Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 11
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

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Editor’s Pick
MARCH 15, 2011 3:14PM

Herman Cain Plays the Banjo for White Conservatives (Again)

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Sometimes they make it all too easy...

Once more, Herman Cain proves true my observation that Black Conservatives are indeed the garbage pail kids of American politics. Like an expert at Three-card Monte or a proverbial "race pimp," Herman Cain expertly dealt from the bottom of the "race card" deck during a fund raising appearance before Republicans in Nashua, New Hampshire. There, Cain explained that white people should not have buyer's remorse over the election of Barack Obama, America's first black President. Instead, Cain suggested that (white) voters should realize that:

"...there are some people who will say, 'I'm not going to vote for another black guy because this one didn't work out.'
"And my response is, 'Well, what about those 43 white guys you put in there? How did they work out?' "Don't condemn me because the first black one was bad."

The levels of hypocrisy demonstrated by Cain and his supporters in this moment are so glaring as to almost not merit comment for they are so utterly obvious. Presumably, Conservatives are colorblind. Yet, race is central--as it was in his minstrelesque CPAC speech several weeks ago--to Cain's performance. Again, Herman Cain suggests that he is "one of the good ones." Ultimately, Herman Cain is not like "those other blacks over there."

For a political ideology that ostensibly embraces individualism and rejects the politics of group identity, grievance, and victimology, it is ironic then that Cain has to signal that he is a different type of black man from President Barack Obama. That Cain needed to explain to a Republican audience that black folks are individuals, and not a nameless, faceless, horde of negritude that all walk lockstep like zombies is frightening to say the least--and a damning indictment of those that Cain would call political allies.

This is a twist on the trope where a white person slurs people of color in mass and then says to his or her "black friend" that no offense is meant because they are "a special one." Black Conservatives are garbage pail kids precisely because they smile with glee and acceptance as they are being patted on the head because of their status as "exceptional negroes." What Cain does not understand is that he is currying favor with a public which has demonstrated time and time again that they look upon black Americans with what can most politely be called racial resentment and hostility, and in the worst cases, naked bigotry.

The evidence that the New Right and the faux populist reactionaries of the contemporary Republican Party are awash in an ether of racial animus is legion. From the signs at Tea Party rallies where the President is cast as a monkey or a witch doctor, to racist emails sent by prominent Republicans, to a refusal by Republican Party leadership to condemn the xenophobic and obnoxious birthers, and a support for the Jim and Jane Crow tinged States' Rights movement, race is certainly central to popular Conservatism.

The above proposition becomes "check and mate" when public opinion data from sources as varied as the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, the Pew Research Center, and the University of Washington all indicate that the Tea Party GOP is racially homogeneous, more likely to believe that black people are not hard working and are less intelligent than whites, that too much is made of "racial discrimination," and that white people are oppressed in America.

As a rebuttal to the charge of racism, Cain and other Black conservatives provide a smokescreen where they exonerate and protect White conservatives from any charge of racism in their hearts, deeds, spirits, or acts--despite the decades of evidence to the contrary. The Conservative pundit classes and the Right-wing rage machine will respond predictably: these facts are red herrings and distractions because the opposition to President Obama is based purely on differences of principle and policy, and never upon race.

This is a false dichotomy. The almost apoplectic hostility to President Obama by the Right is rooted in how the symbolic power of having a person of color as President is an existential upset to the White Conservative Soul. Their rage at Obama is inspired both by race and policy. They hate President Obama because he is a Democrat. And moreover, they doubly reject President Obama because as a black man he had the unmitigated gall to run for the presidency...and to win.

Black Conservatives are vexing in this regard because they deny the role which they play in contemporary Conservatism's race-baiting politics. For example, the Michael Steeles of the world play the buffoons and toadies who will bring the "fried chicken" and "potato salad". While the Juan Williams clique play the attack dogs who bare their teeth and attack "racists" at NPR and in the "liberal media" at large. And Herman Cain plays the loving apologist and embodiment of White conservative fantasies.

Herman Cain ended his trip to Nashua, New Hampshire by telling a story about how in the darkest hours of Jim Crow, he (then a high school student and ranked second in his class) was denied admission to the University of Georgia because of his race. Rather than embrace "bitterness" or "rage," Cain explained how "rather than get mad or lose faith in America...That experience inspired me to continue and believe in those beliefs that my parents instilled in my brother and I.”

