|Illustration by Mark Olmsted|
However after much thought, I think that evil is the most accurate term to describe GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. He's also a lying, shameless hypocrite.
Cain is older than I am and he grew up in the Jim Crow south. Born in 1945 in Tennessee, his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he grew up. I don't have to question whether or not Cain's life was impacted by segregation and racism. His mother worked as a cleaning woman, and his dad held three jobs as a barber, janitor, and a chauffeur at the same time in order to make ends meet. Cain grew up poor and black in the deep south; he couldn't avoid experiencing racism.
Atlanta's Antioch Baptist Church North, of which Cain is a member, is a liberal black church with a congregation of 14,000 and an annual operating budget of more than $5 million. Antioch is known for hosting a "who's who" of civil rights activists as guest speakers. (The CNN Belief Blog, Eric Marrapodi & John Blake, The Liberal Church of Herman Cain, 10/18/11.) A recent article in the CNN Belief Blog includes interviews with some members and former members of the church who know Cain. It seems that many do not agree with his politics and avoid conflict by not discussing their differences. (Id.)
I don't buy for a moment that Cain really believes that the GOP has the best interests of low income people on their radar, and he fully knows that a disproportionate number of poor people are African-American and Hispanic.
Rev. Frederick Robinson, former associate pastor at Antioch Church, and a friend of Cain, is quoted as stating, “He knows there’s racism in the tea party, but he’ll never say that because they are his supporters. That bothers a lot of people, but he plays to that base not because he’s a sellout but because he’s a politician.” (The CNN Belief Blog.)
I say it's because he is a sellout, a hypocrite, and evil. Cain knows firsthand what racial apartheid means and yet he offers electric fences with sufficient voltage to kill those attempting to cross the border as a solution to unwanted immigration. He then tries to dismiss it as a joke. Let's suppose that Rick Perry made a joke about lynching black folks, anyone laughing yet?
A lot of Cain's popularity comes from his skin color. There is nothing that annoys some white people more than having attention called to any racist behavior exhibited by any white person. The immediate response is typically, "I'm not a racist." Witness the response to thoughtful analyses by writers, white and black, about the role race plays in the level of vitriol directed at Obama since his first day in office. Many appear incapable of hearing the messages, which generally are not accusing whites of intentional racism but are instead questioning perceptions and expectations that may be grounded in harmful racial stereotypes.
Cain is a black man who says what Tea Party types want to hear. He blames poverty on the laziness of those who are poor. He proclaims that Obama is a socialist out to destroy the country. He advocates killing illegal immigrants rather than letting them cross our borders. He thinks that all social welfare programs just make people lazy and greedy and would eliminate them under his watch. What's not to love if you're a Tea Partier?
Magically, whites who are uncomfortable with any discussion of race and who consciously or subconsciously promote racist attitudes can say with proud defiance, "I am not a racist, after all I support Herman Cain."
Prostituting the heritage of black people's oppression in this country for his political gain is shameful and yes, that makes Cain evil and dangerous. His repeated affirmations that issues of race are figments of the imagination of people of color undermine the progress that has been made in honestly and openly addressing the legacy of racism in this country. He insults the memory of all those who fought and died in the struggle to defeat Jim Crow and promote equality. His head should be bowed in shame over his minstrel show act performed for the gleeful Tea Party crowds that hang on his every word.
Why label Herman Cain as evil? Because he is indifferent to the needs of others, indifferent to the suffering endured by those who came before him and fought for the liberties that allow him to run for office. He takes no responsibility for his words, using them to further incite those who oppose the very concept of social justice. In the words of Elie Wiesel, "Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil." It is indifference, the refusal to act to prevent injustice, that provides evil with the fertilizer that it needs to grow.