Commentary by Tonyaa Weatherbee of Black America Web:
WASHINGTON - It’s not surprising that the Tea Party people would embrace a black man like Herman Cain.
The 65-year-old contender for the Republican presidential nomination reminds one of a younger, shaven version of Uncle Remus; the kind of black man whose success story serves as the comforting, de-contextualized tale they need to egg them on in their anti-government, anti-Obama fervor.
Cain is a man whose father, who, according to The Washington Post, worked as a chauffeur for the former head of Coca-Cola and used the stocks that his boss tipped him with to send his son to Morehouse College. Morehouse, as most of us know, is a historically-black college that was created during the segregated times that some Tea Party favorites, such as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, would like to return to.
From there, Cain earned degrees and rose to the top of the corporate world, where he wound up as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza – a chain that he revived and ultimately bought. Along the way, Cain discovered a love for the flat tax and other conservative causes.
Cain is their kind of guy. He’s Tea Party-perfect. He’s Tea Party-perfect because he’s willing to overlook the racism in their movement; he told The Post that any talk of such things was “bull feathers.”
He’s wrong. While all Tea Partiers are not racist, a report released last fall by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights found that virtually every national Tea Party faction had problems with it.
Quite frankly, any movement that attracts a lot of racists needs to check its message.
But the main reason why Cain is Tea Party-perfect isn’t simply because he’s willing to deny the racism within the movement, but because he’s willing to use his story to abet Tea Partiers in their denial about the history and the realities of racism.
Think about it.
One cannot deny the fact that Cain has had a remarkable career. But what one cannot overlook is the fact that his success wasn’t just about him being smart, but about him being fortunate.
His father was fortunate enough to be working for a boss who thought highly of him; who tipped him with stocks instead of cash. His father was then smart enough to use that money to put Cain through school.
But it’s a safe bet that few, if any, black chauffeurs or domestic workers during those days were tipped in that way. Many probably had to fight to simply get a decent wage and to not be called “boy,” or endure white employers taking the privilege of shortening their names from Margaret to Maggie, or William to Bill.
Those are the people who, prior to the civil rights movement and other efforts to battle inequality, struggled to get the money they needed to buy food, much less send their children to college.
And those are the black people who, were it not for the government help that Tea Partiers now despise, wouldn’t have been able to send their children to school if, in 1965, college grants and other financial aid programs had not began to be made available.
That reality, however, seems to escape Cain. As does the reality that any rabid, anti-tax philosophy won’t help most black people.
This is especially true when corporations don’t pay their fair share. Services wind up being slashed for lack of revenue – and most of the time, that means education, health care and other things that can, ideally, help black people and others build on the same aspirations that Cain was able to build on.
It’s too bad that Cain is allowing his tale to be used to shut out the realities of race and poverty in this country. But then again, empathy for that reality isn’t something that’ll earn a black man the admiration of Tea Partiers.
Only acquiescence to their unreality will do that.