African American Atlanta-native and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain, has announced his candidacy for the highest office in the land in 2012. Cain is not just the Republican candidate (as if there’s really that much of a difference between the parties)–he is the Tea Party Candidate. *GASP*
I’ll give you all a few moments to collect yourselves…
Much like Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks character, Uncle Ruckus, Cain has an interestingly “optimistic” take on his ancestors’ oppression that sings the cliche tune of a politician attempting to demonstrate how his patriotism qualifies him to lead.
As I watched Cain pose with Tea Party members in his campaign video (you should YouTube it) and proudly claim that those who thought that the Tea Party was a racist organization were wrong (as his candidacy proves, of course), I was reminded of a funny story…
At the beginning of this school year, some friends and I attended Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream Rally” at the site of the upcoming King Memorial in D. C. The rally took place on the same day that Glenn Beck (I believe) was holding a rally of his own on The National Mall, which is en route to the King Memorial. On the way to the Sharpton Rally, my friends and I got lost amongst the Tea Party.
The entire experience was extremely surreal. It is one thing to see them on television and another thing to be right in the midst of them in their red “Take Our Country Back” t-shirts, colonial outfits, and anti-Obama signs. Until that moment, I could just shake my head or change the channel whenever I saw them on the news. After that, they became real to me.
I didn’t really feel threatened or frightened as much as I was surprised and saddened, yet intrigued. My friends were really interested in talking to them about their views and they even got into some philosophical debates with them. I just snapped pictures and listened. (Blame it on the inner journalist in me and the fact that I don’t believe in arguing with crazy.)
The opinions of the Tea Party members didn’t really shock or anger me as much as the sight of the African Americans in their ranks. I imagine that it would’ve been akin to seeing black Ku Klux Klan members. You have your “why, brother, why?” moment and then thank God for your own enlightenment.
As we kept walking, we encountered several more members who thought we had come to join them and were extremely happy to see us. One lady in particular kept saying things like, “See, they’re always calling us racist. We’re not racist. We’re glad that you’re here!” So, of course, we did what any inquisitive young intellectuals would do in that situation–played along so they’d keep talking long enough for us to be entertained and educated–and then kept it moving to our real destination.
The problem with racism that keeps and most likely will continue to keep the problem from being solved is that everyone has his or her own definition of what it is. Cain, like those members of the Tea Party that day, and like many other people in this country, seems to think it simply has to do with color. Thus, his logic is, I’m black and I’m a member of this Party, so if they don’t have a problem with me than they don’t have a problem with blacks in general.
That’s the same logic that says, “well, our President is black and we elected him so that means that the problem of race relations in this country is over because if he can make it, then you can too.” One does not automatically translate to the other.
I’ve also considered Cain’s motivation for running against President Obama. The poet in me cannot escape the irony of him being named Cain. Does he want to challenge his “brother?” Here’s a better question: Why does he want to be a Tea Party token?
That’s the other problem with racism. Everyone is afraid to confront it. The Sociology minor in me says that because we know that race is a social construct, the issue is much deeper than the amount of melanin that some people have in comparison to others. It’s an issue of culture and everything that that encompasses. It’s an issue of worldview. It’s why few people can and do say exactly what is on their minds in mixed company without being ostracized, labeled, or judged. (Think of the discussions between and among the different ethnic groups in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.)
Still, some people seem to not be able to understand or to acknowledge these distinctions. They think that finding another black candidate will dupe black voters away from Barack Obama. Better yet, they think it will give the non-black “open-minded” staunch Obama supporters from 2008 another option with the same ” racially progressive” appeal.
With the candidacy of Herman Cain, Tea Party members are saying “Look, we’ve got one too!” and thinking that we’re not going to be able to/want to tell the difference. Such a suggestion is both idiotic and condescending. Are we really that easy?
*Huey sigh* Maybe…