I will not judge the many individual paths that people took to victory in the Black Freedom Struggle. Nor, will I comment about how there were some souls who played the free rider while others struggled,  died, and faced unimaginable hardship while working to perfect American democracy for all. But I do find it curious that Herman Cain, rather than be enraged at the forces of political and social conservatism that denied him the full fruits of American citizenship, now chooses to lay in bed with them.

As opposed to expressing rage at racial injustice, Cain and others of his clan choose to express anger and consternation toward black and brown folk who are not Republicans--the ancestors and heirs to a struggle that won contemporary Black Conservatives their freedom--who they describe as still being on "the Democratic Plantation" or as "slave catchers" that run down "free thinking" black people. Once more, this is a tragic play on the stage of American life where in an oddly racialized version of Stockholm Syndrome, Cain and other Black Conservatives play the quislings to their White Conservative masters.

Denied a blues sensibility and sense of linked fate with other people of color, black garbage pail kids Black Conservatives will keep tap dancing to this tune because it is one of the few songs they know by heart. As the 2012 election approaches, they will continue to do so ever more enthusiastically.

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politics, obama, tea party, race

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Sounds like a reverse Oreo to me.
Where do they find these Lawn Jockeys?

Do they cook them in a Meth lab in Chatsworth?
This is a very smart, very well developed post.

I'm a white guy but I've been saying something similar for a long time. If racism is not factored into understanding Obama's "approach" to politics, right down to the level of temper (the conciliator) you simply don't know much about the American voter. The Republican party is basically becoming the front man for American's racists, legitimatizing them.

How a guy like Cain or Steele justify their positions are a mystery unless I compute personal ambition (i.e. Powell and Rice) or some psychological mechanism that forces them to bond with their oppressor.

The abandonment of Obama by faux liberals is easier to understand in this context. They don't see it, so they don't realize it's happening in front of their very eyes, and one even wonders at this point if they're going to wake up before the right takes over again in the next presidential. Obama has more brains than all of them put together, but the question is whether brains is going to be enough.

Rated, befriended, and commented upon with an abiding sense of agreement. (Be wary, my friend, the hotheads don't agree and will bang you for upsetting their ideological agenda.)
A well crafted and unimpeachable argument, delightfully prosecuted.
"...Black Conservatives are indeed the garbage pail kids of American politics."

If a black person isn't a Democrat then they are a "garbage pail kid". What a racist statement. Why can't a black person be a conservative? Perhaps you would rather stay with your democratic friends like Senator Robert (KKK) Byrd, or Senator Al Gore, Sr. the men who lead the charge AGAINST the civil rights bills. Maybe you should go back to Gov. Lester Maddox (D) of GA, the man who passed out autographed ax handles to keep blacks out of the U of GA.

Cain, a man who grew up broke, made it. He earned his degrees despite what was going on. He made his mark in business and became very rich (there is your problem) and believes that all people can, and the government doesn't have to do it for them.

Our current president is just another in a long string of bad politicians. The color of his skin has nothing to do with the fact that he is trying to lead us down the wrong path, if you want to call what he is doing leadership.
Some of my best friends are idiots.
Not content to leave it at that ...

The root of the problem is that anyone -- most especially the aptly-named Cain -- considers Obama a black man. Raised by his white mother and white grandparents, educated in the whitest of universities, just what is it that supposedly makes him black? Are we back to the single drop of blood insanity? Is it skin color alone? If so, John Boner is darker than Obama.

Personally, I've never seen a black person or a white person. Even so-called albinos are pink. I don't think America will ever get past its problem with race until it gets past its problem with language.
Tom, so just what box do you think Obama checked when he applied for law school?

I agree with you. We should not see anyone by color/race.
But that is not likely as long as or president calls himself black.
It's a pretty safe bet which box Obama checked, but I suspect he is a bit conflicted about exactly who or what he is. I can tell you from having worked as a census enumerator, there are a lot of people conflicted about what "race" they are -- unless they're "white", which many of them may well not be -- DNA is proving to be such a messy thing.

In fact, anthropologists and biologists have pretty much given up the concept of race altogether. Who knows -- maybe in another thousand years the less enlightened will do the same.
Tom - I don't disagree with you on this. It would be great if race was just ignored. I think affirmative action should be tested by
socioeconomic opportunity/need rather then just gender or color.

