Some African-Americans Upset with How Herman Cain Discusses His Race

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Herman Cain scanned his overwhelmingly white tea party audience, jammed into a hall at a rural fairgrounds, and offered his assessment.

“I see 3,000 patriots here tonight,” he boomed, the crowd leaping to its feet. “I don’t see any racists!”
Cain relishes the opportunity to provoke as a black conservative. The Republican presidential hopeful often volunteers in his speeches that he is not angry at the country that enslaved his great-grandparents. He proclaims that he “left the Democrat plantation a long time ago.” He quips that he is not the GOP’s “flavor of the week” but a tried-and-true flavor, “black walnut.”
Four years after Barack Obama campaigned for president, steering clear of provocative statements about race, Cain has floated to the top of presidential polls doing just the opposite. He jokes about race with irreverence. And he aims his ire not at whites but at blacks he believes have become irrationally attached to the Democratic Party.
His overt references to race come in a political landscape that has changed dramatically since Obama became the nation’s first black president. Cain now ranks at the top of several GOP polls, and in a recent Associated Press poll, more respondents expressed aversion to voting for a Mormon than for an African American.
Throughout his life, Cain has remained connected to his African American roots, attending an all-black college and serving as an associate minister at a prominent African American church in Atlanta, where he also sings gospel music. But race has not played a major role in his political activity. He sat out the civil rights movement and entered politics primarily because of his concern about taxes on business.
Cain’s supporters say they welcome the chance to support a candidate with whom they agree on the issues but who also is black. They cite his rise from the Atlanta projects to the corporate board rooms as exemplifying the conservative ideal of self-reliance.
And his status as a front-runner, they say, rebuts the idea that their dislike of Obama stems from racial antipathy.
“This is 2011. We’re not 1965 anymore,” said Eva Rushton, 52, who is white and was among several hundred supporters attending Cain’s recent speech at the county fairgrounds. “It’s not about race.”
Some African Americans have bristled at his tone, saying he is denigrating his race. Particularly controversial were his statements that many blacks were “brainwashed” into supporting the Democratic Party and that he did not believe that racism in this country still “holds anybody back in a big way.”
“He’s engaging in a very dangerous, irresponsible type of rhetoric,” said Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia state conference of the NAACP. “It’s almost like he feels the need to be accepted in a different class or community, and somehow, by portraying his own race or portraying the poor as a problem, it’s going to advance his cause. I think he’s going to find that that’s not true.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Sandhya Somashekhar

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