist. In fact, Cain managed to answer the question without even addressing the explicit racism in Gingrich's comments, while Scott suggested that we focus on the great work that Gingrich has done for blacks instead of this one statement. Come again?
Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment, but I keep waiting for Cain or Scott to acknowledge the rampant racism and racist rhetoric that plague the GOP. Luckily I'm not holding my breath, because I would surely pass out waiting for these brothers to stand up for themselves, if not for black Americans.
It is clear that Scott and Cain have attempted to distance themselves from the black community by allowing racist rhetoric in the Republican Party to go unchecked, even when they are in a position to challenge it. After all, they have succeeded in a racially hostile political and social climate that would deter even the most resilient, self-assured political hopeful. But how many times can the two of them defend such racist comments?
Since when does being a member of the GOP mean that you cannot acknowledge that racism exists? If Gingrich is such a great friend to Scott and Cain, then why can't they say that his words were improper? Why can't they defend the NAACP, the shoulders upon which they stand, whose work has allowed them to be fully human and participants in this democracy, even if they choose to use that freedom to present themselves as self-loathing black men who will do or say anything for membership in this exclusive club?
How pitiful is it that two black men would sell out the black community for a chance to rub elbows with people who would not have shaken their hands just a few decades ago? You can be a Republican and acknowledge racism — or can you? How ludicrous is it that these two men have a national platform and fail to acknowledge wrongdoing in a party that will accept them only if they are complicit in perpetuating racist ideology and outright lies about blacks and social services?
Instead of saying that Gingrich should do a better job of driving home the important parts of his platform and not engage in rhetoric that detracts from what he wants to accomplish if he wins the nomination, Cain and Scott stay in Never Never Land, pretending not to notice even when they are under attack by members of their own party. The sheer display of tomfoolery on national television by these two black Republicans, men who should know better and do better, is both sad and maddening.
Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, and this is one of these instances: Cain's and Scott's unwillingness to speak the truth when given the opportunity is a threat to thinking people everywhere. When it comes to these two black Republicans, perhaps Roland Martin said it best in response to O'Brien's question about Gingrich's inflammatory statement: "It is what it is." That is what's truly scary.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., a media scholar, is digital editor in chief at Grady Newsource and a faculty member of the Cox Institute of Journalism, Innovation, Management & Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is founder and editor in chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter here or here.