For example, there are poor uneducated white males in parts of this country. But they get no special treatment. There are black work colleagues of mine that are married with combined incomes of 300K+. Their kids will be of more than good economic means and likely to be intelligent since both parents are as well. They will still qualify for special treatment.

And just one for irony. The last woman I dated is an MD. She was born in NY to Peurto Rican parents. She is dark eyed and haired but very white skinned. She does no look at all typical Hispanic.
Her daughter was fathered by a blue eyed blond haired German and by chance the daughter is blue eyed and blond hair and 5"9".
You would never know by looking at her she is Hispanic nor is she economically challenged, but by definition she is a double minority.

So your point is taken. What race is she?
I know my ex definitely say she is white if you ask her, but I'm pretty sure what box she checked when she got a college scholarship and applied for Med school at Yale. It may have been appropriate for her as her parents were dirt poor and she really is Peurto Rican.

But I already know what her daughter is doing just now applying for colleges. She is not checking the white box.
This will be my last comment, since this is someone else's blog. First of all, poor white folks regularly get bennies like college loans and scholarships -- I know, I was one of them and so was my son.

Why aren't you equally concerned about the real scandal in higher education -- "affirmative action" for privileged white students like W and McCain? No way was W qualified to get in Harvard Business School, no way was McCain qualified to get in Annapolis, as attested by his graduating 888th out of 890 in his class.

You can't seem to comprehend that Barack Obama was elected in spite of the fact he was black, not because of it. It saddens me that an intelligent person like you can't see the racist nature of your comments. But let me suggest a simple exercise that might open your eyes:

Imagine yourself black -- I know it's hard, but give it a try. Now, explain to me how that's such a great big advantage in America.
Tom- you amaze me . First I was not being racist, but second, affirmative action is by definition racist and genderist. And I don't really much care who gets into Ivy League schools. But it does affect lesser than the best schools also. And it effects jobs a well.
Student loans do not balance affirmative action.
And a very large number of people of all races and gender can get college loans. That is not
the same at all as being given a seat in a better school just based on race. Or being given a job that you cant pass the test for just because you are minority. Affirmative action goes far beyond a student loan. I also notice that you only point out 2 well connected conservatives being admitted. Never happens to connected liberals does it?

Think about it. My ex girlfriend's daughter who is blue/blonde 5'9" and happens to also be extremely attractive , has a clearly German/ Norwegian last name, is the child of a MD and an accountant is
going to get a special pass just because she honestly checks the box "Hispanic". She does not need one over any kid she went to high school with. She is certainly much less deserving of a pass than some of her while male piers in the poor public school districts.
But so what. Nothing wrong with a "good" program having its flaws.
We should treat the programs like nuclear reactors? Flaws
have potential for extreme harm to other individuals and it probably should be decommissioned.

Treating people indifferently regardless of race is non racism.
Treating people differently (whether in a good or bad way) is racist. I suggest positive supportive treatment based on
socioeconomic basis regardless of race and you still come back with an argument. Why is that not an acceptable solution? Why
is negative treatment of people by color racism but positive treatment of the same person non- racism. Both are racism. If you really want to ignore race as you said we stop all strictly race/gender based programs immediately. Continung them will by definition continually foster racism.

And I am not just talking about affirmative action. I am talking about any gov help program that is geared toward minority race when there are under classed white males in social/cultural situations that are ignored because they happen to be white thus not a minority.

And I disagree about Obama being elected in spite of being black.
It is a racist judgment on your part to imply some people had to "get over it" to vote for the best guy. How can you make that assumption.

And I can make a good argument that the left elected Obama in the primary because he was black. I know many liberals that told me plain and simply they were going for Hillary just because she was a woman. And then when Obama came on the scene they changed because first black male was more important then first white woman. Anyone that voted for someone just because they were black is in fact a racist by definition. As you said yourself. The only way to be non racist is not not consider race at all.
So I guess what you really meant is that only after we elect people based on race we should then forget about race. No negative
views on performance allowed least you shall be a racist.

I thought you just said we should ignore race but not really I guess.
You obviously don't listen any better than you reason. I told you I was not going to hijack this man's post to have an endless, senseless useless debate with a village idiot -- and I meant it. But feel free to keep talking because with every word you condemn yourself.
Somewhere, some village has lost their village idiot, AGAIN.